As demand for online pharmacy products reaches ever greater heights, today’s pharmaceutical companies need the latest order fulfillment solutions to prepare them for future consumers. That’s why Swedish online pharmacy Apotea turned to AutoStore to take their business to the next level.
Apotea.se, Sweden’s leading online pharmacy, has been a pioneer in the pharmaceutical e-commerce field since their founding in 2012. Customers use the award-winning online store to access 24,000 over-the-counter products and nearly 16,000 prescription drugs for human and animal consumption. Rapid, accurate delivery and a dedication to customer service have helped the company increase sales from just over €1 million ($1.09 million) in their first year to €450 million ($492.5 million) a decade later.
When the COVID-19 pandemic led to a sudden influx of demand for Apotea, the company found their existing logistics system wasn’t up to the task of satisfying a sizable new customer base. Eager to remain Sweden’s top e-pharmacy, the company accelerated an ongoing automation project to transform their logistics center in Morgongåva business park, west of Uppsala.
With about 50,000 daily orders to process, Apotea needed an automated warehouse solution scalable to meet their annual growth rate and to accommodate increased post-pandemic consumer demand. The company also required a solution that would make the most efficient use of space in their 38,000 m² (409,000 ft2) Morgongåva logistics facility. As the highest-performing and most storage-dense automated warehouse system on the market, AutoStore was the natural choice to meet Apotea’s needs.
“Apotea is an online pharmacy, and our business concept is fast deliveries, an extensive range, and that we deliver free of charge. Fast, cheap and free shipping says a lot about what we do here. And that’s what our customers think is important,” said Pär Svärdson, CEO and founder of Apotea. “To us, it was important to have a system that can handle variations in product size and order intake, and that can expand as we grow. This investment helps us become more efficient, which makes it easier for us to exceed our customers’ expectations.”
By combining the AutoStore system with their existing automation efforts — along with several specialized upgrades such as the installation of three eOperator piece-picking robots — Apotea aims to:
In addition, other features of the AutoStore system, such as 4X higher storage density and 10X higher performance compared to that of traditional warehousing and logistics models, will enable the company to exceed their already high levels of service and reduce operating costs.
“During the pandemic, we looked at expanding the capacity to go from delivering 50,000 orders to 100,000 orders,” says Svärdson. “When we started looking at installing AutoStore, it was precisely the combination of being able to robotize the piece-pick that was one of the driving forces. It was essential to get the kind of solution we wanted, but also to feel that we got a solution that will be very effective for us.”
At the heart of Apotea’s newly automated logistics facility, which commenced operations in December 2022, is an AutoStore system consisting of 20,000 Bins (with capacity for a further 5,000), 30 battery-powered R5 Robots, and four Carousel Ports. R5 Robots travel along a Grid, an aluminum rail system placed over vertically stacked Bins, retrieving, inventorying, or organizing them as directed.
Warehouse management software is used to direct the Robots, which are capable of 24/7 operation and are initially expected to achieve an order capacity of 800 order lines per hour. Other warehouse automation technology installed includes three eOperator piece-picking robots from Element Logic.
“Apotea is an impressive giant in Swedish e-commerce. Since one of their main selling points is fast and accurate deliveries, it was natural to connect their AutoStore solution with Element Logic’s smart piece-picker, eOperator. The result is improved order capacity, goods handling, and delivery time,” said Anders Bohlin, Sales Director, Element Logic Sweden.
Apotea is empowered by Element Logic.
"To us, it was important to have a system that can handle variations in product size and order intake, and that can expand as we grow. This investment helps us become more efficient, which makes it easier for us to exceed our customers’ expectations.”
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