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Top Supply Chain Trends of 2021

The supply chain has been grabbing headlines since the pandemic began, but this year was especially newsworthy. From flotilla-like bottlenecks at major U.S. ports to warnings about counterfeit toys in Santa’s sleigh, it’s been a challenging time for supply chain stakeholders and consumers alike. So, as the year winds down, we thought we’d take a look at some of the top supply chain trends of 2021.

The Year’s Supply Chain Trends

Before we start, please note that this isn’t a ranked list or a “countdown” to the No. 1 supply chain trend of the year. It’s just a collection of trends that have occurred in different industries and that have made industry news as we’ve worked our way through the year. That said, without further ado, here are the top supply chain trends of 2021.

Automation

Automation includes robotics, machine learning, artificial intelligence, process mining, drones, and driverless delivery systems. This trend dates back to the first half of 2019, when companies in North America spent $869 million on more than 16,000 robots. This year, the World Robotics 2021 Industrial Robots report said there were 3 million industrial robots operating in factories globally, a record number and an increase of 10 percent. The report also said sales of new robots grew 0.5 percent, with 384,000 units shipped globally in 2020.

Blockchain

Blockchain has been a buzzword for years, and worldwide spending on the technology has been predicted to reach more than $11 billion by 2022. In regard to supply chain management, blockchain has great potential for traceability because it allows the provenance of any product to be easily demonstrated with and supported by immutable, tamper-proof data. It’s a big topic, so download our “Blockchain-Based Supply Chain Traceability” white paper to learn more.

Sustainability

There’s been a barrage of research about supply chain sustainability, particularly consumers’ expectations for transparency and environmentally friendly products and packaging. In one recent survey, 83 percent of respondents said it was “important or extremely important” for companies to design environmentally conscious products. Another found that 81 percent of shoppers say transparency is important or extremely important to them. In short, more companies are choosing to make their supply greener and more transparent.

Consumer engagement/customer experience

Consumer engagement and customer experience have always had a place in marketing and branding, but they’ve risen to a priority position over the last several years. (See a tidy summary of why here.) But what does your supply chain have to do with any of this?

The short answer: Your supply chain is a gold mine of information that can be leveraged for robust, innovative engagement/experience strategies. The basic building block is serialization. Read our two-part series to learn more. And definitely read our article about how supply chain traceability is building a “consumer kingdom.”

“The Trifecta”: Traceability, Visibility, Transparency

It should come as no surprise that we’re including these three “must-haves” on our list of the top supply chain trends in 2021. We’ve always maintained that visibility, transparency, and traceability are the key to a successful supply chain; however, the last two years have shown us that this trifecta is more important than ever and is the best way to optimize, safeguard, and leverage your supply chain for business value.

Visibility means using data to gain insight into how your supply chain is functioning and to take steps to make it run more efficiently. The goal is to see every ingredient/input, every product, every partner, every handoff … everything. Transparency means communicating supply chain knowledge internally and externally so all stakeholders, including consumers, can see how you operate. Traceability means you can follow a product to its point of origin and prove what it is and where it came from.

We have written extensively on these topics. Here’s a suggested reading list:

Internet of Things (IoT)

IoT is a network of physical objects that connects to the internet via sensors and software. It’s the basis of our Integrated Monitoring solution. It enables greater visibility and flexibility across your entire supply chain. For example, IoT-enabled sensors placed in a shipment of vaccines will send a real-time alert if a problem arises, such as a temperature excursion or route diversion. We’ve written about IoT in the food and beverage industry, and rfxcel CEO Glenn Abood wrote a great article about real-time monitoring in the pharma cold chain. We also have a great video about it.

Digitization

If we were ranking the 2021′ supply chain trends, we’d make digitization No. 1. A supply chain that isn’t digitized cannot function efficiently. It cannot give consumers what they demand. It cannot comply with regulations. It cannot compete. It cannot make your business better.

Final Thoughts

As we move toward the New Year, it’s a good time to think about the future of your supply chain. Ask yourself some basic questions:

    • Are you keeping up with the trends we talked about today?
    • Are there gaps and blind spots in your supply chain?
    • Are counterfeits a problem in your industry?
    • Are you doing everything you can to protect your brand?
    • Are you actively reaching out to your customers to bring them closer to your brand?
    • Are there compliance deadlines on the horizon?
    • Are you certain your current supply chain solutions are truly optimal?
    • Are you using your supply chain as a strategic asset?

