Unit materials handling specialist Storsure has added two more independent pharmacies to its list of customers using German-manufactured Apostore automated dispensing machines, says Storsure director John Meiring.
Apostore was rated one of Germany’s most innovative middle-sized companies in 2011 by the Top 100 Seal of Approval and has been nominated for Vienna University’s Entrepreneurship and Innovation Institute’s German Design Award 2012.
The automated systems were developed in Düsseldorf, Germany, but many local innovations have been developed specifically for the Southern Africa region through Storsure, which is what sets both Storsure and Apostore apart from others in the industry, Meiring tells Engineering News.
He adds that, while the robotics and software are imported from Germany, many parts and components are sourced and manufactured locally.
“Storsure has successfully commissioned a number of Apostore dispensing units in South Africa for large and small pharmacies in the Western Cape, Gauteng and Mpumalanga,” says Meiring. Now that the company has proved its capability at local infrastructure level in terms of maintenance and support systems, it plans to expand its marketing efforts into the rest of Southern Africa.
The Apostore system has been on the international market since the early nineties, but has only been operational in the South African pharmaceuticals industry for the past three years.
Meiring maintains that the German manufacturer was ‘ahead of the game’ when the systems were first launched overseas, which is why Storsure, in conjunction with supply chain specialist UTi’s specialised pharmaceutical logistics arm, UTi Pharma, first spent a number of years developing the local market in preparation for the tech- nology.
“Today, however, the product is fully operational in South Africa, complete with full backup and maintenance,” he says.
The automated dispensing machines enable pharmacists to process large volumes of scripts for many patients in the shortest possible time. “The improved efficiencies contribute to managing and controlling the capacity at a more economical level,” says Meiring.
He adds that the capital cost of installation is spread over the duration of a contract with a client, eventually totalling just under R10-million.
Going forward, the Storsure/Apostore team is considering adding new technologies to the automated systems, primarily for software integration and development purposes.
Existing Storsure clients, who are satisfied with the benefits and rewards of the robotic systems and the company’s service, are also in talks with the provider about installing more machines within their pharmacy groups.
“These companies will no longer have to bother with stock control or worry about theft, expired stock or dispensing errors,” says Meiring, adding that pharmacists will immediately feel the benefits of the dispensing machine, which requires significantly less space and time.
“In privately owned pharmacies, the greatest benefit is the speed and accuracy of the system, which saves the pharmacist time that could be better spent counselling and consulting patients and ensuring that the correct items are dispensed on time,” he says.
Large corporate pharmacies also have the added benefit of shorter queues, which is an important requisite for this sec- tor. Similarly, State-owned operations benefit owing to the decrease in theft.
Storsure is currently exploiting the benefits of the many years of market development it devoted to commissioning automated dispensing machines in pharmacies, but Meiring says there are new projects on the horizon that include the research, selection and possible local development of associated products for pharmacy automation.
“We’d also like to develop systems to enhance the automation, distribution and dispensation of medicines in Southern Africa and, in the long term, develop affordable financial packages to facilitate the commissioning of automated distribution and dispensation systems in rural, remote and less capable areas of Southern Africa,” he says.