SATO, a global pioneer in the development of auto-ID and labelling solutions, has built an end-to-end supply chain solution for Italy-based orthopedic implant manufacturer LimaCorporate.
The solution, comprising hardware, software and tags, centres around SATO’s next generation PJM RFID technology for source tagging of implantable products prior to both gas and radiation sterilisation, enabling a new streamlined workflow not possible using barcodes or conventional RFID products.
Orthopedic implants – artificial replacements for joints, bones, or cartilage to address damage or deformity are made in many sizes to suit the wide range of human body types. Since the correct size often remains unknown until surgery, manufacturers may supply several hundreds of implant parts in advance, based on patient data.
Yet only a few of these are actually used, and the rest are returned, resulting in a labour intensive process. Each supply chain touchpoint – picking products, shipping, receiving, returning after surgery, and restocks for unused products – involves a scan of every item to accurately understand what is in stock. Multiply this task into the thousands for just a single shipment.
As the healthcare sector adopts Industry 4.0 practices, source tagging with RFID is essential for streamlining logistics and warehousing to improve supply chain visibility and productivity. However, conventional RFID products face a significant drawback – they cannot withstand the radiation sterilisation process which erases or corrupts their memory. LimaCorporate selected PJM RFID from among the range of RFID products SATO handles because of its next-generation chip with the ability to withstand, electron beam and gamma ray sterilisation.
Source tagging of implants with PJM RFID removes the need for retagging at various touchpoints, enabling faster inspections, reconciliation of kits and stock rotations, with end-to-end visibility from the factory to the operating room. Furthermore, source tagging with RFID can help meet medical device labelling reporting and identification compliance requirements and bring quality control benefits of smart traceability and real-time post market surveillance.
SATO conducted a successful pilot for LimaCorporate in late 2018, demonstrating the potential for a 50% increase in productivity with a PJM RFID tunnel reader-based system. LimaCorporate has since begun to apply radiation-hardened tags inside the packaging of its products during the production process before sterilisation to streamline its production logistics and distribution.
“We built a sterilisation hardened tag, which was key for LimaCorporate,” says Kevin Allart, global head of healthcare at SATO. "We provided a total qualified solution with PJM hardware, bespoke software and PJM RFID tags, aiming for a seamless integration into the customer’s ERP system. We aimed for something deeper than just a supplier to end user relationship, and I am excited that this gave birth to a cutting-edge technical partnership.”
The technology adopted by LimaCorporate is also designed to bring numerous benefits to hospitals. The SATO PJM RFID tags are NFC enabled for on-the-fly verification of implants with a smart device on the front lines of care. By managing owned or consigned medical device inventory with fixed-in-place or mobile shelves or cabinets, hospitals can further improve inventory management processes from expiration control of products in the warehouse and verification of received materials.