The next step is to contact us. Our digital supply chain experts can share a short demo of our award-winning Traceability System that will clearly show why it’s the best solution for any business, under any circumstances.

Understanding GS1 Barcodes in the Global Supply Chain

Where would we be without standards? One thing’s certain: Your supply chain would be a lot messier, if not chaotic, if you and your partners didn’t have a “common language” to process and exchange data. Standardized GS1 barcodes are one way we avoid this chaos.

GS1 barcodes keep everybody “on the same page.” They allow companies in virtually every industry to easily record, store, and transfer data. We’ve all seen them, and chances are your organization uses them — maybe even millions or billions of them. But let’s do a quick refresher course as another way to keep us all on the same page.

Why are GS1 barcodes important?

The short answer is, as we said above, standardized GS1 barcodes allow us to maintain order and avoid chaos. Work flows become quicker and more efficient. The GS1 barcodes keep supply chains running by enabling companies to sell, ship, track, reorder, and return products, in most cases by scanning with a handheld device or a camera-based system.

GS1 barcodes also expedite communication, traceability, visibility, and transparency. It’s really all about sharing information quickly in order to know the source of ingredients/components and products, where they’ve been and where they’re going, and when they reach their final destination.

These capabilities not only make supply chains more efficient — they also increase product safety and protect consumers. If there’s a recall, for example, a company can locate its products quickly, make sure shipments are stopped, remove items from stores, and share data with regulators and even consumers.

GS1 barcodes also save money. Administrative costs come down when everybody uses the same standards and has the same expectations. And because GS1 barcodes facilitate digital supply chains, they increase speed and reduce paperwork.

GSI Identification Keys

GS1 standards define a set of unique identification codes, known as identification keys. GS1 says its identification keys “refer unambiguously to a real-world entity,” such as a product, a logistics unit, a physical location, a document, a service relationship, or another entity.

In other words, the ID keys let you quickly and conveniently access information about items in your supply chain and share it with your partners. Only GS1 members can build ID keys, which must include a GS1 company prefix. There are 12 ID keys:

        1. Global Trade Item Number (GTIN): identifies products and services, such as food and clothing
        2. Global Location Number (GLN): identifies parties and locations, such as companies, warehouses, factories, and stores
        3. Serial Shipping Container Code (SSCC): identifies logistics units, such as parcels and palletized products
        4. Global Returnable Asset Identifier (GRAI): identifies returnable assets
        5. Global Individual Asset Identifier (GIAI): identifies assets, such as equipment used in manufacturing and transportation
        6. Global Service Relation Number (GSRN): identifies relationships between service providers and recipients, such as hospital staff and members of brand “loyalty” or rewards programs
        7. Global Document Type Identifier (GDTI): identifies documents, such as shipping paperwork
        8. Global Identification Number for Consignment (GINC): identifies consignments, such as logistics units being transported in a container on a ship or airplane
        9. Global Shipment Identification Number (GSIN): identifies shipments
        10. Global Coupon Number (GCN): identifies coupons
        11. Component/Part Identifier (CPID): identifies components and parts
        12. Global Model Number (GMN): identifies a product’s model number

The GS1 standards also encompass data capture, including definitions of barcode and radio-frequency identification (RFID) data carriers, that allow ID keys and other data to be affixed directly to an object. Data standards also address the hardware to read and produce barcodes (e.g., scanners and printers), and hardware and software to connect the barcodes and RFID tags to business applications.

The different types of GS1 barcodes

All GS1 barcodes are “containers” that can hold different amounts information, such as serial numbers, batch numbers, GTINs, and expiration dates. As the image below from GS1 shows, there are four types, or “families,” of barcodes: EAN/UPC, two-dimensional (2D), DataBar, and one-dimensional (1D).

GS1 barcodes

EAN/UPC family. GS1 says, rightly, that these “are printed on virtually every consumer product in the world.” They are characterized by a series of vertical lines and a horizontal row of numbers, and come in four types: UPC-A, EAN-13, UPC-E, and EAN-8.

