Pharmaceutical Wholesaler Unlocks the Potential of Automation and Digitization
To ensure the company can fulfil demanding regulatory requirements in terms of tracking and tracing for pharmaceutical products, now and into the future, Slawex has integrated a state-of-the-art picking system, including a Schäfer Scan Machine, into its processes. By implementing this solution for fully automated picking and reading of individual products at its site in Klaudyn, the pharmaceutical wholesaler has assumed a leading role in the Polish market and is also strengthening its position in the wider EU region.
Slawex was founded in 1990 with the company’s headquarters located in Lublin, one of the biggest cities in Poland. Its customer base is largely made up of pharmacies and hospitals, but also includes health-food stores. Slawex stores and distributes around 16,000 different items, including over-the-counter (OTC) medication and prescription (Rx) medication, which can be delivered the same day. The company’s quality management processes, which were implemented in accordance with the “Good Distribution Practice” guidelines, mean they can ensure the products will always reach the recipient in perfect condition.
Automated Picking and Recording
The zero error tolerance demanded within the pharmaceutical industry is accompanied by stringent safety requirements, maximum transparency and full traceability. Within this context, statutory provisions (FMD) can create significant challenges for healthcare logistics, but they are also essential for ensuring patient safety. The Polish pharmaceutical wholesaler Slawex has responded to these regulatory changes by building a new storage and picking facility at its Klaudyn site, as well as reorganizing the picking and documentation process, which was previously entirely manual.
The newly commissioned, three-story logistics unit covers approximately 1,700 m² and includes static and dynamic flow racks. Employees now pick orders from these racks using handheld RFID terminals. Roughly 25 percent of the order lines are, however, picked using a fully automated A-Frame picking system. In conjunction with the Schäfer Scan Machine that is connected directly to the system, a system-wide individual product picking and recording solution that complies with the tracking and tracing guidelines for pharmaceutical products was implemented. The technical performance was also improved at the same time: Since going live, approximately 2,000 orders averaging 30,000 order items have been processed per day.
Automated Picking Systems Improve Performance
The twelve A-Frames are modular in design and have a total of 864 channels. This creates high product density, allowing the available space to be used to its full potential. An additional advantage of the solution is the decoupling of the replenishment process and the picking itself. The A-Frames are filled at off-peak times and fully automated picking takes place at peak times. The resulting efficient deployment of personnel is enabling a significant increase in productivity.
Full Tracking & Tracing, Guaranteed
After the products have been ejected onto the collecting belt of the A-Frame, each individual product is reoriented and scanned on all six sides by highly sensitive cameras. Any reading errors are flagged and affected bins are automatically redirected to an inspection station. Depending on the order structure, the system can read up to 10,000 items an hour while identifying and documenting serial numbers, batch numbers and expiration dates. “This means that the Schäfer Scan Machine is many times faster than conventional manual methods,” points out Herbert Schorrer, Director Technology & Solution, Healthcare & Cosmetics at SSI Schaefer. The Schäfer Scan Machine also impresses in terms of safety: “Full verification is possible, meeting EU requirements in relation to documented, seamless tracking and tracing.”
System Design Encourages Further Growth
In addition to A-Frames and Schäfer Scan Machine, the turn-key project includes racking systems, the provision of bins and the delivery and installation of a bin conveying system to efficiently connect the different warehouse areas. The jointly designed concept is complemented by the integration of radio frequency picking, de-stackers, lidding and address insertion machine and strapping machine. SSI Schaefer’s proprietary logistics software WAMAS® controls the whole system and links all of the components together, taking into account serial and batch numbers, as well as expiration dates.
Grzegorz Matuszewski, Operational Director at Slawex, explains how the company went about choosing a development and implementation partner: “The combination of maximum efficiency and picking accuracy with a zero error tolerance and the automated digitization of all of the required data in a single solution, was the most persuasive argument when we were making our decision.” He adds: “We see the innovative system design as an important stepping stone in our efforts to align our processes with Industry 4.0 and for the further growth of the company.”
Exemplary Pharmaceutical Logistics
The new warehouse for the pharmaceutical wholesaler was implemented within a very short timeframe of just six months. After commissioning the logistics building at the end of 2017, the first half of 2018 saw the integration of the Schäfer Scan Machine during the second phase. “We worked together with Slawex to design the project, which we were then able to implement successfully,” reports Herbert Schorrer.
“The implemented solution sets new standards for the domestic market,” summarizes Grzegorz Matuszewski. “Short cycle times allow us to expand our services, such as same-day delivery. In addition, Slawex in Klaudyn is now perfectly placed to handle more demanding patient safety regulations in an efficient and flexible manner moving forwards.” Working with SSI Schaefer also means that the company has a partner with a strong local presence and knowledge of the global pharmaceutical sector as well as country-specific regulations.