How to stay on schedule: up to 80% of pharmacy automation projects run late

The most critical factor for the success of pharmacy automation projects is a realistic procurement schedule. Many hospitals set overly optimistic timetables when requesting quotations, and up to 80 percent of pharmacy automation projects end up being late.

It always helps if the hospital has experience of challenging automation procurements with the potential to revolutionise the hospital’s processes. In Finland, for example, practically every hospital is automated to some degree.

The most common, and grave, error is only looking at the delivery time. The schedule of putting an automation system into production should also take the hospital’s other simultaneous processes into account: the schedules of system suppliers, construction projects and things such as end-user training. The assessment of the current state of the pharmaceutical service and specification of the automation system also take time.

Implementing automation goes hand in hand with developing and improving processes: making them more efficient, safe and rational. You cannot just insert automation systems into pharmaceutical service processes – you have to assess your ways of working and adjust them where required. The assessment of the current state looks at the functionality of pharmaceutical service processes, potential bottlenecks and critical phases. The result will tell you which automation systems and extra features will be optimal for your hospital’s unique needs.

You cannot automate your hospital from an ivory tower. It is essential to consult the people working in the actual pharmaceutical service. They are the best experts on making the pharmaceutical service smoother and more practical.

The Project Manager should therefore include the Chief Pharmacist, future administrators of the automation system, staff responsible for medicine storage and possibly also nursing staff in the
multidisciplinary automation project team. Such procurements also have an impact on the work of those responsible for medicine supply service logistics, ICT and building services, the spatial planner or architect, procurement office and consultants working on automation projects in the fields of logistics or design services.

In total, you should reserve at least two years for your automation procurement, from the assessment of the current state to commissioning. In our experience, the work of the multidisciplinary project team will be quicker and easier if they have the opportunity to make study visits to hospitals using pharmacy automation systems. Colleagues from other hospitals are best able to answer questions such as: How much more efficient is your hospital’s pharmaceutical service now? How much have patient safety and occupational safety improved? How much more rational is your work now?

It also makes sense to contact automation suppliers even before sending out the requests for quotations. Not asking pharmacy automation specialists for advice in the planning of the procurement is a waste of hospital resources.

We have created a guide to help hospitals everywhere in the world succeed in their automation projects as cost-effectively as possible: Pharmacy automation purchasing tips for hospitals. We hope that you will find the guide’s tips on assessing the current state of pharmaceutical services, specification, scheduling and overall budgeting useful.

You can download the guide from our website at:

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