By Todd Keefe
Intelleflex makes an RFID-based temperature monitoring solution that can be read through the walls of passive packaging solutions, without breaking the seal of the box, to facilitate the monitoring of life sciences products during transit. At the IQPC show in Chicago, Intelleflex discussed how it is working with packaging vendors, such as Cold Chain Technologies, among others, to embed its temperature tags into the most popular passive packaging solutions.
The Intelleflex tag provides a forensic record of temperature throughout transit. If for any reason the packaging fails, the Intelleflex reader tells the shipper precisely when the shipment went out of compliance, and to what extent. According to Intelleflex’ Senior Director of Marketing, Kevin Payne, an embedded RFID temperature tag is more efficient and useful than a USB data logger, because it can be easily scanned at the airport, or at any point during the journey, without opening the box. “With bulk shipments, you can quickly scan individual boxes to see if they need to be put in coolers before making the final leg of a journey. If you identify an excursion in a particular box, you’ve bought some time to jumpstart a replacement shipment.
The Intelleflex tag can store up to 3,600 data records. Customers determine how often the probe records data. The most common setting is every 15 minutes, but it can be configured to report at whatever interval (between every one minute, and every five days) that the customer deems appropriate.
Today, a majority of Intelleflex’ tags are used for domestic shipping, but shipments out of Latin America are growing rapidly. “We’re working with lots of growers and shippers of food products in Mexico, and throughout South America,” adds Payne. “When people discuss the cold chain, they mostly talking about time-in-transit, but our temperature tags also provide value to food packaging companies prior to shipment. Today, customers are using our tags to determine when pallets of food products have been sufficiently pre-cooled, before initiating the shipping process. Leveraging data at this stage of the process goes a long way to reducing spoilage en route.”
The Food Safety Modernization Act (signed by President Obama in January 2011), should drive demand for Intelleflex’ solutions, and asset tracking technologies in general. The act aims to ensure that the U.S. food supply is safe, by shifting the focus towards preventing contamination events, as opposed to responding to them, by mandating the traceability of food products from grower to distributor to retailer.
At the IQPC show, Kevin Payne reiterated a notion shared by many asset tracking providers: that their technology is not merely a cost, but rather an investment with a highly measurable ROI. Food growers and shippers today understand how much they’re losing through spoilage. With temperature monitoring and tracking technology, they gain the data needed to enhance their shipping processes, which leads to less spoilage (that they can measure), which leads to more revenue, not to mention the intangible benefits associated with ensuring the quality of our food supply.
Payne confirmed that the pull for temperature monitoring and tracking is starting to come from retail grocers who want documented traceability from all their suppliers. As a result, growers and shippers, in increasing numbers, are starting to take a close look at track and trace solutions.
In the pharmaceutical industry, track & trace scenarios are somewhat simpler. The supply chain is more sophisticated, with better controls and far fewer links than the food industry. Yet, pharmaceutical shippers face a unique and daunting challenge in the form of counterfeiting.
At IQPC, Payne and I discussed the California e-Pedigree law, which seeks to protect consumers from contaminated medicine or counterfeit drugs. Set to take effect in January 2015, the law will require an electronic record for drugs at each change of ownership, involving: manufacturers, wholesalers, distributors, pharmacies and individuals who administer or dispense such drugs.
The goal of e-Pedigree is to give every link in the supply chain access to an electronic record that authenticates shipments through their respective link. This documentation will most likely be facilitated through individual bar codes on boxes, summary bar codes on wrapped pallets, RFID readers, and cloud-based data management applications that can be accessed by a number of authorized customers throughout the supply chain.
Regardless of how the specific details for e-Pedigree are implemented, one thing is clear. The way we ship pharmaceutical products, biologics, perishables, and other high value items is fundamentally changing – and temperature monitoring and tracking technologies are providing the visibility that’s ushering in this change.
For more information on Intelleflex, visit www.intelleflex.com,or to read a white paper detailing the use of RFID for Track & Trace applications, visit http://info.intelleflex.com/Article-ZESTandPharma.html.