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Mallinckrodt Revamps Its RFID Roadmap

The generic drugmaker says it will soon begin using Gen 2 tags, first for manual tagging and then, by year's end, in its production line.
By Mary Catherine O'Connor
May 01, 2006Mallinckrodt Pharmaceuticals, a division of Tyco Healthcare that formulates, manufactures and distributes generic drugs, is no newcomer to RFID. Since 2004, Mallinckrodt has been tagging bulk bottles of select strengths of the generic oxycodone and acetaminophen painkillers its Hobart, N.Y., distribution center ships to select Wal-Mart locations. Last September, however, the firm announced it was looking to broaden its use of the technology by tracking more products with RFID (see Generic Drugmaker to Pilot RFID).

Darrell Biggs, senior RFID project engineer for Mallinckrodt Pharmaceuticals, reports that last year, his company put out a request for proposals to obtain a consultancy's help in furthering its RFID deployment. "We received several responses, and we decided to go with Unisys," says Biggs. "Unisys conducted a business case analysis, finalized in December of 2005. Out of that, we've revamped our RFID roadmap. It showed there are areas where we are—and are not—going to get value from RFID."

Darrell Biggs
In developing the business case analysis, Unisys conducted a number of studies for Mallinckrodt and brought together a cross-functional team of key personnel, including senior executives and leads from Mallinckrodt's information services and marketing departments. Unisys conducted walk-throughs at the drugmaker's facilities, interviewing people at its distribution center to ascertain how growing the quantity of items carrying RFID tags might impact its current business processes. The firm also studied the potential costs of integrating RFID into material-handling scenarios other than manually applying the tags. It compared the costs of integrated and automated approaches, such as adding automated application to the packaging line, with the benefits and long-term cost-savings they would provide.

"I was amazed by how difficult it was to look at everything," says Biggs. "To do a really good business case is really harder than you'd expect."

Based on the findings of the business case analysis, Biggs explains, the company is moving this quarter from the EPC Gen 1 Class 1 passive UHF tags it currently hand-applies to select drugs at its distribution center, to Gen 2 Class 1 passive UHF tags. By the end of the fourth quarter, Mallinckrodt will also begin testing the automatic application of tags in its packaging line. RFID inlays will be applied and encoded, then the encoded data will be verified and collected by interrogators and automatic application devices built into the packaging line. Biggs will not discuss all of the vendors that will enable this system, though he does say Mallinckrodt will continue its partnership with ADT Security Services, a Boca Raton, Fla.-based unit of Tyco Fire & Security, which provides Sensormatic Agile 2 UHF readers and antennas for Mallinckrodt's Wal-Mart tagging deployment.

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