Is the specification of requirements for pharmacy automation giving you grey hairs?

Specification of requirements is an important part of the automation system procurement process as discrepancies and misunderstandings are a pain in the neck for both the customer and the automation system supplier. The more accurate the specification, the easier and faster the delivery will be.

The specification of requirements describes the features of the automation system that the staff of the hospital pharmacy or ward need to enhance their work, what is to be delivered to them and what will be tested. In other words, it is a detailed description of what the hospital undertakes to purchase.

In a good specification, the requirements are itemised and explained so thoroughly that there are no gaps in understanding. But because we are human, the requirements may require further clarification as the automation project progresses.

Obtain expert information for specification of requirements

It is not easy to come up with the various features you need from a pharmacy automation system out of thin air. Help is available for the specification of requirements by setting up a multidisciplinary project team consisting of experts from the hospital pharmacy, wards, the data administration team, the finance department and the procurement office.

The team’s first task is to break down the processes involved in pharmaceutical services and identify the steps that need to be developed.

Setting up a project team is not possible in smaller organisations, but even then you do not have to start from scratch. Even in the case of public tendering, it is permissible to investigate the supply by relaying information requests to automation suppliers who operate on the market.

Automation suppliers are happy to showcase and describe the benefits and important features of their pharmacy automation systems.

Ask for clarification to avoid misunderstandings

If the automation supplier and the customer have not engaged in close cooperation prior to the purchase, the automation supplier will receive the first indications of the customer’s needs in the form of a specification of requirements. At this point, understanding the requirements can be a problem.

A good example of a misunderstanding is when the specification of requirements calls for a duplicated medicine storage. It depends entirely on the background of the customer and the automation supplier how the requirement is understood or if it is understood at all.

In short, this may mean, for example, splitting the physical medicine storage into two different parts, duplication of the database or that medicine packages should be divided into two different storage units upon input. And the list of possible functions is not even complete yet.

Be careful when interpreting the replies of automation suppliers

You should also be careful when interpreting the replies of automation suppliers, especially if the requirements do not provide more detail about what is being asked. Take, for example, the input speed of the automation system.

If the requirements simply ask for the input speed of the automation system, the replies may be deceiving. Some manufacturers report the input speed as the speed at which the system operates when labels are read from a single medicine package and other similar packages are entered into the system based on it. So not a very common input situation.

Others, in turn, answer the same question with the actual input speed with different medicine packages, whereupon the labels on each package are checked and each package can be of a different size.

Consider the total cost of automation procurement

A professional automation partner will help you take into account all the factors that affect the total cost of the procurement.

For example, when assessing input speed, it must also be noted that input speed alone does not tell the whole truth about cost-effectiveness. The total cost is increased if an employee has to watch the input of medicine packages into the automated dispensing system instead of just leaving the packages to be handled by a robot and doing other work in the meantime.

Guide to pharmacy automation purchasing

Purchasing pharmacy automation does not have to be complicated and give you grey hairs. For this reason, we have prepared a procurement guide for hospitals. We want hospitals to succeed in their automation procurement and, as a result, have more effective, safe and rational pharmaceutical services.

We urge you not to try to manage on your own with the specification of requirements; we instead recommend that you download the guide from our website at or contact us.