Conference explores digitalization and sustainability in Healthcare and Pharma

09.28.2023 Events

On the 16th of May the conference “IoT and RFID enable sustainability and digitalization in the Healthcare and Pharma Supply Chains” took place at the Congress Centre St. Elisabetta at the University of Parma.

The conference organized by Murata ID Solutions and Zebra Technologies in collaboration with the University of Parma analysed and discussed how IoT and RFID technologies support Healthcare and Pharma supply chains by improving visibility, efficiency, and sustainability.

The conference was opened by the Rector of the University of Parma

The conference was opened by the Rector of the University of Parma

Italian institutions and companies from the healthcare and pharma sector participated at the event, where university researchers and business professionals reflected upon the importance of technology for a more transparent, traceable, and sustainable Supply Chain.

How to measure RFID’s environmental benefits

During the first presentation of the day, Prof. Antonio Rizzi and Prof. Giuseppe Vignali, from RFID Lab of the University of Parma, and Prof. Bahar Aliakbarian, from Michigan State University, presented the results of their joint international research on RFID technology’s environmental impact.

The professors illustrated the tool EROI (Environmental return on investment) that was developed to measure the environmental return on investment of the application of RFID technology by quantitatively comparing on the one hand the environmental impact of the technology (the production, transport and disposal of the RFID tags applied to the products) and on the other hand the environmental savings deriving from the benefits related to the application of the technology (reduction of lost or expired products, reduction of empty runs, improved rates of reuse and recycling).

During the study, data was analysed from two real-world implementations - one from a healthcare supplier and one from a pharmaceutical supplier. In both deployments, it was determined that the RFID system yielded significant environmental savings, far offsetting the negative impacts related to the production, transportation etc. of the technological components. RFID’s ability to provide fast and automatic inventory tracking enabled more efficient management of stock and assets that actively reduced the system’s total carbon footprint.

Through their extensive research, the teams could also successfully identify key areas where the technology can achieve the greatest sustainability impact. The areas highlighted included preventing lost inventory, better stock level management and ensuring products are used before they expire.

Professors Antonio Rizzi, Giuseppe Vignali and Bahar Aliakbarian present the research result of the study on RFID and Sustainability

Professors Antonio Rizzi, Giuseppe Vignali and Bahar Aliakbarian present the research result of the study on RFID and Sustainability

RFID technology has long been assumed to benefit the environment by making supply chains more transparent, efficient, and error-free, but so far a shared and proven method for measuring has not been available. E-ROI is a tool that can help companies, adopting RFID, to understand how much the technology will benefit or impact the planet if deployed for their specific application.

Read more about the research study
in RFID Journalopen with new tab

Digital technologies are pivotal for improving Healthcare & Pharma Supply Chains

The first lecture was followed by presentations from leading industry and academic experts that explored other key areas relating to RFID and IoT technology. Prof. Carlo Rafele (Politecnico di Torino), Diego Lauritano (IRCCS Azienda Ospedaliero Universitaria di Bologna) and Wayne Miller (Zebra Technologies Corporation) examined how to improve the logistics of healthcare facilities by analysing not only the potential challenges faced but also dissecting real-world case studies specifying their best practices and areas for improvement.

Representatives from Murata ID Solutions, Eurodifarm, PHSE and Dafne Consortium looked at how to deal with the digitization of pharma supply chains. This cross examination of end-to-end SC processes detailed how developments in RFID and IoT can be utilized to provide greater traceability, visibility, and sustainability, as well as talking through in-depth insights into current applications.

From the re-engineering of processes in healthcare to the optimization of the entire supply chain of medicines and medical devices, the speakers underlined the significant role of innovative technology but also the importance of transversal commitment and a collaborative approach between all the actors of the supply chain. Technology alone cannot make a difference; technological innovation must be supported by the right organizational structure and mutual collaboration across the entire industry.

Follow the entire conference
on demand (Italian only)open with new tab

Hands-on experience of the technology

Drawing a close to the conference, guests were invited to view live demonstrations of Murata’s and Zebra Technologies’ RFID and IoT systems, providing a hands-on opportunity to explore various implementations and the benefits they can yield.

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RFID demos for hands-on experience of the technology

RFID demos for hands-on experience of the technology

Technologies enable sustainability

The conference highlighted how sustainability can be enabled by digital technologies. Academic research and business cases all underlined how IoT and RFID technologies are an important lever to make Healthcare and Pharma Supply Chains more transparent and traceable and, consequently, also safer and more sustainable.