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Promedon Boosts Efficiency and Accuracy of Surgical Supply Shipments

The maker of surgical implants and prostheses is employing EPC passive UHF RFID tags and readers to streamline the tracking of outgoing and incoming orders for hospitals.
By Claire Swedberg
Nov 16, 2012Promedon, an Argentina-based manufacturer and supplier of medical implants and prostheses, is utilizing radio frequency identification technology to boost efficiency and accuracy as it ships and receives products selected for a particular patient's surgery. Since the system was taken live at Promedon's warehouse in Santiago, Chile, the company has eliminated shipment errors, while also reducing the amount of time that workers spend packing each personalized surgical order, from one hour down to only 15 minutes, according to Matías Montané, Promedon's director of operations and services. The solution was provided by RFID Chile.

Promedon develops medical implants for urology and urogynecology, and also distributes implants and prostheses for a variety of other health-care needs. The firm ships those goods out of multiple locations worldwide, including Santiago. Prior to a patient's surgery, a hospital typically orders implants and prostheses of varying sizes and shapes, in order to meet that individual's needs. Those items are packed in a kit, consisting of a group of containers intended specifically for that procedure. The surgeon removes the appropriate items from the kit during the operation, based on size and other factors, and the hospital later returns the kit, along with any unused items.

Promedon's Matías Montané
For Promedon, this process of shipping and receiving kits complicates the task of inventory management. Until the company's warehouse in Santiago began using an RFID system, its staff had to manually record all items as they were shipped out and returned, and then check them against an order to ensure that no mistakes were made. Accuracy is especially vital when it comes to shipping goods to a hospital prior to surgery, the company reports, since an error can mean that surgeons may not have the necessary materials during an operation.

"The challenge was to reduce the amount of mistakes in the surgery preparations," Montané explains. "Because of the large amount of products used in each surgery, it was a challenge to have a low rate of [discrepancy] between the order and what really is shipped." The company also sought a method of receiving automatic documentation indicating which products were shipped, as well as which were ultimately delivered to a hospital.

The solution, installed in August of this year, consists of Tageos passive EPC Gen 2 ultrahigh-frequency (UHF) RFID tags, which are applied to items within the product line. As each item arrives at the warehouse from the manufacturer, a tag is attached to its packaging. Xerafy Metal Skin tags are utilized for products composed mostly of metal.

Promedon's workers interrogate each tag using a ThingMagic USB RFID reader, and enter data regarding each item, such as its lot number and size. That information, linked to the RFID tag's unique ID number, is then stored in SAP software.

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