These GS1 barcodes are designed to be used at the point of sale and can be read by omnidirectional scanners. None support attributes — they cannot contain product information such as an expiration date, a batch number, or item weight. UPC-A has 12 numbers and supports GTIN-12; EAN-13 has 13 numbers and supports GTIN-13; UPC-E has 12 numbers (the zeros are “suppressed) and supports GTIN-12; and EAN-8 has 8 numbers and supports GTIN-8.

2D barcodes. Like EAN/UPC barcodes, 2D barcodes are ubiquitous. They are incredibly robust, able to hold dense product information and remain legible at greatly reduced sizes or when they’re etched into a surface, such as a plastic bottle cap. There are two kinds of 2D barcodes:

      1. GS1 DataMatrix codes are omnidirectional and support attributes and all GS1 ID keys. They can hold 3,116 numeric or 2,335 alphanumeric characters.
      2. GS1 QR codes are also omnidirectional and support attributes and all GS1 ID keys. They can hold 7,089 numbers or 4,296 alphanumeric characters.

DataBar family. There are seven members in the DataBar family. Generally, they’re divided into two groups: those designed for use at the point of sale (i.e., can be read by omnidirectional scanners) and those that are not.

The first group has four types: omnidirectional, stacked omnidirectional, expanded, and expanded stacked.

      • Omnidirectional and stacked omnidirectional have 14 numbers. They support GTINs and Global Coupon Numbers (GCNs) but do not support attributes.
      • Expanded and expanded stacked have a maximum capacity of 74 numeric and 41 alphabetic characters. They support GTINs and GCNs, but do support attributes.

There are three types of barcodes in the second group: truncated, limited, and stacked. These have 14 numbers and support GTINs, but do not support attributes. They are not designed for use at the point of sale, so they cannot be read by omnidirectional scanners.

1D barcodes. The two types of 1D barcodes — GS1-128 and ITF-14 — are used in retail distribution, healthcare, and logistics. GS1-128 barcodes can carry any GS1 ID key and up to 48 alphanumeric characters, including serial numbers, expiration dates, and other information that helps track products through a supply chain. More than one GS1-128 barcode can be used on a single item. ITF-14 barcodes can hold only GTINs; GS1 says it is suitable for printing on corrugated materials.

Final thoughts

This year was the 50th anniversary of the GTIN. As GS1 said, “It is no exaggeration to say that the development of the GTIN set the stage for global, digitalized commerce.” Indeed, labeling standards and barcode technologies have evolved and advanced since 1971 to the great benefit of businesses and consumers alike.

We have been talking about the advantages of end-to-end traceability in a digital supply chain for a long time. When your products, labeled with powerful identifiers such as 2D DataMatrix codes, move through a digital supply chain powered by our award-winning Traceability System, you can leverage rich, unit-level data for much more than compliance and operational efficiency: You can create genuine, tangible business value. For example:

That’s really just the beginning of what a digital supply chain can do. To learn more, contact us today to see a short demo of our solutions. Our supply chain experts will show you how our Traceability System transforms your supply into your most valuable strategic asset.

rfxcel Joins the COVID-19 Healthcare Coalition, Offers rIM and AIM Solutions

rfxcel has joined the COVID-19 Healthcare Coalition, a collaborative private-industry response to novel coronavirus that brings together leading organizations in healthcare, technology, academia, the nonprofit sector, and government.

Members of the COVID-19 Healthcare Coalition include a “Who’s Who” of American healthcare and business, including the Mayo Clinic, Pfizer, athenahealth, and Amazon Web Services. (See the most recently updated list here.) Each will bring its unique assets to support industry stakeholders, front-line responders, and federal, state, and local government organizations in the COVID-19 pandemic.

rfxcel is happy to offer two of our cutting-edge supply chain solutions, rfxcel Integrated Monitoring (rIM) and Accurate Immunization Management (AIM), as part of its contribution to the coalition. More on this below.

More about the COVID-19 Healthcare Coalition: Goals, Principles

The goal of the COVID-19 Healthcare Coalition is to save lives through data analytics. Gathering real-time data is key to learning about COVID-19 and how to best deliver healthcare to protect public health.

