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Pharmaceutical Manufacturing and Packing Sourcer

Following the Tracks

Mike McMillan at QinetiQ examines the impact of RFID in the pharmaceutical industry

Radio frequency identification (RFID) tagging is an exciting technology which allows goods to be individually identified and tracked throughout the supply chain, providing ‘real-time’ visibility of the movement and behaviour of goods. The aspiration is simple: to be able to confidently identify your assets, know where they are in the supply chain and where they have been. This builds customer trust that the product they are supplied with is bona fide.

RFID offers significant benefits over the incumbent barcode technology, including non-line-of-sight readability, individually identifiable assets, dynamic data, read-only and read-write data areas. RFID systems already have, perhaps surprisingly, a powerful and accepted place in our society. Billions of EAS (13.56Hz) tags have been used in the retail industry for years, and RFID is the enabling technology behind security applications such as smart cards, access control and ticketing, passports, road tolling and car clickers, to name but a few.

IS RFID ON TRACK TO REPLACE BARCODES?

Wal-Mart, the US retailer which introduced barcodes in the 1980s, is also driving development of RFID. The adoption of RFID follows a similar timeline to that of barcodes, with similar organisations in the driving seat. RFID could herald the end of the ubiquitous barcode – a tool which is coming to the end of its life in a world where more information, appropriately managed and at ever higher speeds is required to maintain competitive advantage and improve accountability. In these respects, barcodes cannot keep up with industry needs in the way that RFID technology can.

Two-dimensional DataMatrix barcodes are useful in the medium-term, but are generally viewed as an interim, static data carrier solution, only offering a given level of security, as they are still overt in nature. RFID offers significant improvements for individual identification and is generally viewed as the way ahead to meet mandates by regulatory bodies such as the US FDA, and the European Federation of Pharmaceutical Industries and Associations (EFPIA).


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Mike McMillan is the Health Market Key Account Director at QinetiQ, the leading technology solution provider in Europe, which has a particular focus on supply chain security. Mike is responsible for managing QinetiQ’s commercial relationships with major healthcare accounts globally and identifying the relevant solution teams from within the company. Originally a life scientist, Mike has a PhD in paediatric pharmacology from University College London and an MBA from Imperial College Business School.
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Mike McMillan
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