Clamp down on counterfeit products

Although a bottle of bogus Viagra might prove to be a big disappointment, a counterfeit bottle of a cholesterol-related heart protection medication such as Lipitor could be deadly. On the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy's list of drugs most susceptible to adulteration and/or counterfeiting, Viagra is No. 23 and Lipitor is No. 10. In 2003 more than 200,000 bottles of phony Lipitor were found on the shelves of major drugstore chains.

As is so often the case, it will soon be IT, through the use of pedigree systems, which will help solve the problem.

A pedigree system tracks all the information about a product as it moves through the supply chain from the manufacturer all the way to the point of sale. This could be done manually, but I wouldn't want to be the one in charge of that.

Rather, the electronic version of a pedigree system uses RFID. I spoke with Peter Regen, vice president of global visible commerce at Unisys, about his company's ePedigree pilot project and how supply chain technology, especially RFID, can be used to alleviate counterfeiting.

Here's how the pedigree system works, according to Regen: A tag commissioned with a unique EPC (Electronic Product Code) is recorded at the point of manufacture. Its unique ID is sent to a hosted solution using, in this example, SupplyScape pedigree software. The SupplyScape system captures the original data and notifies the next stop to expect these cases with these IDs.

As the pallet, case, or item moves along the supply chain, it eventually lands at the wholesaler, where it's unloaded at the dock. Once again the RFID tag is read, as it will be when it's shipped out again. Finally, if there's a reader at the retailer, the tag is read one final time for authenticity. With this much monitoring, a case is much less likely to "fall off the back of the truck" (as we used to say in Brooklyn) or be replaced by a counterfeit.

Of course, these same tags will also be used for more ordinary supply-chain track and trace. This means IT will need to plug pedigree systems into other components of the overall infrastructure, including warehouse management systems, demand planning, forecasting, order management, and inventory management, to name a few.

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