The coalition operates according to five guiding principles. Quoted from its website, they are:

    • Everyone participates for the benefit of the country only — no preferential advantage to any one organization.
    • Everyone cooperates and openly shares their plans.
    • Nobody will get paid for coalition work – without exception. Everyone brings their own resources – no money is exchanged.
    • Verbal agreements will suffice to get us started.
    • Agree to these terms and conditions and you are in.

As of April 7, the coalition said it was organizing around five priorities as it “urgently [tries] to work at the speed of the pandemic”:

    • Connecting personal protective equipment (PPE) suppliers worldwide to healthcare organizations with immediate needs for N95 masks, ventilators, and protective gowns
    • Connecting government COVID-19 initiatives to startups to rapidly accelerate ventilator supplies
    • Connecting the best protocols for treating COVID-19 from across the nation and sharing them online for the public good
    • Connecting an ecosystem of private sector capabilities to accelerate telehealth, home care, and alternative options to reduce load at hospitals
    • Connecting the best sources of information from around the world to provide data, analytics, and insights to all

rfxcel’s contribution to the COVID-19 Healthcare Coalition

Our Washington, D.C.-based Worldwide Government Group is leading our efforts in the coalition’s fight against COVID-19. This team of government and supply chain experts focuses on mission readiness and develops tools to protect the supply chain against disruptions for the most vulnerable products. It will support the Supply Chain Working Group, facilitated by MITRE Corporation, to bring rIM and AIM to coalition members.

Here’s how our powerful solutions will contribute to the coalition’s goals:

    • rIM is award-winning solution that uses Internet of Things (IoT) technology to monitor the environmental condition of products in real time as they move through supply chains on land, sea, and air. It is widely used in pharmaceutical cold chains to monitor high-value medical supplies, including vaccines. rIM communicates with small IoT-enabled devices embedded with products and sends updates and alerts about more than a dozen environmental conditions, such as temperature, humidity, light, orientation (tilt), and shock. It also monitors location, so it can alert users about route diversions and ensure logistics providers remain in compliance with delivery agreements. It can monitor at both the top level (e.g., case, pallet, truck) and the item level (e.g., syringe, packet, bottle), yielding true supply chain traceability and transparency.

 

    • AIM is an automated, cloud-based solution that tracks the dispensing of vaccines — including potential vaccines for COVID-19 — in the supply chain and seamlessly integrates with critical healthcare applications such as Electronic Health Records (EHRs) and Immunization Information Systems (IIS). It empowers healthcare practitioners to view patients’ immunization records in real time, manage accurate administering, monitor inventory, and safely dispense the right vaccines to the right patient at the right time. AIM utilizes Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) rules and guidance for vaccine combinations, special populations, and required intervals between vaccines, and adheres to U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) rules for dispensing. Because it is automated, users can be up and running with virtually no training, ensuring quick implementation in mission-critical locations.

Final thoughts

rfxcel is proud to be a member of the COVID-19 Healthcare Coalition. As Greg Moulthrop, vice president of our Worldwide Government Group, said, “We care about protecting the public … With rIM and AIM, rfxcel can do its part to safeguard people and, we hope, hasten both the end of COVID-19 and the recovery of our communities and economy.”

Our CEO, Glenn Abood, added, “We feel that our everyday work is helping by keeping supply chains moving in the pharma, food and beverage, and consumer goods industries, but we felt we could do more. When Greg told us about the coalition, we were all in.”

To learn more about rfxcel’s work with the COVID-19 Healthcare Coalition or what rfxcel offers the government, contact our Worldwide Government Group at publicservices@rfxcel.com or visit rfxgov.com. To learn more about all our supply chain solutions, contact Vice President of Marketing Herb Wong at hwong@rfxcel.com and take a look around our website.

rfxcel MobileTraceability App for Pharma: Mobile Data Capture from Virtually Any Location Optimizes Supply Chain Logistics and Patient Safety

rfxcel is dedicated to optimizing the pharmaceutical supply chain. We want to remove boundaries, improve data capture and usage, and ensure patient safety.

With our new and improved rfxcel MobileTraceability application, pharma companies, dispensers, and pharmacies can do all of these things — and much more.

rfxcel MobileTraceability brings our industry-leading track and trace capabilities to virtually any location, including places that traditionally may not have had absolute visibility in your supply chain, such as distribution centers, warehouses, pharmacies, and hospitals. It also brings the power of a digital supply chain, moving you away from paper records and streamlining your operations.

