check expiration dates, verify lot numbers, and so
forth, whenever needed.
Another application of passive RFID in the pharmaceutical industry is in counterfeit prevention and
labeling fraud. Not only can RFID help prove the
validity of a product through its chain of custody
data, but it can deter counterfeiting altogether,
as tags are difficult to tamper with or duplicate.
Furthermore, each tag has its own transponder
identification (TID) number that is unique to the
Many pharmaceutical manufacturers are linking
this read-only number to a product identifier within
their database. If, at any read event, the TID number and the product identifier do not match, there
is a good chance that someone has done something
incorrectly or there is a possible counterfeit label
REAL-TIME TRACKING WITH ACTIVE RFID
As opposed to passive RFID, active RFID tags
have their own internal power supply and serve as
real-time locating systems (RTLS) that track large,
high-value items. On the manufacturing plant floor,
active tags may be used to track costly equipment,
large containers, or even people, allowing operators
to know exactly where assets are located at all times
to maximize efficiencies, raise productivity, and safeguard costly items. For example, a pharmaceutical
manufacturer may use active RFID to know exactly
where, within the four walls, a cage of highly tracked
Schedule III drug products is located.
During the pharmaceutical manufacturing process,
active RFID is especially useful in monitoring temperatures. Equipped with battery-powered sensors,
specialty RFID tags are able to collect real-time temperature data. Operators can then view this information to make sure that product does not reach an
unsafe temperature during production. If an unsafe
temperature is reached, it is easy to pull the product
from the supply chain or adjust its expiration date.
HYBRID RFID – OPTIMAL VISIBILITY
Given RFID’s growth and the seemingly endless
deployment options, it is not surprising that manufacturers are looking for ways to utilize both active
and passive RFID to realize even more efficiencies.
Unfortunately, using both types of RFID within the
same operation creates visibility and workflow
issues– manufacturers often end up with two databases, housing disparate asset tracking information.
A rising trend in RFID is a Hybrid approach in
which a single software system marries the data
captured from both the active and passive tags to
provide a complete, unified view of all assets. So,
manufacturers can use active RFID to monitor temperatures and track equipment during production,
while employing passive RFID to track material flow
and validate processes throughout the supply chain.
With insight into all assets and inventory, manufacturers gain optimal traceability for optimal efficiency,
accuracy, and productivity. As an added benefit, such
a system can allow you to set up rule-based alerts,
create custom reports, and even integrate other lines-of-business (LOB) applications like ERP systems.
THE FUTURE OF RFID
As RFID continues to build momentum, there
will naturally be more and more applications for
the technology throughout the pharmaceutical
industry. The Internet of Things (IoT) is poised to
open up a whole new breadth of opportunities. For
example, RFID-enabled medicine cabinets could
automate inventory replenishment, track expiration
dates, and monitor temperatures. Or, Io T enabled
data will allow manufacturers to create an instant
recall and prevent the sale of product from certain
lot/date codes to occur at retailers. And, over the
next five to ten years, we will most likely see these
capabilities pushed down to the consumer level.
No matter what the future brings, the most important thing to keep in mind when implementing
RFID is to match the technology with the use case,
not the other way around. Make sure to clearly
define what you want to accomplish and why, and
then identify exactly where to apply the technology.
Also, if you do opt for RFID technology, remember
that the sooner in the supply chain that you introduce RFID tags, the faster you can recoup the cost.
RFID is here to stay and the opportunities are
rich for the pharmaceutical industry. It is an ideal
time to consider how RFID can benefit your organization and set yourself up for new efficiencies that
drive profitability and keep customers safe.