Cambridge University Partners With itemit For COVID-19 Pool Testing Programme

Cambridge University Is Using itemit’s Asset Tracking System For Asymptomatic Test Kit Tracking

itemit allows us to be extremely adaptable to address the constant challenges of the pandemic.

Rob Glew

University of Cambridge

Cambridge University has implemented a pooled testing programme to provide asymptomatic COVID-19 tests to its students regularly. The testing programme aims to make the University a safer environment, mitigating the risks of an outbreak, allowing for consistent study and research. itemit is assisting in the University’s efforts by allowing for more communication within the supply chain and by providing the ability to monitor the movements and stock levels of the test kits.

The operations work on a pooling basis. Various “households” of 6-10 students have tests delivered to them. Each student then takes the test and places it in a collection box. These boxes are then collected daily ready to be analysed. If any of the test results are positive, that household is told to isolate, while individuals are tested to identify who has the infection. Overall, this increases the effectiveness of the testing capacity of around 2,000 tests a week as minor outbreaks can be identified and addressed.

itemit’s asset tracking software allows Cambridge University’s testing team keep track of test kits from a central hub to 37 Cambridge colleges across over 50 sites in a closed-loop logistics effort. Test kits are tracked in boxes, each with an itemit QR tag, and scanned by delivery drivers as they are moved between locations. 

“At the very start of the pandemic, we donated use of the itemit asset tracking system to the University of Cambridge to provide an instant solution to tracking PPE stocks, initially, and test kits more recently. This powerful collaboration ensures tracking of critical test kits that allows the University to detect and control outbreaks of COVID-19.” Dr Alex Wong, Co-founder and CEO of RedBite says. 

The Challenge

On any scale, supply chain management and mass testing have many challenges that need to be addressed. Creativity and innovation are often required to overcome challenges related to communication, transparency, and performance.

The most pressing challenge is ensuring each household receives the correct tests on the correct dates and to ensure that these tests are promptly collected and analysed. A manual system would not allow for the flexibility and real-time nature required to keep an accurate history of test kit movements.

It was essential for the University to ensure that every step in the logistics process worked as quickly as possible, with under two weeks to put all necessary processes in motion. From preparing kits to delivery, to the collection of samples, to the delivery to testing centres, every step must tightly and seamlessly progress to the next. Without KPIs or an established system, any improvements or changes would be slow and risk a lag in scalability or the overall success of the programme.

Therefore, the main risk was that a lack of communication between steps in the supply network could stagnate the entire programme. This meant that a system would be needed that could track test kits as both inventory and individual assets and that would allow for automated communication between delivery drivers, the colleges themselves, and the testing labs. This system would then have to be scalable to allow for rapid growth, contributing to the success of the programme and allowing for a faster implementation to address this pressing need.

Healthcare Asset Tracking Software At Work

itemit’s Asset Tracking System

The itemit asset tracking software is owned and created by RedBite Solutions. RedBite has over a decade’s worth of expertise solving the world’s most complex asset tracking challenges and supply chain issues. The itemit app was developed as a response to the patterns RedBite found regarding common asset tracking challenges, allowing for an affordable off-the-shelf solution to archaic asset tracking methods, such as spreadsheets.

RedBite Solutions is a spin-out from the University of Cambridge’s Auto-ID Centre and has had a productive relationship with the University since its constitution. As the COVID-19 pandemic began to spiral out of control and the University was inundated with PPE donations, there was an urgent need to manage donations received and deliver these to local hospitals in dire need of PPE supplies. RedBite donated the use of the itemit system to the University in immediate response to the growing pandemic.

itemit, therefore, started a partnership with the testing logistics team by first helping them collect and log donations of PPE before delivering them to Addenbrookes hospital. This partnership has since developed into the tracking of COVID-19 test kits as a result of the University’s impressive testing procedures.

Primarily, itemit provided the logistics team with the system and assisted them in setting up a PPE logistics pop-up warehouse in under three days. Due to this partnership, itemit has since developed new features to assist with the University’s efforts in tracking its test kit inventory. 

itemit is continuing to add additional capabilities as it has been awarded an InnovateUK grant in response to dealing with the threat of global disruption. The project aims to assist with end-to-end communication and inventory management within logistical testing and PPE operations on a national scale. These new features will continue to benefit the University in its testing efforts, but also assist in equipment pooling, allowing different warehouses to communicate their stock levels to ensure there’s no stagnation or shortage in the supply chain.

The University team utilise itemit to track stock levels and test kits when they’re sent out or collected. This way, by scanning a QR code, delivery drivers can verify that the package has either been collected or delivered. Every time a QR code is scanned in the app, the phone’s GPS location is automatically recorded and the last seen location is updated. In addition, the team place itemit’s GPS trackers in test kit boxes to ensure critical test kit swabs are not lost or misplaced. itemit GPS trackers allow for real-time monitoring of asset location and provide much-needed reassurance to the University.

As the system is cloud-based, these updates happen for all users in real-time, allowing for instant verification of delivery, stock levels, and test kit location. Remote verification is therefore possible, too, allowing the logistics team to identify and rectify issues faster and from the testing warehouse.

The Results

The system is an ongoing success. Positive COVID-19 cases are accurately identified and addressed creating a safer environment for both students and faculty. The system has been so effective that in the final week of term 10,000 students were tested without a single positive case.

Rob Glew, a researcher in operations and supply chain management who headed up the PPE Logistics Project, says “itemit allowed us to change our entire operation within a couple of days. It has played a critical role in assisting with wide-scale supply chain disruptions due to the ongoing crisis. Using itemit allows us to be extremely adaptable to address the constant challenges faced by an ever-changing global pandemic.”

The system has proved of vital importance on so many occasions already. For example, when delivery drivers believed some test kit boxes had not been picked up, the team have been able to rely on itemit’s tracking data to see that in fact the boxes were collected. Not only does itemit show the history of the boxes’ movements but it also shows who had them and when. On a separate occasion, the team worried a box of test kit swabs had gone missing, but thanks to itemit, they were able to retrieve the box as a result of knowing its last known movements.

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