Supply chain change coming; RFID questions remain

Pharma supply chain consultant Dirk Rodgers sees a transformation on the horizon, product of the inevitable serialization and pedigree requirements. He anticipates a doubling in complexity over that already faced by drug wholesalers.

Rodgers says also that he detects a "significant shift in attitudes" concerning such supply chain systems. That shift is being driven by the growing realization that radio frequency identification technology "will not be the predominant carrier technology at the unit level."

Rodgers's RFID blasphemy stems from his belief that 2D barcodes will prove economically superior when pedigree mandates begin to take effect.

Separately, RFID technologist and marketer Julie England, a board member at cold chain solutions provider Intelleflex and former Texas Instruments exec in the early days of RF application to automatic identification, has a different vision. Hers, as she told us, involves the combination of RFID and sensors providing enhanced visibility into the pharma cold chain, with trading partners reading product data wirelessly and in real time and verifying product integrity via shipment temperature data, all without opening the shipping container.

Though Rodgers qualifies his impiety by restricting it to the unit level, he presents it in a column about wholesalers and distribution centers--unlikely users of unit-level data. Likewise, England's vision appears to relate primarily to the wholesale function. But her mention of trading partners implies some downstream function that may perhaps have use for unit-level data.

- here's the column