RFID Enables a Clear Line
of Sight to Time Savings
When it comes to inventory control of chemicals and reagents, bar coding is still one of the most
commonly used identification methods in the IVD industry. This article illustrates how RFID can offer
a much more efficient system. While the real world example involves a pharmaceutical company, it
readily translates to the IVD space.
By Angela Hoffman, Marketing Manager,
Northern Apex Corporation
There are known issues within labora- tories that involve tracking, invento- rying, and accounting for compounds,
chemicals, and reagents. If this issue has ever
presented itself in your laboratory, radio
frequency identification (RFID) solutions will
help monitor every chemical that enters and
exits a facility.
Even if a lab is already using barcoding for
inventory control, there are numerous benefits that RFID offers beyond that technology.
For example, RFID can read multiple tags at
once, instead of just one tag at a time, like a
barcode scanner. Additionally, RFID labels
can be read at a distance and without line
of sight, instead of having to point a scanner
directly at a label.
RFID is also more efficient than
barcode technology. The latest inventory
time test conducted using RFID enabled
the tester to read 48 tags in 4. 2 seconds. For
the same 48 tags, it took two minutes and
31 seconds using barcodes and nine minutes
and four seconds using only pen and paper
(a video of this test can be viewed at
Case in Point
A large pharmaceutical company was looking
to track all of its chemicals and reagents
when received, consumed, and disposed.
Initial on-site analysis and testing was conducted to define the best technology for the
read points, product containers, and lids.
After the analysis, it was determined that
the current barcode label would
be used and RFID technology
would be integrated into their
existing system in the receiving
area. RFID technology would
then be utilized for both
inventory and chemical dis-
posal. Following the on-site
visit, testing was conducted
to determine the best class
RFID tag frequency, size,
and appropriate hardware
for the project.
Receiving - A hybrid RFID/
Barcode initialization station
was integrated into the
receiving area. This station
utilized the client’s existing
software along with the
RFID integrator’s software.
This created the association
between chemicals and the
RFID tags for inventory
reconciliation. As new items
were processed into the facility, the operator
performed a check-in sequence and created
the RFID-enabled, barcode label, which was
attached to the container or lid. The RFID/
barcode initialization station then detected
the presence of an item, scanned the barcode,
and ensured that the barcode was in the correct format to be written to the RFID tag.
The software program then verified that
the correct barcode ID had been written to
the RFID tag. This transaction was displayed
on the RFID/barcode station screen and
confirmed by the viewable light stack and
Inventory - Inventory was con-
ducted using an RFID enabled
wireless/battery powered mobile
cart. The cart was used in the stor-
age rooms. Due to size constraints,
an RFID enabled handheld reader
was also used to take invento-
ry of chemicals that were in
storage or in use.
The process of conducting
an inventory analysis became
much less time consuming.
Additionally, accuracy was
improved to over 99.8%. All
of the data gathered during
each inventory analysis was
filtered through the integrator’s
software and was automatically
reconciled with the pharmaceu-
tical company’s software system.
This process made reconciling
inventory issues a quick and
Shelf Life - The RFID system
also allowed the employees
to know when a chemical’s
shelf life had expired or was about to expire.
With the chemical’s expiration information
stored directly in the RFID tag, the employees could use a handheld reader (or a fixed
reader) to pull the expiration information. If
the expiration date was approaching or past,
the system would send out a special alert to
Chemical Disposal - Utilizing both the RFID
enabled handheld reader, as well as the
mobile cart, chemical disposal stations were
setup. These stations were used to confirm
each chemical that was either completely
used or disposed of due to underlying issues.
The RFID label offers an array
of benefits that are outside the
capabilities of barcode
technology, enabling a much more
efficient inventory analysis.