Supply quality and first-class on-site services are crucial if retail pharmacies are to survive in the face of online competition. Therefore, the role of pharmaceutical wholesalers is also significant – they need to ensure not only high product availability, but also the fastest possible delivery. The company in this example has tailored its fulfilment concept precisely to these demands and implemented it with state-of-the-art technology from its long-term intralogistics partner SSI Schaefer. The latest highlight is the installed A-Frame with integrated product verification. This highly efficient, fully automated picking system provides up to 40,000 drug packages per hour during peak times on an order-by-order basis while meeting the pharmaceutical industry’s high standards.
In the course of a collaboration dating back over 20 years, this full-service pharmaceutical supplier has equipped all its distribution warehouses with high-performance technology from SSI Schaefer. This was implemented, in part, through retrofit, conversion, and expansion projects without impacting ongoing operations. The spectrum of installations ranges from manual to fully automated warehouse and picking solutions, including tailored logistics software from the WAMAS portfolio. SSI Schaefer’s Customer Service & Support includes on-site technical support as needed, alongside training and remote support.
Directly integrated, suitable for varying packaging
Through the implementation of the A-Frame, the partners have once again strengthened their shared commitment in the automation sector. The picking system was integrated directly into the existing structures and has proven to be ideal for picking small, fast-moving packing units since it was commissioned in the second half of 2022. Example contents include headache pills, nasal sprays, and adhesive bandages. A key feature of the A-Frame is the product channels, which allow flexible configuration and are the conduit for software-controlled, error-free output of various packaging sizes, whether cylindrical or rectangular, in just seconds. The items are ejected from the A-Frame onto the conveyor belt, where special sections are each assigned to one order, and then move directly through the filling point into the order bins. The entire process takes just 60 seconds.
High-performance automatic picking system for order fulfilment
The technical performance that can be achieved – up to 40,000 products per hour – is also based on the solution approach of decoupling the picking and refilling processes. Employees refill the A-Frames during lower-load periods. The system then performs fully automated picking, accelerating processing and accommodating the zero-defect strategy. This reduces the staff’s workload so they can be assigned other productive work in the distribution center, optimizing resource utilization. Thus the A-Frame ensures fast processing – even for complex jobs and during load peaks. If sustained growth continues, the system’s modular design will allow optional expansion and adaptation to specific new requirements.
Safety, speed, and efficiency as success factors
In addition, the A-Frame boasts a compact design that saves space, achieving especially high storage density on a small amount of floor space. The A-Frame can accommodate the majority of a product assortment, comprising well over 120,000 pharmaceutical products. Automation also makes an important contribution to meeting the drug safety requirements associated with zero-defect tolerance and full traceability. But speed is also crucial. Pharmacies often lack sufficient storage space to stock a complete assortment of products, so they rely on on-time delivery of the quantity of drugs ordered. The pharmaceutical wholesaler’s service closes this gap, enables a successful customer experience in the local environment, and strengthens the pharmacies’ competitive position, while permanently reducing its own process costs.