Should Pharma distribution move to Automation?

pharma

Global Pharma wholesale and Distribution Market projected to grow at a rate of CAGR 5.7% by 2031. Visiongain Research Inc.

The Pharma industry is changing and more specifically regarding Pharma distribution.  Rapid growth over the past few years has meant a need to look at new tools and solutions that will enable them to adapt and update their supply chain automation. 

With 4 main distribution channels within Pharma wholesale: direct sales, retail, wholesaler or Agent means there is a growing requirement to adopt automation, to not only win new business but also to retain existing customers. 

The technologies and emerging trends such as robotics, AI, 3D printing, precision medicine or patent design will impact not only manufacturing but also the distribution of pharmaceuticals.

Larger organisations are creating efficient supplier networks that leverage digitalisation and automation to connect data and operations seamlessly along their supply chains and shed light on any areas of risk. In this process, they need to look not only at the larger tier 1 suppliers but also at the SMEs in tiers 2 and 3.  These lower-tier firms also need to adopt digitalisation and automation to keep pace with their customers. The good news for Pharma distribution is that there are many scalable solutions on the market, along with more creative financing options, meaning they can reap the rewards of intralogistics automation and digitalisation.

One such company experiencing fast growth was Church Pharmacy with branches in Central London and the Midlands, Church Pharmacy are one of the largest pharmacy’s in the UK fulfilling patient needs. The company found it was facing a plateau in the number of orders it was able to process. With a manual picking process in place, they required a lot of space, so working areas were tight and a considerable amount of staff energy was spent on locating and identifying products. Management considered moving premises to secure more space, and so to better understand the issue Church Pharmacy appointed two of the technical team from UpSTEAM.uk, who recognised that Innovation was required for them to stay in their current premises and manage continued growth and future-proof the business.

Kardex Remstar’s Vertical Buffer Module (VBM) (effectively a small Miniload in a box) combined accuracy, fast picking, and enhanced security. The VBM delivered the exact product to the picker for a good ergonomic experience.  The VBM stores the bulk of their stock in a small footprint, which meant that Church Pharmacy were able to stay in their current premises enabling enough space for 5x more order volume growth. 

Kardex Frame Pick was added to provide a high level of flexibility, especially when additional labour was required during higher order volumes. Frame Pick enables a batch of 36 orders to be picked simultaneously and includes optical indicators that direct the picker to the exact location of the order for the product to be picked into and out of.  

Digitalisation is a major benefit with Kardex Power Pick software integrating with a flexible batching and fulfilment tool designed by UpSTEAM.uk which helps increase picking speeds and efficiency by added 35-40%. This ensures all stocked items are delivered on-time for efficient picking whilst delivering a tailored solution based on material process and fulfilment flow. 

It’s amazing when we look at what we have achieved in a relatively short time.  We have increased their accuracy, and productivity. The staff are happier and more productive, and their customers can be assured of continued great service. – Joseph Stephen – Head Software Architect – UpSTEAM.uk

Automation delivered greater productivity for Church Pharmacy with time spent picking reduced from 24 man-hours a day to just six. Picking accuracy – a critical factor in the pharmaceutical sector – has increased to 99.9%. With a 70% increase in picking speed, the solution for Church Pharmacy has a predicted ROI of less than two years.

To learn more about how automation can assist in distribution, read more at Achieving accuracy in Pharma distribution which delivers insights, tips and processes from a user case study that will assist in your process.

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