Johnson & Johnson this week began the process of tagging pharmaceuticals at the case level in preparation the the California e-pedigree mandate that takes effect in 2015. J&J is case tagging a single SKU at its production facility in Puerto Rico with the hope of introducing RFID into the pharma supply chain and learning from its trading partners.
“This is intended to move the technology into the supply chain and we’re working with our trading partners to identify major use cases and where they see value,” says Tom Pizzuto, part of the RFID team at Johnson & Johnson.
Pizzuto, speaking this week at an event at MIT, would not identify the specific product line that J&J is tagging.
“The idea is that over time, our trading partners will hopefully come back to J&J and say here’s what we’ve learned over the last six months and here’s how we have utilized RFID in the following use cases,” he says. “In a collaborative way, we want to look at those use cases and see how we can bring them into our processes.”
California’s e-pedigree requirements for prescription drugs will take effect on a staggered basis from Jan. 1, 2015 through 2017. Fifty percent of a manufacturer’s products must be able to be tracked and traced by 2015. Most manufacturers are turning to 2D barcodes and RFID to comply and avoid stiff fines.
Pizzuto says that J&J also hopes to learn from the successes of apparel retailers, who are making great strides when it comes to item level tagging garments to achieve greater supply chain visibility.
“Maybe we’ll realize that we don’t have to invest in a dock door portal because we can use a mobile solution,” says Pizzuto.
Pizzuto says several challenges remain when it comes to deploying RFID for use in the pharma supply chain. For starters, there are still questions about the impact of RFID on biologics, although a recent study shed some light on that topic. Work remains on the ability of standards to meet regulatory requirements, such as those in California, while the interoperability of barcodes, RFID and technologies like NFC must be worked out. Additionally, pharma companies must prepare for the influx of new data and assemble data sharing infrastructure. Pharmaceutical and medical products distributor McKesson, for example, deals with 600 suppliers and has more than 30,000 customers.
Johnson & Johnson has been researching and deploying RFID for several years. Its DePuy Orthopaedics division utilized a solution from ODIN RFID to reduce its kit processing time from 10-30 minutes to less than one minute per kit. J&J has numerous other case studies as well.
“We have moved out of the exploration phase and we’re in the packaging suite with live products,” says Pizzuto. “We’ve moved from learning about the technology to actually walking-the-walk and putting it into production. We’ve been at this a while. There is a collective knowledge base and we’re trying to take this and go global with our solution. 2015 is not that far away when you have as many lines and SKUs as we do.”
Stay tuned to RFID 24-7 for additional information on how pharmaceutical firms are preparing for the California e-pedigree law.