The app integrates the power of our signature Traceability System (rTS) with the built-in scanning capabilities of mobile devices and scanners. With rTS tracking and reporting capabilities on a mobile device, the workflow of the pharma supply chain is simplified. For example, manufacturers and distributors can perform critical tasks quickly and easily, such as verifying shipments and receipts, and aggregating/disaggregating pallets and cases.

rfxcel MobileTraceability supports multiple platforms, from ruggedized devices with optimized scanners to consumer devices with built-in cameras, such as smartphones. Now you can select devices that meet your needs and budget without comprising on performance.

With these capabilities literally right in their hands, dispensers can:

  • Ensure only legally compliant items are dispensed
  • Scan and verify dispensed products
  • Decommission products
  • Scan sealed bags to automatically decommission all packs inside

The app also offers key benefits to pharmacies. Its simple user interface makes it easy to use, reducing the chance of errors and false override of alerts. It also facilitates intense collaboration and coordination externally and internally to:

  • Achieve regulatory compliance
  • Improve risk management, recall management, and inventory management
  • Automate and review distribution flows and processes
  • Create specialized receiving capabilities
  • Ensure patient safety with store returns and recalls functionality
  • Gain true end-to-end supply chain traceability

rfxcel MobileTraceability adapts to any workflow, transforming how you manage your supply chain. The pharma industry has unique demands, and a one-size-fits-all approach just won’t work. The app allows us to be as flexible as you need us to be and to deliver granular visibility and flexibility anywhere your supply chain goes. Contact us today to learn more about what rfxcel MobileTraceability can do for you.

How a Full-Stack Supply Chain Track-and-Trace Solution Benefits the Food & Beverage and Pharma Industries

The food & beverage (F&B) and pharma industries aren’t quite polar opposites, but they are very different. This includes their supply chains.

For example, F&B companies must get their products to grocery stores, hotels, airports, restaurants, and other “consumer-centric” clients, while pharma companies’ primary customers are hospitals, clinics, pharmacies, and other stakeholders in the health care system. Their products also have different environmental and compliance requirements.

But there are similarities. Both industries want to ensure the purity and safety of their products. Both want to get their products to end users quickly, securely, and on time. Both work with diverse trading partners, including wholesalers and distributors. Both want their supply chains to optimize operations and boost bottom lines.

And there’s one more similarity: Both can benefit from a full-stack supply chain solution — like our signature rfxcel Traceability System (rTS) platform.

What is a “full-stack” supply chain solution?

A full-stack supply chain solution gives customers a complete, integrated set of technologies to control their entire supply chain. rTS is a full-stack solution comprising software that empowers companies to see deeply into their supply chains in real time. It yields data that can optimize operations, and gives peace of mind because everything is managed and accessible in one secure, private cloud-based location.

Furthermore, full-stack solutions are easily customizable and system validation is automated based on customer requirements. Users determine the features they need and choose the appropriate components. For example, rTS includes solutions that are critical for both F&B and pharma, such as rfxcel Serialization Processing, rfxcel Compliance Management, and rfxcel Analytics. But it also includes products designed for each industry, such as rfxcel Raw Ingredients Traceability for F&B and rfxcel Verification Router Service (rVRS) for pharma.

What are the benefits of a full-stack solution?

Probably the greatest benefit of a full-stack supply chain solution is “all-in-one” power and convenience. Instead of a piecemeal approach to supply chain management — using different providers for different solutions — a full-stack solution centralizes your operations.

F&B and pharma companies have to ask themselves, “Do I really want to spend my time finding a different tool for every task? One for compliance, one for serialization, one for data analytics, one for scanning, and on and on and on?”

They also have to ask what problems this approach might cause. Can they be certain their solution providers can communicate with one another? Are the providers actually in competition with one another? Can they share data quickly and securely? If something goes wrong with one solution, will the problem cascade throughout the supply chain — and can they find the right person to fix it?

Another advantage is that a full-stack solution provider will understand your needs much better than a disparate collection of providers. They can analyze your entire supply chain, identify your needs, and tailor just the right combination of solutions to meet your goals. It’s a holistic approach that sees both the individual components of your supply chain and the end-to-end “big picture,” from manufacturing to the consumer.

