Charles “Chuck” Schramek (1945 – 2010)

Chuck Schramek passed away on January 9 after losing his battle with cancer.  See his obituary here.  As I understand it, he spent most of his career working in IT at McNeil Consumer Healthcare, a Johnson & Johnson company, eventually serving in the role of  Executive Director of Information Architecture for J&J.   He spent the last few years of his career as an executive-on-loan to GS1 EPCglobal from J&J.  In that capacity he filled the role of facilitator of work groups related to pharmaceutical supply chain integrity/security.  That’s where I met him.

Chuck was a very humble, friendly person who had a clear inner drive to help improve the security of the U.S. drug supply chain.  That’s not unlike many of the people involved in the healthcare groups of GS1, but Chuck had a special reason for that drive.  You see, Chuck worked for McNeil Consumer Healthcare at the time of the tragic Tylenol tampering case that led to the deaths of seven people in suburban Chicago in the fall of 1982.  Tylenol is a McNeil product.  The crime is still unsolved but even this week it is still generating news as if it happened only recently.  What a horrific time it must have been to work there.

I don’t know what role Chuck may have filled in the McNeil/J&J response to those events but it seems like the experience may have changed something in his DNA, as it must have for many others who worked there at the time.  That change came through the experience of dealing with the aftermath of what must have seemed like random murder by supply chain.  Nothing would have been a higher priority than elevating the security of the supply chain after that event.  McNeil Consumer Healthcare pioneered the introduction of tamper-proof packaging literally within weeks of the tragedy as the company refused to allow an act of terrorism to destroy a great American brand.  Now that’s leadership.

When I knew him, Chuck had an interest in developing new ways to protect the supply chain from ever more sophisticated criminals.  This was some 25 years after the tragedy.  That interest led him to the work we were doing in GS1 EPCglobal around tracking and tracing drugs in the supply chain.  He helped create the GS1 EPCglobal Drug Pedigree Messaging Standard (DPMS), the first standard aimed directly at that protection.  He was facilitating the Track and Trace Interest Group in the EPCglobal Healthcare and Life Sciences group when he became too ill to continue working several years ago and, sadly, he was unable to return.

I am thankful that I knew Chuck and it was a pleasure working with him.  Those of us in the extended GS1 U.S. Healthcare community will miss him very much.