I recently attended the MidPack 2011 conference in Chicago. The conference was part of a larger Quality Conference focusing on improving processes within the manufacturing environment through technology. MidPack 2011 looked at packaging challenges and ways to alleviate stress in the supply chain through track and trace technologies and the use of RFID.
Pharmtech, Inc., a regulatory consulting company, spoke to the Return on Investment (ROI) that manufacturers should be focused on when looking to do a serialization or track & trace project. The company discussed the various emerging topics regarding traceability in the supply chain, including:
- Standards, both through legislation and the GS1, are evolving and changing but as the supply chain continues to become more complex, the ability to track and trace products is not always keeping up.
- California, one of the largest markets in the US has new legislation (e-pedigree law) in place stating that 50% of products sold in California need to be serialized by 2015, with the remaining 50% to be completed by 2016.
- Patient safety is one of the main concerns in the ability to trace pharmaceutical goods and yet even today it is easier to recall lettuce than it is to recall medicine. The FDA has no authority over the pharmaceutical industry as it does the food industry.
A second session led by Professor Robb Clarke from the University of Michigan School of Packaging discussed the state of Auto-ID in manufacturing.
As we've discussed in Business Strategy: RFID's Lasting Impression – Has It Replaced the Barcode or Changed the Way We Use IT Resources? (IDC Manufacturing Insights, #MI227547, March 2011) RFID and other Auto-ID technologies are just part of a larger tool kit that all manufacturers should employ – including the barcode.
Professor Clarke agreed, and expounded that the main reason manufacturers look to Auto-ID is to provide competitive advantage. Manufacturers want to maximize the supply chain performance by decreasing inventory and making sure the right product is in the right place at the right time. Companies need Information Technology (IT) to do this and one of those tools is Auto-ID.
Process Improvements in the Supply Chain
Working to improve the flow and accuracy of information throughout the supply chain is never a bad thing. As we stated in Perspective: Worldwide Supply Chain 2011 Top 10 Predictions – A Midyear Update (IDC Manufacturing Insights, #MI229419, July 2011) supply chain visibility will continue to be on the IT application "hot" list as companies want to both decrease costs and improve efficiencies.
Technology needs to help change both the business process (where the people are involved) and improve upon the current application (software) being used.