Plus, you’ll have just one point of contact for all your inquiries and support. If you have a question or a problem, you’ll know that you’re contacting the right person and you’ll get answers quickly.

rfxcel’s full-stack traceability solutions in action

Let’s illustrate some benefits of our full-stack traceability solution by highlighting rTS, rIM, and our MobileTraceability app. With these, pharma and F&B companies have all bases covered in a seamless, integrated, end-to-end supply chain traceability solution.

With rTS, pharma companies will know they’re compliant with regulations everywhere they do business, such as the Drug Supply Chain Security Act (DSCSA) in the USA, the Falsified Medicines Directive (FMD) in the EU, as well as regulations in Russia, Saudi Arabia, China, Brazil, and other countries. F&B companies will know they’re meeting the requirements of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), the UK’s Food Standards Agency, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, and others. They’ll also be compliant with GS1 standards and their customers’ requirements.

Using rIM to monitor products in real time as they move through the supply chain, both industries can ensure they’re meeting environmental requirements, such as temperature and humidity parameters. If a problem arises, rIM sends an alert and they can take immediate action.

Key actors at every node of the supply chain can use our MobileTraceability app to scan and record events, track products, and manage items down to the unit level. For example, using the app on a smartphone with a scanner, pharma stakeholders can verify, decommission, and aggregate serialized products at any stage of the supply chain. A F&B stakeholder can record data about raw materials (e.g., batch number, supplier, date of arrival, expiration, and analytics) and trace any ingredient that’s part of the finished good.

A full-stack supply chain solution has numerous benefits for F&B and pharma — as well as any other industry that wants to simplify, coordinate, and optimize its supply chain. To learn more about how our full-stack rTS platform can transform your supply chain, contact us today!

How to Choose the Serialization Solution That’s Best for You

Not all serialization solutions are created equal. And they’re definitely not a one-size-fits-all proposition. So, if you’re looking for a serialization solution, you’re going to have to take a long, hard look at how your business works, what you’re goals are, and make a lot of decisions about what’s going to work best for you.

Let’s do a quick overview of some of the things to consider while you’re shopping around for a serialization solution for your business.

Data integrity and your serialization solution

Today, it’s all about data. Not surprisingly, then, data integrity must be front and center in your decision-making process.

Most solutions offer compliance and data validation, but few provide continued data validation and verification after implementation. Errors are bound to happen in every supply chain, so we cannot overstate the importance of continued data verification. Product master data has to be accurate and aligned for an efficient, safe, and optimized supply chain. Furthermore, your solution must be able accommodate product changes that might create data inconsistencies among trading partners.

So, make sure your serialization solution provider will work closely with you and catch errors before they get into your system or network. And confirm that they’ll work with all of your trading partners to create a system that meets all data and product standards. Demand a solution that gives you total control, flexibility, trading partner connectivity, and scalability.

Cloudy with a chance of … disruption and inconvenience?

Today, most serialization and traceability software is based in the cloud. But tread carefully: Not all cloud solutions are created equal, either.

Solution providers that offer a multi-tenant architecture often over-simplify what they’re giving you. For example, they’ll say you’ll get automatic software upgrades with little or no effort on your part. However, such uncoordinated updates force you into system upgrades with little or no coordination or consideration for your own system configurations. This can be incredibly disruptive and require revalidation and new system configurations.

Conversely, a single-tenant solution puts control firmly in your hands. You control when to implement updates, meaning you’ll upgrade when it’s convenient for you — not your solution provider — and you’ll ensure your configurations remain intact.

Your solution should grow with you

You want to grow your brand and business, improve your operations, and serve your customers better.

An effective serialization solution will be flexible enough to fit all of your needs while being scalable enough to cover all of your manufacturing and distribution needs. The solution should consider what your systems require now and what they will require in the future as your company grows.

Your solution should also be connected to hundreds of other trading partners, allowing instant communication between network members and transmission of serialization and other crucial, often strictly regulated, data. For example, if you’re a pharmaceutical company operating in the United States, you’ll have to share “T3” information to comply with the Drug Supply Chain Security Act.

