IBM has introduced new RFID (radio frequency identification) technology aimed at the pharmaceutical industry that it says not only providesbetter tracking information but also offers users moreflexibility in analyzing the data that it generates.
WebSphere RFID Information Center, essentially a data-gathering andrepository application, is based on the EPCglobalstandard called “EPCIS.” The system captures, managesand shares RFID, sensor and 2D barcode “events” acrossthe enterprise.
The data can also be shared withexternal organizations such as customers, suppliersand government agencies, which is integral to thebusiness plan the application supports.
Its Shipment Verification capabilityautomates the tracking and confirmation of receipts.Other possible uses, depending on configuration,include diversion-tracking, inventory management,targeted recalls and regulatory compliance.
WebSphere RFID Information Center can integrate withother master data repositories in order to put theRFID-generated information into better context,according to IBM. Also, a company could develop newapplications on the sensor network repositories thatare linked to master data.
Reaching for ROI
There have been two main issues surrounding the use ofRFID technology, Christian C. Clauss, director of sensorinformation management in the IBM software group, toldCRM Buyer. They are the “lack of standards and thequestion of achieving ROI (return on investment),” he said.
The former has been largely resolved, and now IBM says it hassolved the question of ROI as well. “It has been our take thatROI is not based on internal events,” Clauss explained, “but events amongtrading partners.”
IBM focused on the pharmaceutical industryas it developed the application. New governmentregulations set to go in effect in California in 2009, whichrequire an electronic pedigree of pharmaceuticalsfrom manufacturing to distribution, are spurringmanufacturers and their vendors to develop systemsthat will help with compliance, he said.
“We’ve beenworking with manufacturers on assembly line speed toensure these processes don’t slow the supply chain,”he added.
The application creates a “record” at key points inthe supply chain. For instance, when the productleaves the manufacturing plant, a record is created andstored in the Information Center. This happens againwhen it is received, when there is a change inownership in the distribution cycle, and when a digitalsignature has been gathered.
“There will be at least four records gathered forevery bottle of medicine that ships, Clauss said.
IBM WebSphere RFID Information Center has beendeployed by several early adopters, includingpharmaceuticals distributor AmerisourceBergen,consumer packaged goods company Unilever and thee-customs project ITAIDE in Europe.
The new system “will also become thedata backbone in our pilot program that will enableAmerisourceBergen to improve its service,” said Shay Reid, AmerisourceBergen vicepresident of integrated solutions, “by quicklyand efficiently authenticating products andtransactions through direct data exchange withpharmaceutical manufacturers.”