One of the world's largest RFID-based drug management systems implements Smartrac’s RAIN RFID tags to guarantee the integrity of its supply chain.
Pharmaceutical and medical goods are one of the most sensitive and supervised product groups worldwide, which means that any product tracking and management system must be completely reliable and proof against theft, fraud or counterfeiting.
Hanmi Pharmaceutical Co., one of Korea’s largest pharmaceutical companies, employs RFID to increase efficiency, monitor product movements, and to help it carry out government regulated quality managements. The company already uses RAIN RFID tags to track 60 million product units annually, from packaging to picking and shipping, enabling an automated process from order receipt to the shipment of a packed carton to a wholesaler.
Since 2009, the company has been demonstrating best practice in the handling of sensitive pharmaceutical products throughout the supply chain. Hanmi installed an automated picking system (APS) to work alongside RFID, using EPC Gen 2 passive ultra-high frequency (UHF) RFID tags and readers to identify products, and to then collect, box and ship those items without the need for human intervention. The only manual portion of the process, in fact, is an inspection carried out by Hanmi's staff as each box is packed for an order.
A break with tradition
In the Korean pharmaceutical industry, the distribution structure (direct deals as well as wholesale transactions) is complex, and the process is still largely managed by hand during manufacturing and dispatching pharmaceuticals. In addition, in the distribution process there are many difficulties in managing proper inventory and expiry dates, because POS systems are not properly used at every drugstore nationwide.
Hanmi’s RFID-based traceability system, in contrast, can effectively manage a product’s production history, inventory status and logistical traceability in this complex pharmaceutical environment, thereby protecting the rights of the owners and reducing unnecessary inventory management costs in the logistics process.
While the new system did face some initial resistance in terms of industry conservatism and simple lack of knowledge about RFID technology, after the introductory phase the take-up of Hanmi’s system was rapid and nationwide, covering the entire country in the nine years since its introduction.