Just six months ago it was still in the RFID pilot phase, but Cardinal Health has nonetheless decided it will take the RFID route to meeting California's upcoming e-pedigree requirement. Beginning on Jan. 1, 2009, California will require that all drugs distributed within the state be accompanied by an electronic "pedigree" that documents their movement through the supply chain. Although it's not required to use RFID (e-pedigrees can also be created using bar codes), drug wholesaler Cardinal is already putting an RFID infrastructure in place.
Cardinal is currently installing RFID readers throughout its Sacramento distribution center, which is one of two DCs the company operates in the state. It will incorporate the technology into its receiving, shipping, and returns processes, with the goal of going live by late summer. Cardinal Health spokesman Troy Kirkpatrick says that although the volume of tagged product Cardinal currently receives is low, "we've seen an indication that more manufacturers are getting involved with RFID."
Last year, the distributor conducted an extensive RFID pilot program, the health-care industry's first end-to-end test of RFID in a real-world setting. Cardinal says the pilot tests confirmed that RFID technology (using UHF as a single frequency) is a feasible solution for tracking and tracing pharmaceuticals at the unit, case, and pallet levels. The company added that it believes that RFID offers significant promise to provide an added layer of safety within the pharmaceutical supply chain, by enabling item-level pedigrees to be tracked and traced as the drugs pass from manufacturer to wholesaler to pharmacy.
The California law will require pharmaceutical manufacturers to originate item-level pedigrees for drugs distributed within the state's borders. The legislation also requires companies within the pharmaceutical supply chain (including companies like Cardinal Health that distribute drugs) to update those pedigrees upon each change of ownership.
"While the Sacramento project is designed to support the pedigree legislation in California, it's also an extension of the end-toend RFID pilot that we completed last year," says Steve Inacker, executive vice president of global supplier services for Cardinal Health. "We look forward to leveraging this work to further validate the effectiveness and viability of RFID technology in real-world settings, should it be adopted as an industry standard."
Although Cardinal Health is moving forward with RFID, the company has also said that the health-care industry needs to address several standards and technology issues before RFID technology can be adopted industry-wide.
Most importantly, perhaps, the pharmaceutical supply chain industry must first agree on a standards-based approach and a single RFID protocol and technology. This will avoid the significant process and cost inefficiencies that would be created without such standards.
Want to know what kind of sandals go best with that snappy new outfit you're trying on? Or what other colors that sweater comes in? An RFID-enabled mirror introduced last month by Paxar can tell you all that—and a whole lot more.
Paxar, which develops identification and tracking solutions for the retail and apparel industries, unveiled the new mirror at the Material World apparel industry trade show in Miami last month. Called the Magicmirror, it features an RFID reader with an embedded digital display. When a customer brings a tagged piece of clothing into its sensing range, the Magicmirror automatically displays product information, including a garment description, size and color availability, and mix-and-match guides that offer suggestions for accessories. It even offers a touch-screen that enables customers to request immediate assistance from a salesperson without ever leaving the room.
Paxar says that RFID solutions like the Magicmirror offer retailers an efficient way to enhance customer service. "With the RFID Magicmirror, retailers now have a unique opportunity to connect personally with their customers," says Chris Robins, vice president of trade marketing and a member of Paxar's global RFID team. "Consumers are becoming increasingly savvy—they're accustomed to using technology in their daily lives, especially when shopping."