Final thoughts

There’s a lot to think about when you’re shopping for a serialization solution. We’ve touched on a few of the key considerations — data integrity, a single-tenant architecture, scalability — but you’ll need to put in the time and effort to reach a conclusion about what’s best for you.

Consider this, though: We will work tirelessly to formulate the solution that best suits your needs. We start with a single-tenant architecture that ensures your solutions are flexible and scalable, giving you complete control over your systems. We provide expert data monitoring to confirm that all of your products are properly serialized and traceable. Our solution uses more than 100 data checks to verify your data and flag errors, giving you the time to fix issues before products ship.

And, importantly, we give you the power to leverage your supply chain for true business value, including brand protection and consumer engagement, no matter what industry you’re in.

Contact us today to learn more about our serialization and traceability solutions. Also take a look around our blog to read about what we do and how we make your supply chain your most valuable business asset.

 

Blockchain Technology in Pharmaceutical Supply Chain

Interview with Ramana Pinnam, Director of Product Management, about blockchain technology in the pharmaceutical industry

Perhaps you have heard tale of the up and coming technology called blockchain. Maybe you are an expert on blockchain technology and how it fits into the world of pharmaceuticals. Or perhaps you are like most of the world and you are unsure about what to make of blockchain and frankly you are afraid to ask anyone to explain. If that describes you, never fear! We recently had a fantastic opportunity sit down with Ramana Pinnam, Sr. Director of Product Management here at rfxcel,  after he presented at the 2017 HDA Traceability Seminar. Hopefully this conversation sheds as much light on blockchain technology as it has for us.

 

Could you give us a brief overview of blockchain technology?

Absolutely. Blockchain technology almost says it all in its name. Imagine the “block” as a piece of data and the chain is where that data hooks into place with all the other “blocks” of data. This is a very basic understanding of this technology. The idea behind blockchain technology is to create a secure online based and shared ledger of sorts. Like a banker would keep a ledger of all the transactions by hand, blockchain takes a certain category of transaction and locks in the data so it cannot be lost or misplaced. Blockchain in regards to supply chain has been used primarily in crypto currency transaction such as Bitcoin, but now we are seeing larger companies like Walmart using blockchain to keep detailed records of some of its food products. It is increasingly important in our world today to be able to efficiently track products and transactions from creation to when it reaches the consumers’ hands. Blockchain technology creates a very efficient avenue for that, and we are seeing some pharmaceutical companies beginning to investigate how it can apply to our industry.

 

Speaking of pharmaceutical companies, how does blockchain technology relate to the pharmaceutical industry?

Well, as of now it does not directly correlate or relate. Some companies are partnering together to research and decide if blockchain technology will be utilized as the future for tracking all individual medications and products manufactured by pharmaceutical companies. It seems to be a promising technology to incorporate into tracking products and mitigating risk of loss or counterfeiting of pharmaceutical products.

 

What are some Pro’s and Con’s about adopting blockchain technology?

The largest con right now is that we just do not know for sure if blockchain technology will do what we need it to do. A lot more testing needs to be done in the pharmaceutical industry. One of the main pros is also a con. Blockchain locks in data so it cannot be changed or altered. This is quite a positive when trying to track products, but user error can make this problematic. That is why appropriate education and training will be needed for those who adopt blockchain within the supply chain.

 

If you could, what type of timeline would you guess at for the full incorporation of blockchain into our industry?

As I said earlier, a lot more testing and research must be done. I am not sure of a specific timeline, but there are companies and organizations turning over rocks as we speak to see how blockchain can fit into the pharmaceutical industry. These things take time, but if the research and testing comes back promising we could see the full integration of blockchain technology in just the next few years.

 

After speaking with Ramana Pinnam we all felt a lot more confident in our understanding of blockchain technology. We hope that we at rfxcel can help you feel more confident about all trends in technology and pharmaceuticals. As far as blockchain technology goes, we are always committed to utilizing the best resources available for our clients. As more information becomes available about the application and use of blockchain technology into our industry you will be the first to know about it.

About rfxcel:

rfxcel is the leading provider of SaaS-based track and trace solutions. Their solution enables companies to protect patients and meet their compliance needs, while getting insights and visibility into their supply chain. Their relentless commitment to customer success and continuous innovation ensures that companies meet their requirements and protect those who depend on them.

 

Blockchain technology in pharmaceutical supply chain