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Farmacias del Ahorro Prescribes RFID to Track Assets

The Mexican drugstore chain is using RFID tags, handheld readers and BlackBerry devices to keep tabs on all of its assets located in 700 stores and three warehouses.
By Beth Bacheldor
Jan 07, 2009Farmacias del Ahorro, a pharmacy chain in Mexico, is employing approximately 40,000 high-frequency (HF) RFID tags and 40 handheld interrogators to keep tabs on its expanding inventory of assets at its 700 franchise stores, as well as at three of its five warehouses. The retailer, which reports healthy growth in the past few years, is utilizing the technology to help track everything from office equipment to scales.

The chain worked with Nauter Technologies, a software development and systems integration firm located in Mexico City, on the large-scale deployment. The system incorporates Padl-R HF readers from New Zealand-based RFID company Tracient Technologies. The interrogators, which read 13.56 MHz passive tags that comply with the ISO 15693 standard, use Bluetooth short-range wireless technology to transmit RFID tag-read data to Research In Motion's BlackBerry 8700G handheld devices, which the pharmacy chain was already utilizing. According to Juan Pablo Camacho, Nauter's CIO, the implementation includes RFID tags from a variety of providers—some in the form of paper labels, others consisting of foam-backed models designed for mounting on computers and other assets composed of or containing metal.

Prior to implementing RFID, Farmacias had no consistent method for inventorying all of its assets, which made it difficult to track those items for financial and accounting purposes. "They have been growing so fast, and they had lost control of their assets—which was in each store, how many of each type," Camacho explains. "They move a lot of assets from store to store when they are opening new stores, and they need to have all those records as well."

Farmacias launched its deployment in late 2007 by testing RFID at 20 of its pharmacies in the northern part of Mexico City. Nauter affixed tags to various pieces of equipment, then employed the handheld readers to scan the tags' unique ID numbers. The tag information was transferred to the BlackBerry via Bluetooth almost instantaneously, Camacho says, and a software application developed by Nauter guided workers through a drop-down menu to input information into the BlackBerry regarding the asset just tagged and scanned—such as the store in which the item is located, its asset classification and serial number—and any other relevant information.

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