By Nicolas Orrego
Can RFID Be The “Secret Sauce” For Medical Device Asset Utilization, Inventory Efficiency, and Usage Accuracy?
When done the right way, it can be…
“RFID is not a technology that you can just heavy-handedly push into your processes and channels and assume that it’s going to provide you the gains you need. You have to know how and be able to utilize the data at various ingress/egress points for logistics transactions—and that is all reliant on software.” -Bo Molocznik, Founder, Movemedical
RFID Can Save Your Inventory Operations
RFID has the potential to transform your medical device logistics and inventory management processes – if done right. You will need intelligent implementation using sufficiently sophisticated software.
In order to take advantage of the below RFID qualities, the processing software should have the following associated capabilities:
- No Line of Sight Required > software should enable high levels of automation
- Serialized Inventory Tracking > software should manage item, kit, and container-level detail
- Supplementary Data Entry > software must handle exceptions and support hybrid models
- Fast Scanning (100’s of items per second) > software needs to be optimized for speed
- Accurate > software must also maintain and improve accuracy in the real world
The Future of Inventory Management: Automation
”Alexa, reconcile my field inventory”
That may seem like a distant dream, but it illustrates that certain technologies when implemented intelligently have the potential to be transformational in our everyday processes.
Just as the success of digital voice assistants is not due to the interfacing device itself but in how that human request is interpreted and processed by an intelligent cloud system, RFID similarly has the potential to be transformational to your medical device supply chain logistics and inventory management–but its success is dependent on the sophistication of the software processing the RFID input signal.
Automation is powerful when the manual effort is reduced and tasks that used to be done one by one can be done by the software. That is the true power of combining better RFID, accurate processes, and the right software together.
5 Keys To Successful RFID Implementation
Keep in mind the five following points when implementing RFID. They can make or break your dreams of RFID-enabled medical device supply chain efficiency:
1. X-Ray Vision: No Line of Sight
RFID doesn’t use X-Rays, but other, safer penetrating frequencies in the same spectrum. As a scanning technology, RFID is extremely well-suited in certain critical inventory management situations. The ability to “see” specialized RFID tags within RF range (unlike barcodes, which require line-of-sight) allows immediate scanning of all tagged items in a tote, pallet, storage unit, or items passing through certain transition points such as a shipment receiving tunnel, warehouse zone boundaries, or a locker doorway. These high-speed, automated scan collection scenarios require reduced human intervention, enabling unprecedented levels of efficiency in time, labor cost and error handling–provided the system processing all the scan data is able to interpret and process stock virtually to keep in step with reality.
One of the most immediate and effective benefits of implementing RFID is that it is inherently serialized, which is often responsible for more of the gains in efficiency and accuracy than the radio technology itself. During the RFID rollout processes, not all inventory types will be tagged at once, and there may be locations or markets that have not yet installed scanners. Data collection may be valuable at some locations where investment cannot be justified, so other input methods are used. Introducing RFID while managing all those nuances in separate systems may actually harm operational efficiency.
Serializing all inventory under one system with wide adoption from manufacturing is a recommended step preparatory to implementing RFID, in order to see the desired gains in efficiency and accuracy.
The biggest mistake to avoid when implementing RFID is making it an adjunct process, rather than having it be an integrated part of your line-of-business system. If RFID scanning happens in a software system that is separate from where all your everyday business is done, that leads to a lot of swivel-chairing between systems.
Consider the following examples:
- a tag is damaged or lost or never got put on an item, so the scan doesn’t pick it up. In order to find that piece, you would have to go through the box, pallet, or shelf, and barcode-scan everything anyway, if the missed scan was caught by the system.
- Certain markets or customers require RFID and front the cost of tagging only their inventory or only install scanners at certain locations, so RFID implementation becomes piecemeal.
- In the field, reps prefer to use their mobile field tool and their phone camera to scan inventory barcodes at point-of-use, while everywhere else is RFID-scanned.
In all of these scenarios, if the RFID scanning happens in an adjunct system, the consequent back-and-forth swivel-chairing adds layers of complication that can actually hamper efficiency and impair accuracy with RFID implementation. A unified platform integrated to the ERP, coordinating and capturing the point-of-use, and managing the whole supply chain in between will seamlessly process all data capture points, including RFID scans, within your line-of-business system. This reduces complexity and promotes adoption.
One of the most attractive qualities of RFID tech is the increased scan speed over barcode scanning. The ability to scan hundreds of items per second is certainly impressive, but to truly take advantage of that detail and speed (without negating, or getting hung up on the data stream speed), the system must utilize the most advanced state-of-the-art software technology available.
Ideally, a cloud-based platform using nano-services to track all of your various inventory types serially at the item-level individually and within containers will be robust and respond fast enough to enable high levels of automation, which speeds up the entire supply chain process. But that automation requires visibility and control across the inventory management process from the ERP to the point-of-use at the hospital or surgery center.
This level of sophistication is not available off the shelf — and is impossibly prohibitive to build from scratch while maintaining a technological edge. Partnering with extensively experienced industry experts who are constantly innovating highly-configurable tools for other med device manufacturers is the most secure way to maintain that speed to market.
Serialization of inventory, integration into back-end systems, and fast, automated scanning ability all go a long way to improving supply-chain system accuracy. But the right tool including the following software capabilities will fine-tune that accuracy even farther:
- GPS tracking of all scans and user activity
- Audits, cycle-counts, continuous-counts
- Lost & found management
- Expiration management
- Par Management
- Carrier integration
- Configurable hold and status notifications
- Detailed data history and reporting
- User-friendly (adoptable) interfaces
So it’s not just about accurate scanning, but the system accurately reflects inventory in reality, which in turn allows real-life inventory to become more compliant, secure, and accurate for market and regulatory needs.
RFID Can Be Your Missing Link For True Asset Utilization
So is RFID the “secret sauce” to achieving accuracy and efficiency in inventory management? Yes – with the right software and processes. RFID can bridge gaps in visibility, streamline bottlenecks in efficiency and clean accuracy. RFID must be done right, and the right system with the right team behind it can manage the entire implementation process. Then the right software supporting your RFID capability will allow you to execute RFID in a way that avoids just adding another costly & complex tool that never gets used.
With RFID you have the ability to transform your medical device supply chain.
With RFID you can optimize your field inventory.
Movemedical can help.
If you want true visibility and real-time control of your field inventory, let’s talk.
Contact us: 858.956.0219 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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A good sales & inventory solution is worth its weight in gold, a fully integrated medical device focused operations, and sales force effectiveness platform is priceless.
A complete sales & inventory tool should be able to or have:
- Surgery Scheduling (+ Calendar, Surgeon Preferences / Preference Cards)
- Inventory Control & Visibility (All Locations, All Buckets)
- Consignment & Loaner Management
- Hybrid Kitting (Skinny Kits, Kit Management, Kit Versioning, Tracking)
- Transfers / Send & Receive Tools (Rep to Rep etc.)
- Auditing & Cycle Counts
- Image & File Sharing
- Compliance (UDI, HIPAA, MDR, GDPR)
- Mobile Usage with Barcode Scanning
- RFID Integration & RFID Reconciling (HF/UHF)
- ERP/CRM Integrations
- Sales Metrics / Data (Reps, Leaders, Corporate)
- Cost-to-Serve Metrics / Turn Ratio Dashboards / Etc.
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