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Robotic Dispensing vs. Issues of the Day

Carl Peeters
A Robotic Dispensing Perspective

Issue 69: March 2008
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It is tempting, when considering the purchase and installation of an expensive piece of technology, to naively hope that it will solve all your business’s problems.
It is as equally tempting to ignore said machine after it is installed, and add it to the list of problems your business has!
Ideally, a little less naivety and a little more application is the balance to be seeking.
With this in mind, I ask you to consider some of the headline issues that are current in community pharmacy, and how I think one particular piece of technology, the large chaotic storage robotic dispensing machine, when properly applied, may be helpful.

Problem 1 – The theft of certain medications

Okay, everybody slow down.
I am not about to suggest that robotic dispensing is a substitute for good security.
CCTV cameras feeding monitors that display towards your retail space so people can see that they are being watched, having the local police station’s phone number on your speed-dial and other such measures are a bare minimum.
What I like about the large ‘chaotic storage’ robotic dispensing machines is that the drugs are firstly locked away – the Rowa Select for example has a key-only door – and secondly, the drugs are somewhere in the machine, but who knows where amongst the 4,000, maybe 8,000, maybe 12,000 packs of other drugs that are in there too.
So, in case of a daylight robbery, quietly hand over the key to the Rowa; and then patiently wait while it dawns on the would-be thief that unless he has time to sort through the entire stock-holding, he’ll never find the drugs he’s after.
In case of a night-time break-in, the would-be thief may have the time and the smarts to dispense his intended booty. However, even if he bypasses your POS and dispensing software, he’ll then need to know your password to directly access the chaotic storage Robotic Dispensing machine.

Perhaps at this point, he will move on to a softer-target pharmacy that doesn’t have a chaotic storage machine!

Problem 2 – Contribution balance of Retail and Clinical Services Sales, to
Dispensary Sales

As you may have read in December’s I2P, Community Pharmacy has a high dependence on PBS income, and so any effort that helps to boost the relative contribution of retail sales to dispensary sales is a good thing.
It is my contention that a chaotic storage Robotic Dispensing machine saves you so much space and provides such easy stock reconciliation and control, unlike any other single machine or system, that it provides a base-line for other improvements you may not otherwise be able to make.
Want more space for your high-margin high-stock turn SKUs?
Need to build a Private Consultation room?
A chaotic storage Robotic Dispenser can create that space for you by reducing the area now devoted to shelves and drawers.
With stock reports available at the push of a button, you’ll be able to simply review what’s selling and what isn’t, and adjust your ordering without the need for time-consuming and sometimes incorrect manual stock-takes.

Problem 3 – Management of multiple Pharmacy Businesses

The NSW Pharmacy Practices Act allows for the ownership and management of a number of pharmacy businesses.
There are already a number of pharmacists who own more than one store, often in close proximity to each other; neighbouring town, neighbouring suburb, even same street!

While in Germany recently I visited a pharmacist who owned the maximum five pharmacies that EU regulations currently allow.
He had two large chaotic storage Robotic Dispensing machines in his main middle-of-town pharmacy.
From these machines he dispensed scripted medications and general retail stock to the other four pharmacies.
The swish part of the process was that the outlying stores ordered what they wanted by email! An attachment was automatically opened when the email was received and the Robotic Dispensing machines were (automatically) instructed what to dispense.
The packs were delivered by the machines into individually marked baskets, so the staff could properly collate each script and present it to the pharmacist for checking.
The full basket was then delivered to the outlying store who had emailed the order.

This minimised the workload for both the ‘hub’ and ‘spoke’ locations.
It also ensured the maximum retail space available, and minimal costly pharmacist / locum time necessary in the smaller stores, making them far more profitable then they might have otherwise been.

Problem 4 – Community Pharmacy vs. Supermarket Pharmacy

Okay, everybody slow down again. I’m not about to suggest that chaotic storage robots are the only bulwark required against the incoming tide that is supermarket pharmacy.
It is precisely because Chaotic Storage robotic dispensers provide efficiencies in the script workflow, enhance safety by reducing errors, reduce the footprint required to shelve vast amounts of stock, effortlessly get that stock receipted and shelved automatically via the ProLog and then provide real-time stock control that the supermarkets will be using them, if they ever get the chance to do so.

My point is that these benefits are available now to community pharmacy, and so should be exploited now!

Before it becomes a game of ‘catch-up’.

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