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Automated Solutions for the Healthcare Industry

Manufacturing, distribution, and warehousing material goods in the healthcare sector has some of the strictest oversight and highest standards of any industry. And yet like any company in any industry, companies working in healthcare need to lower costs, realize fast returns on their investments, and increase their productivity by increasing the efficiency of their processes.

From the precision needed to manufacture surgical-grade steel for medical instruments, to the consistency needed in controlling the temperature and humidity around pharmaceuticals, companies that handle material goods in the healthcare industry have to have processes that are both precise and consistent. Meeting these high standards in a cost-effective way requires precise automated solutions.

At PeakLogix, we’re a brand agnostic material handling systems integrator that specializes in innovative, bespoke automated solutions. As your material handling solutions partner, we help you increase the consistency and efficiency throughout your distribution processes. We deliver customized solutions tailored to our partner’s needs that address issues ranging from ergonomics and employee safety to fully automated material handling and warehousing solutions.

Current challenges for the healthcare industry

Labor costs

The material handling industry, including the healthcare sector, is in the midst of a major transformation largely driven by cost: The cost of labor is increasing, while the costs for automation are dropping. As the economy continues to adjust from the fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic, workers everywhere are reconsidering the value of their work, and how it affects their work-life balance.

The costs for implementing automated solutions, on the other hand, continue to fall steadily. This is largely driven by the economy of scale. As more industries adopt automation, solutions become less expensive. At the same time, more capital is invested in researching and developing increasingly innovative solutions, which increases their value.

However, companies that have outsourced their material handling needs to 3PL providers are less likely to see the benefits automation can bring. Contracts with 3PL providers tend to be 3-5 years, which gives them little incentive to invest in a system that might take eighteen months to implement and years to realize a return on the investment.

Regulatory needs

Standards in the healthcare industry are understandably exacting. For consumer safety, processes in manufacturing, packaging, storing, and shipping these goods have to keep them in optimal condition. Even minor damage to a surgical tray’s packaging can make it useless until it’s resterilized, and pharmaceuticals sometimes have extreme needs of temperature and humidity controls.

At the same time, healthcare is a heavily regulated industry, and those regulations are frequently updated. For example, only recently was lead prohibited from medical device designs. The hazards of lead were well known, but even companies that had never used lead in their processes were forced to prove their devices and processes — and their suppliers’ processes — were free of contamination.

As the industry turns to automated solutions, it’s finding that the technologies’ consistency, precision, and self-monitoring capabilities solve, or at least mitigate, many of their challenges.

Managing resource-intensive cold storage facilities

Storing and shipping any temperature-sensitive product poses unique challenges. And the temperature demands in the pharmaceutical industry can be especially difficult. One of the COVID vaccines, for example, had to be stored at -100℉. And while that is unusual, it’s not uncommon for vaccines to need to be stored at below freezing temperatures. Moreover, once thawed, these vaccines often have a shelf life of days to weeks, making proper cold chain management critical.

And it’s not just temperature; many pharmaceuticals lose their efficacy if they’re stored in an environment that’s too humid.

How healthcare warehousing and distribution facilities handle these strict environmental demands is paramount. Many warehouses are designed for multiple climate zones, and how goods move through and between those zones has to be carefully managed. And while some facilities are designed entirely for cold storage, even these have to ensure that cold chain management continues until their product reaches their destination.

High operational costs

Manufacturing, warehousing, and distribution in the healthcare sector all have high operational costs for a number of reasons. Quality standards are high for materials and processes, regulations have to be met, and products often have to be continually monitored for compliance.

Before a company can even begin manufacturing a new product or medicine, it has to show every step of the supply chain that the product will be touched, and that it has control of the product throughout its processes. This sort of planning and documentation adds to the overall costs of goods in the healthcare industry.

Strict order accuracy policies

Ensuring that everything is packed in, for example, a surgical tray, providing evidence that the right pills are making it into the appropriately labeled bottles, and then getting products out the door to the right people on time are all necessary components of the healthcare supply chain.

Getting these things wrong isn’t just a matter of inconvenience, but can be a matter of life or death. Automating as many of these processes as possible reduces touches and increases the accuracy and safety of the products, while lowering costs and increasing efficiency.

Important considerations when evaluating a systems integration partner for the healthcare industry

Are they consultative?

