Two years ago, Pluripharm, a pharmaceutical wholesale company, began using a fully-automated roller conveyor system in combination with CurTec containers. This led to greater flexibility, lower logistical costs, faster deliveries and more convenience for pharmacists.
Pluripharm started out as a buyer and seller of pharmaceutical products. In thirty years it has grown into a national player that offers a full range of products and supporting services. What makes Pluripharm different from other suppliers is that it does not own its own pharmacies. Pluripharm supplies independent pharmacies. These pharmacies place orders on a daily basis to restock their medicine supplies. Mark de Loos, General Logistics Manager, talked to us about the transition to the new system.
Until a couple of years ago, Pluripharm used shelving to organise its internal logistics. Mark: “This meant that we had many racks stacked high with products. We used to print out the order and someone would walk around the warehouse with a cart. When all of the order had been collected, we used to check it and send it to the customer.” When Pluripharm moved over to another system, one of its requirements was that the containers had to be nestable. This was particularly important for returned products and for saving space in the warehouse.
Our high level of service is one of the reasons why pharmacies switch to Pluripharm
Customer orders are fully automated in the new system. Mark: “The pharmacies we supply use an AIS (Pharmacy Information System). This means that we receive orders electronically. The system allows customers half an hour to amend their order before it is processed. Furthermore, the system recommends alternatives to the pharmacist for the order.”
“Most orders are placed at wholesalers by 1PM. Further orders come in after 5PM. These orders are for medicines that the pharmacy no longer has in stock after 1PM and which it really needs for the following day.”
“We have been using the roller conveyor system and CurTec containers for two years. We currently have 18 order picking zones. When an order comes in it is split up by the system into virtual bins. This system knows the different sizes of the attached lid containers and notifies you of the size of container that best fits the order. The barcode on the lidded container is scanned and the system prints out a card. This card contains information such as name, address and city so that the containers can also be visually recognised in the logistics process.”
“The container is sent to the correct place using scanners on the conveyor track. The relevant medicines are then scanned and placed in the correct lidded container. When the order is complete, the lidded container is given a special sealing loop. Before the driver leaves, we give the packages one final scan for verification purposes. The order is then delivered to the pharmacy before 8AM” says Mark.
Pluripharm is known for its quality and service. Mark: “Everything that is ordered today is order picked on the same day. The process continues until all of the incoming orders have been processed. We have every medicine available in the Netherlands so that we can deliver these immediately. We want to make as few errors as possible when we do this”, said Mark. “The new system works perfectly for us. Pluripharm has a service level of 99.9%!”
An additional service provided by Pluripharm is Central filling. This is done by the Pluripack division. Mark: “Central Filling is the preparation of patient prescriptions at a central site for the pharmacies that are wholesale customers. The pharmacy outsources the work of packing the boxes and labelling and bagging them. We also use CurTec attached lid containers for this process.”
When a pharmacy sends in prescriptions for Central Filling, these are mainly dealt with by a fully-automated robot. Other parts are collected in the warehouse. “This is where the CurTec attached lid containers come into play. We use order picking to collect the specific medicines. This container is then sent to Pluripack on the same day. The medicines are labelled for the patient, placed in a labelled bag and are then sent off”, said the General Logistics Manager.
Mark: “Pharmacies are fond of the attached lid containers because they are so compact. The containers make it easy for pharmacies to sort and process them more quickly than with the old system. The containers are also durable: we have yet to see the first worn-out container.” When Mark was asked whether the containers offer value for money, he said “Yes, they require a fairly minor investment, you can reuse them repeatedly and they offer benefits because they can be nested. The difference between using these containers and a process with cardboard boxes is that we save a good number of man hours.
Nestable containers have enabled Pluripharm to create more storage space and reduce its logistics costs. Would you like to know about the possibilities for your organisation?