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Monroe Americana Tracks Reusable Containers

The Argentinean drug wholesaler is using passive EPC Gen 2 RFID tags to identify and count any reusable plastic containers that are returned, as well as the customer that returned them.
By Claire Swedberg
Mar 30, 2011By employing an RFID system with tags applied to its reusable containers, Argentinean medicine wholesaler Monroe Americana has increased its efficiency and reduced the number of containers that end up missing. The system, provided by RFID solutions company BDEV provides the firm with visibility into the number of empty containers that are returned from each pharmacy, and also frees up employees who previously had spent hours each day counting containers unloaded from trucks.

Monroe Americana, Argentina's second largest pharmaceutical wholesaler, delivers drugs and personal-care products to 5,000 pharmacies nationwide, as well as 1,500 in the Buenos Aires area alone, with a fleet of approximately 50 trucks. The vehicles transport products in two daily deliveries, six days per week.

BDEV's Santiago Spector Mentasti
To meet high-volume demand, the company utilizes an automatic picking system, says Jorge Zambrano, Monroe Americana's head of logistics and distribution. Products are placed in plastic returnable containers known as pharmaboxes, which are transported throughout the warehouse on conveyor belts, while dispensing modules fill the containers with the products needed for a particular order. The plastic pharmaboxes are available in two form factors: the chico, which measures 10 centimeters by 43 centimeters by 25 centimeters (3.9 inches by 16.9 inches by 9.8 inches), and the grande, measuring 20 centimeters by 42 centimeters by 24 centimeters (7.9 inches by 16.5 inches by 9.4 inches). The use of pharmaboxes traveling on conveyors makes the automated process possible, while without them, the staff would need to manually fill plastic bags with product.

The challenge for Monroe Americana was that pharmaboxes did not always return after being shipped out of the warehouse with an order. "The recovery rate was far below the expected level," says Santiago Spector Mentasti, BDEV's general manager. "The primary goal was to detect the ones that had been returned, and by whom, in order to establish returning behaviors of the customers and the transportists [truck drivers]."

Upon returning from deliveries, the trucks bring empty pharmaboxes to the warehouse—typically, 90 boxes per delivery. In the event that pharmaboxes were missing, the company had to purchase replacements, averaging US$7 apiece.

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