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Jointown Pharmaceutical Group Traceability System Using RFID Tags Introduced a temperature traceability system using RFID tags.

photo:Mr. Takahito Shishime

Mr. Qu Yong

Senior Logistics Manager

Jointown Pharmaceutical Group Co., Ltd.

"Realization of more efficient, reliable temperature monitoring enabled us to provide high value-added distribution services. We work to improve customer satisfaction and to provide matchless, safe distribution of pharmaceuticals."

Background

Highly reliable temperature monitoring for safe distribution of pharmaceuticals.

The Jointown Pharmaceutical Group is the third largest pharmaceutical wholesaler and distributor in China and one of the fastest growing with a 47% increase in sales per year. The company has 34 distribution centers in China, including Wuhan, and distributes pharmaceuticals directly to hospitals, doctors, and even individual customers. Since 2003, the company has thoroughly improved its distribution network and promoted positive reform to minimize unnecessary inventory by developing a warehouse management system.

As a result of GSP certification, a set of pharmaceutical quality management standards in China in 2008, thorough quality management in pharmaceutical distribution is required. In addition, many pharmaceutical manufacturers, dealers, and hospitals want to improve the accuracy of temperature monitoring. And in order to improve customer satisfaction, strict temperature monitoring was necessary during the distribution process.

The importance of quality management is growing, especially for expensive pharmaceuticals that require rigid temperature monitoring, such as influenza vaccines and blood products. One of the purposes of the new system was to enhance competitiveness by tackling these issues before anyone else.

PhotoDistribution Center (Wuhan)

In the past, the Jointown Pharmaceutical Group controlled temperatures using thermometers. Because the old system required manual temperature checks, the working processes imposed a burden on the company. Temperatures were measured only for shipments and delivery. Lack of continuity and insufficient data during transportation undermines the credibility of collected data. To resolve these issues, the company needed a new temperature traceability system.

Installation Process

The result proves the advantage: scrupulous support, abundant successful experience, and cutting-edge technologies attracted the client.

The Jointown Pharmaceutical Group, a pioneer in the industry, examined the latest technologies before deciding on a new system. The chosen candidate was a temperature traceability system using RFID tags with embedded temperature sensors because the system could monitor continuous temperature data.

"Two companies produced excellent achievements with RFID systems in China. We asked them to conduct a test to collect temperature data. As a result, we determined that the introduction of NEC's RFID system would work over long communication distances and ensure data acquisition. We believe that there is a major advantage in using the expertise of NEC. The factors that made us choose NEC as a partner include reliable support and the wealth of experience in the field of advanced technologies. Even after starting system development, NEC provided reassurance by carefully addressing the mountain of problems, including coordination with the existing system. We are satisfied with NEC because their proposal offered a totally integrated system and sophisticated technologies in response to strict requirements," said Mr. Qu Yong.

System overview

Realizing highly reliable, continuous temperature monitoring with RFID tags.

The temperature traceability system using RFID tags with embedded temperature sensors was introduced in September 2009 and started substantial operation in December of the same year. The system is mostly used in the transportation process of comparatively expensive pharmaceuticals, like vaccines and blood products. Before installing the system, on-site operators were trained to help them operate the system efficiently. They were able to operate the system in a short period of time.

The flow of system operation is as follows: An RFID tag with an embedded temperature sensor is attached to the package of pharmaceuticals before shipment; the tag measures and records the temperature during transportation; and after arrival of the package, the data are read by a handy reader/writer. The active tag with the sensor is small and can be reused. The data are read in a few seconds, and then categorized and stored in a temperature analysis database, which is then used to identify and analyze problems for improvement.

The system was introduced on a small scale and will be expanded company-wide little by little. In the next two years, 1,500 tags will be introduced, and after that, the company plans to increase the number depending on the circumstances.

PitureFigure: System overview (Temperature traceability flowchart)

Results and future benefits

Aiming at realization of the most advanced real-time temperature traceability system in the industry.

The temperature traceability system lets users acquire temperature data quickly, significantly reducing the number of working processes. Analysis of temperature data helps to reveal problems in the distribution process. Rapid distribution of safe pharmaceuticals is realized by improving the packages, cold insulation materials, trucks, and transportation routes.

"Improvement of customer satisfaction is the most significant result. The system represents a reliable temperature monitoring and traceability system that ensures continuity in the distribution system. We work to provide services that can satisfy customer needs based on our customer-first policy. The new system allows us to provide a highly value-added distribution service," said Mr. Qu Yong.

He continues about future prospects.

"Because an active tag can acquire data in real time, we developed an expandable system, assuming real-time temperature data acquisition in coordination with GPRS. We will offer a real-time temperature traceability system by the end of this year and expand functions to help us implement immediate measures on-site. If an alert reports any change immediately even during transportation and we are able to implement measures on-site before the products deteriorate, we will be able to minimize inventory loss for more efficient, reliable distribution.

This temperature traceability system using RFID tags is one of the most advanced in the industry. It is difficult to produce a noticeable effect with partial introduction of this kind of system. Coordination of data throughout the whole distribution process can improve quality and ensure reliability. For this reason, I would like to work together with our partner NEC to create a framework where the system is used not only by all Jointown Pharmaceutical Group companies but also by all our customers, including more than 4,200 pharmaceutical manufacturers and more than 58,000 dealers. The new system is only a part of the whole picture. I would like to disclose our experience in operations, examining a new method of pharmaceutical distribution. "

Opinions of NEC Staff

photo:Li Hua

Li Hua

Sales Deputy General Manager

Manufacturing and Processing and Automobile Solution Business Division / Service Business Promotion office

NEC SOLUTIONS CHINA

NEC tackled the development of a variety of systems and accumulated considerable experience in China as a pioneering vendor of RFID solutions. Our goal was to provide a system using the latest technologies, while making the most of our expertise. We applied such technologies to all components, including RFID readers/writers, memory, and batteries. We are proud that we supplied a high-quality system using cutting-edge RFID technologies from NEC.

 

We had the toughest time trying to develop the most appropriate system without an existing system model, only with the help of cases where NEC had already conducted demonstration experiments, while working together with many divisions. This system is totally different from a conventional temperature traceability system. It is designed to acquire and monitor temperature data in real time, so that it can upload data in a few seconds with the expandability to coordinate with GPRS.

 

NEC considers providing this traceability system to pharmaceutical industries as well as to food and medical industries where quality management is exceptionally important. Application to vaccines, where the quality is the most difficult to manage, is a significant achievement. The system can be applied to the control of food, and the need for a highly value-added distribution system is expected. To respond to the needs of a variety of food manufacturers, we are looking to offer the product as a set of services, which can be more easily introduced by customers.

photo:Dong Zhimin

Dong Zhimin

Assistant manager

Manufacturing and Processing and Automobile Solution Business Division

East China 1st Sales Department

NEC SOLUTIONS CHINA

Relation links


Customer profile

Jointown Pharmaceutical Group Co., Ltd.,

Address Wuhan, China Photo
Type of business Sales, distribution, chain stores, and e-business of pharmaceuticals and medical instruments
Capital 1.17 billion yuan
Number of Employees 10,000
URL http://www.jztey.com/index.html (Chinese)

(Mar 2, 2010)