Robots work for people – not the other way around
While travelling around the world visiting our customers, I have received praise for a few quite surprising things. Surprising because the issues raised are so self-evident for us as a Finnish health technology company.
The first thing is the point I highlighted in the title: “You have good automation systems because their robots work for our employees and customers – not the other way around”.
Prior to us, many pharmacies have had the experience that the operation of the automation system requires constant staff presence. If employees are tied up with the robot in the backroom of the pharmacy to monitor and assist with its operations, running an automation system becomes costly.
A fully automated dispensing system, in turn, frees up the work input of technical staff from routine medicine storage duties to more meaningful expert tasks. People are needed, for example, in customer service, marketing and for putting products on display.
20% increase in the speed of pharmacy medicine delivery
Many also seem to have misconceptions about how an automation system moulds the operating models of a pharmacy. As a cautionary example, I heard about a pharmacy that had introduced an automation system of our competitor. Their customer service situation had become so different due to automation that end customers had experienced the change as bad service.
Designing a customer-oriented solution is so deeply rooted in our Finnish core that our pharmacy automation systems will never become masters in pharmacies – people determine the operating models. However, pharmacies need to have a willingness for change to reap the full benefits of their automation systems.
We received praise for this from one of our international customers as recently as this autumn. They set out to develop their processes to make the cooperation between their employees and robots as smooth as possible. This resulted in an increase of up to 20% in the speed of medicine delivery.
The changes in customer service were small but pivotal: pharmacists start advising customers as soon as the order has been entered into the automated dispending system, not after they are already holding the medicine package. A new addition to operating models is also that pharmacists enter long medicine orders into the system one line at a time. So they do not enter the entire order into the system in one go, which would prevent the robot from collecting medicine packages for other customer service points at the same time.
Unique pharmacy automation systems
I have often thought about how thankful we should be for Finnish pharmacists that we have had the chance to evolve with them to become a supplier of unique pharmacy automation systems.
Finland has no chain pharmacies; instead, each pharmacy is its own individual unit, allowing us to implement automation systems tailored to the objectives and premises of each pharmacy.
This experience has also made us look beyond the figures. Input speed and other figures describing the operation of the pharmacy automation system may not alone be enough for us to help our customers make investment decisions that are sensible in terms of total cost.