Counterfeits are big business. A global analysis estimated lost sales of $1.82 trillion in 2020. And it’s not just the sales lost to counterfeits. Jobs are lost. Even lives are lost. And brand trust – intangible and invaluable – is damaged, perhaps forever.
Fake products aren’t confined to luxury goods like handbags and watches. They include:
- Pharmaceuticals – Whether they are ineffective sugar pills, or contain dangerous toxins, counterfeit medications have been estimated to kill as many as 1 million people annually.
- Art and Antiquities – Reputable museums and private collectors paid a grand total of $80 million for counterfeit works from one New York forger, as documented in the film “Made You Look.”
- Consumer goods – From consumer electronics to vintage wines, fake labels and fake contents cost the U.S. $600 billion per year.
- Manufacturing components – Falsely labeled components and materials were reported to cost the automotive industry alone $3 billion per year.
Adding insult to injury, counterfeits destroy brand trust. A Harris Poll of 2018 found that if Americans learned that they had purchased a fake product, 73% would stop buying from the company that sold it.
Technology comes to the rescue in the form of RFID. RFID assigns a unique identifier to every element of a product. It starts at the very beginning of the manufacturing process and continues through product completion, shipping, warehousing, and retail sale. The authenticity of each finished product can be certified. Its RFID-managed and controlled “history” is unimpeachable. Your brand’s reputation is enhanced though the use of anti-counterfeit technology, and customers trust your brand more than ever.
RFID has many benefits, from inventory management to operational security and more. But perhaps none is more valuable, in the long run, than protecting your brand.
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Healthcare has been very much on everyone’s mind during this past year and a half of pandemic health concerns. With hospital capacity stretched to the max, hospital managers are eager to find ways to minimize costly equipment and medication losses.
One hospital in Michigan discovered that small but valuable equipment items were being mixed with medical waste, and thrown out in the trash. Usable medical surplus – the result of over-ordering due to inventory uncertainties – is being dumped into landfills every day, according to a report by the National Institutes of Health.
On the pharmaceutical front, the Drug Supply Chain Security Act (DSCSA) requires tracking of certain drugs throughout the supply chain, from manufacturer to end user. Protenus reports 18.7 million prescription pills lost from hospitals in the first half of 2018.
Good inventory management is, of course, the way to avoid such equipment and medication losses, and the compliance risks that come with such losses. But hand-counting beds and pills is labor intensive. It takes medical personnel away from their primary mission of healthcare delivery.
RFID solves the inventory problem and the labor problem simultaneously.
The Michigan hospital instituted a multi-year program to add RFID tags to its 12,000 pieces of medical equipment. Now it tracks equipment from deployment for patient usage, to “soiled” rooms for used equipment, through cleaning, and back to readiness for the next patient. The hospital saved an estimated $4,300 almost immediately by retrieving equipment accidentally headed for the trash. And hospital staff is not wasting valuable time searching for missing equipment.
Hospital pharmacies, too, will benefit from RFID implementation. The FDA has instituted a pilot program, Kit Check, including several major medical centers and drug companies. Kit Check tests tracking and system interoperability through the supply chain, starting with the medication manufacturer. RFID readers monitor the movement of medications in and out of the pharmacy. Medication errors are reduced, and pharmacists can easily identify returns and recalls. And the time-consuming manual counts are completely eliminated.
Healthcare RFID is strongly recommended by the experts in Forbes Magazine. With improved equipment and pharmaceutical inventory management, hospitals can get a handle on their costs, pass the savings on to patients, and still improve their profits.
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Shortages and hoarding were two of the many unwelcome side effects of the pandemic. Remember the Great Toilet Paper Shortage of 2020? A similar effect was felt in many business sectors. Manufacturers experienced shortages of parts or materials. Hospitals ran short of PPE and other supplies. Out-of-stocks cost retailers billions in a year.
Businesses responded to shortages by overstocking inventory. But overstocking is costly. Buying excess inventory is expensive; storing the excess adds additional costs. And if demand suddenly drops, your business is left holding the bag.
The just in time (JIT) production and distribution chain has been the enterprise holy grail for more than 3 decades. It only works if every segment of the supply chain communicates with every other segment in a timely manner. Any lapse or slow-down of communication means potential or actual shortages, with a ripple effect that is felt all up and down the line. Time is indeed of the essence.
And timely communication is where RFID shines. Not only does it track your inventory coming in the door, it tracks it as it leaves. And it communicates that information to your ERP system, in real time. At any given moment, managers can know exactly what they have on hand, and they can re-order at the right time to avoid a shortage, or an excess.
Moreover, this close monitoring of inventory doesn’t add to labor costs. Door-mounted RFID readers collect information automatically as inventory moves in and out. There’s no need to wait for a manual check-out, or even slow down for a bar code reader. RFID wins the inventory race every time, as this video shows.
Fast, accurate tracking of inventory is the key to keeping the supply chain moving smoothly and profitably. The data collected from RFID lets businesses confidently predict supply and demand throughout the supply chain. RFID is your ally in the battle for profitability.
