Published 8th May 2015
– There are about 25 of us already. When we came to these facilities in 2007, we had a staff of ten. More growth is anticipated. The robot has freed up time from handling logistics and dealing with boxes lying around on the floor to customer service, says Pharmacist, Doctor of Pharmacy Janne Leino.
Customer Service Manager, Pharmacist Niina Pihlajaniemi says that some customers have wondered at the robot and feared for the jobs of the pharmacy staff.
– We have reassured them that we will not be replaced by robots, Pihlajaniemi says with a laugh and continues by adding that customers have also been intrigued by the robot.
– One customer actually asked whether there was a person behind the wall dropping medicines onto the conveyor belt. Some have hoped that the storage wall was glass so that they could see the robot work.
The fully-automatic storage and retrieval robot designed and manufactured by NewIcon Oy has saved several hours of staff working time each day.
– We have been able to allocate the time of our technicians more efficiently. Since incoming goods are processed faster, more time has been made available for tasks that previously suffered from a lack of time. We have been able to adjust working hours and shifts and reconsider what we do and when, says Pihlajaniemi.
Pharmacists, on the other hand, spend less time on their feet as medicine packages are now retrieved by the storage robot. Packages are delivered from storage onto customer service counters in about eight seconds.
– We were surprised by how quickly the robot delivers the medicine package to the counter. The robot is even faster than the person handling the prescription, who may still be entering customer information onto the computer when the package arrives. We assumed that we would have to wait longer for the package and that we could use the extra time on add-on sales, for instance. The customer service transaction has become faster, says Pihlajaniemi.
According to Janne Leino, the marginal profits of medicine sales have dropped exceptionally fast in the 2000s, which has created a pressure for change. Although the general price level has increased, the prices of medicines have fallen.
– Automation and operational efficiency is the answer. This, too, is a major investment and we believe that it will pay for itself as the pharmacy grows. Customers benefit from faster and more flexible customer service, says Leino. Common Sense is All You Need The staff at Oulu’s III Hansa Pharmacy have been pleased with the storage and retrieval robot. User experiences after two months are positive.
– Fixu has worked like a dream. We have had no problems with it. Even software updates have been smoothly handled so that NewIcon has contacted us. The robot is so easy to use that it only needs a bit of common sense. It has clear menus and functions. There has been no need to panic and be like help, help, how does this work, says Pihlajaniemi.