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Pro-X Seeks RFID for Internal Benefits

Pro-X Pharmaceuticals, a maker of nutritional supplements, is deploying RFID to help manage production of its products and track inventory.
By Mary Catherine O'Connor
Pro-X will add Gen 2 smart labels to bulk containers of ingredients used to make its products. At the Pro-X manufacturing facility, workers will apply smart labels to the containers of raw materials, which generally arrive in corrugated cardboard drums ranging from 5 to 45 gallons in volume. The tags will be encoded, using a handheld interrogator, with unique IDs associated with a lot number, and any expiration dates linked to the ingredients. Pro-X also performs quality tests on the ingredients it receives, to certify that they are safe and pure. The results of these tests will also be associated with the IDs. Before production of a particular item begins, the necessary tagged containers will be gathered and interrogated, and the tag data will be aggregated in a database.

"This starts to form a pedigree because you know the lot ingredients that go into each batch," says Bret Kinsella, ODIN's chief operating officer. This production record will be associated with the bulk quantities of finished products, which will be placed in large tagged barrels. Encoded to each barrel's tag will be an ID correlating with the batch data, so the finished product can be linked to the raw materials used to make it. Once each batch of finished supplement product is packaged into individual bottles for retail sale, those bottles will be packed in cases to which RFID smart labels will also be affixed. The tags will let Pro-X use interrogators in a number of different form factors, including handheld, fixed and fork-lifted mounted devices, to track each case as it enters the inventory storage area and as it is picked to fulfill orders.

Pro-X believes that in addition to improving work-in-progress tracking and inventory management, RFID will help it manage any product recalls it might have in the future. The company plans to install an RFID infrastructure in its distribution facilities, for instance, enabling it to use the smart labels to receive the tagged cases of its products into inventory, to fulfill orders and to automate the identification and collection of products that might be involved in a recall.

"RFID will give more granularity in terms of where things are in production," says Hosseinzadeh. "We'll be able to see what we have in production and on the shelf at any time." He adds that using RFID should lead to benefits for Pro-X's retailer customers because Pro-X will have more visibility into exactly where in the production process its customers' orders are at any one time.

Pro-X has also recently installed Great Plains, an enterprise resource-planning platform from Microsoft. The company is using the platform to manage its accounting, inventory and manufacturing processes. "When we approached ODIN, we made clear that whatever we do with RFID, it has to integrate with Great Plains," says Hosseinzadeh. Shipcom's background in RFID data integration with Great Plains was one of the major reasons ODIN decided to partner with Shipcom on the Pro-X deployment, says Kinsella. By pulling the tag data associated with the raw materials, finished products and orders into the Great Plains applications, Shipcom will integrate the RFID system with Pro-X's back-end systems.

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