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The COVID-19 vaccine offers a light at the end of the pandemic tunnel, but its stringent storage and usage requirements are adding an extra layer of complexity to the goal of inoculating the public. News stories abound regarding the lucky individuals who happened to be grocery shopping or stuck in traffic, and were randomly offered a vaccine when excess quantities were on the verge of expiration. Adding to the complexity are the reporting requirements: Every vaccine must be documented and reported to area health administrators within 24 hours of use.
RFID provides a way to simplify the complex vaccine delivery system.
RFID’s strengths of accuracy and efficiency have been profitably applied in many industry sectors, from manufacturing to logistics, from healthcare to retail. Perhaps none of its applications are more vital than helping get COVID vaccines into arms.
One hospital in Pennsylvania has extended its pharmaceutical RFID system to include tracking the COVID vaccine from the time it is received from the manufacturer, to the time it is administered to patients. When vaccine vials are removed from their RFID-tagged shipping boxes in the freezer, they receive a pre-printed RFID label that includes the date and time of removal as well as the manufacturer lot number.
From the freezer, the vials are placed in the hospital pharmacy’s refrigerator, and the “use-by” clock begins ticking. An RFID reader in the refrigerator records each vial as it enters, and records it again as it leaves the refrigerator and moves to the clinic for inoculation. Any vials remaining at the end of the day are recorded when they are returned to the pharmacy refrigerator. More important, their time-based viability is updated.
This workflow ensures that vaccine vials are used in order of their removal from the freezer, so no dose is injected after its use-by time. Additionally, the RFID system creates an automated digital record which is output for the CDC-mandated documentation and reporting. The clinic’s staff is relieved of any manual record-keeping and reporting tasks. Their time is preserved for the essential work of administering vaccines.
RFID technology makes it possible for this hospital to support the health of the community. Other RFID applications can make your business operations healthy. Speak to an RFID expert if you’re looking for ways to boost your operational efficiencies.
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Picture this: A hospital acquired new equipment that could tailor asthma medication to each patient’s needs. The marketing team wanted to contact all the hospital’s patients who had asthma. Hospital administration expected the new service to be quite profitable.
However, most hospital patients had been treated for other conditions, not for asthma. The hospital’s electronic records only tracked the treatments the patients received, not other conditions being handled outside the hospital. Many patients’ asthma was noted only on paper documents filled out during admission.
To build a list of asthmatic patients, the marketing team would have to search by hand through every patient’s paper file, to see if they had checked the “asthma” box. Given the number of hours needed to review each and every paper record, the cost to identify prospective patients was roughly the same as the cost of the hospital’s new equipment, deferring ROI far into the future.
This is just one example of how unstructured data (data found only on paper, or in various incompatible databases) locks up information that could otherwise contribute to the bottom line. Structured data – a spreadsheet, for instance – is searchable and sortable with electronic speed. Searching unstructured data requires time-consuming manual efforts.
Document imaging is one of the ways that unstructured data is transformed to searchable, sortable structured data.
Don’t mistake imaging for a .PDF, however. A .PDF is essentially a picture of a document, and it’s no more searchable than the original paper. By contrast, an imaged document can be read by software. Text and numbers can be extracted, sorted, searched, and linked to other data.
With the speed of automation, the imaged information is compiled into a database. It becomes actionable business intel. Every department can access the data, make better decisions, and operate more productively.
Returning to our case-study hospital: Marketing collaborated with IT to spearhead a pilot project, transitioning to imaged patient-admission documents. As they assembled the now-usable data, they realized that they had a treasure trove of marketing information. They stopped missing opportunities to offer additional services to patients who could benefit from them. And that new equipment became profitable much sooner than expected.
If your business has paper records, you have unstructured data. Transform it into structured data, via document imaging, and start monetizing the information.
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RFID is all about the data – how many, what, where, and who. As a data collection system, RFID is hard to beat. It’s fast, it’s accurate, and it interfaces easily with other automated business-information systems. But like any other business system, RFID’s return on investment is a burning issue for managers. When you analyze the data, is RFID a good business decision?
One industry has already done the science and calculated the math for us: Healthcare.
The healthcare industry has incorporated RFID into many aspects of its operations. RFID was first adopted as an inventory management system for medications. As its value was recognized, it was expanded into asset management, as well as patient and personnel location.
Now RFID systems are tracking medication from manufacturer to patient – something that’s especially important in the delivery of the coronavirus vaccine. RFID labels are applied at factory, tracked to the pharmacy, and ultimately to the individual patient receiving the medication.
With RFID so widespread in the healthcare sector, the question of ROI arose among decision makers. The Mayo Clinic, whose scientific methodology is unimpeachable, undertook a study of the return on investment of hospital RFID systems. Researchers examined search time, shrinkage rates, utilization rates, and RFID implementation costs in a 600-bed hospital.
And the results? The team calculated:
- Payback of initial installation costs – 2 months
- Three-year projected ROI – 327%
Those numbers would make any accountant smile. Of course, every operation is different, and as the saying goes, “your results may vary.” In other industries, RFID can be even more productive, linking to MIS and ERP systems to create an end-to-end BI (business information) system.
A projected ROI of 327% is quite attractive, and with a customized industry-specific RFID system, you may find your ROI is even better. However, unless you have in-depth RFID experience, it’s best to work with an expert. An experienced consultant will design and install a cost-effective RFID system ideally suited to your business. Break out your calculator and start watching your ROI grow.
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