When partnering with a systems integrator, one of the risks facilities in the healthcare industry face is trying to work with a partner that promises more than they can deliver. The integration partner smiles through consultations and then, behind the scenes, desperately tries to invent the technology they need to deliver on their promises. They miss deadline after deadline until their client reaches a point of no return – they’re willing to justify their costs by seeing any kind of benefit from their investment. Even if those benefits are well below what was originally planned and agreed to.

PeakLogix is not that kind of partner. We are fully consultative, and prioritize your goals and needs. We undertake a thorough discovery process so that we understand both the roadblocks you face now and the goals you have for the future. Our solutions are designed to help you move past your roadblocks, and scale with your business growth. We don’t offer solutions in a top-down fashion that refuses input and denies questions, but collaborate with you and provide the recommendations we believe will best suit your needs.

Are they vendor agnostic?

Vendor agnostic solutions providers like PeakLogix don’t push their favorite suppliers onto their customers. Instead, we work with our suppliers to find and test the applications for which their product is the best fit. We don’t pitch untested products as viable solutions, but rather look for the best solution that already has a track record of solid performance.

Being open to integrating the best solutions on the market — regardless of their manufacturer — means we can truly optimize solutions for our clients, and quickly adjust to changing demands.

Do they develop tailored solutions for your unique challenges?

Being a consultative, vendor agnostic firm means that we look at every project with fresh eyes. Yes, we have decades of experience that inform our decisions and help us quickly find solutions to problems — but we don’t try to force the same solution on every client.

Instead, we work with our clients to discover both their pain points and goals. And our approach often leads to two positive outcomes. First, the discovery of unknown root causes to problems that allow us to address systemic issues with solutions of a customized design. And second, the application of scalable solutions that will both meet today’s challenges, and scale in ways the company needs to meet its future goals.

Can they scale to your needs?

The changing urban landscape, an aging workforce, the large-scale adoption of ecommerce, and the increased use of artificial intelligence and machine learning have created challenges and brought opportunities that are continuing to change industries in every sector. Businesses need solutions that are more responsive than ever, with the ability to scale both up and down to meet a company’s growth as well as periodic changes in demand.

PeakLogix has been solving the material-handling needs of companies of every size, and in many industries, for over 30 years. We are dedicated to our own continuous improvement because we know that designing systems that will adapt to your changing business needs means being knowledgeable about changes in the industry. By offering adaptive solutions where appropriate, we bring added value to our partners.

Are they available when you need them?

PeakLogix started in 1989 as a material handling and systems integrator serving clients across the Mid-Atlantic. Over the past 30 years, we’ve completed thousands of successful projects and have grown to become a thought leader in the industry and a national provider of innovative solutions, software systems, and automated technologies.

From the beginning of our working relationships with clients, our team works to discover your goals and challenges. We collaborate with you to develop solutions that meet your needs today and also lay the groundwork for your future growth. When your project is complete, we offer services including 24/7 system support, operator training, and maintenance and repairs.

At PeakLogix, our partnerships are our priority.

What logistics, automation, and distribution solutions should you consider for your healthcare operations?

WMS Software (ScottTech PickPro®)

ScottTech PickPro® is our proprietary Warehouse Management Software (WMS). It’s a fully independent, system-agnostic, web-based software solution that can control all aspects of distribution, and can be tailored to meet the specific needs of government agencies.

ScottTech PickPro® can serve as a standalone solution, or integrate with your ERP. It can incorporate AS/RS equipment and all the peripherals, track and manage inventory of both parts and goods, and layer seamlessly with your software architecture to provide granular feedback on, and control of, your operations.

Pick Modules

Pick modules use pallet or carton flow racks to push eaches, cartons, totes, or containers through a facility. PeakLogix integrates a variety of pick modules that can be tailored to your facility’s needs.

Pick modules can allow operators to pick small parts quickly and reliably, increasing speed and accuracy in assembly, manufacturing, or distribution processes.

Horizontal Carousels

Horizontal Carousels are a cost-effective way to quickly add storage capacity and increase put away and retrieval accuracy and efficiency. They are ideal for high throughput facilities and high speed picking, and can increase storage density by up to 75%.

Horizontal Carousels are generally arranged into pods or zones. Multiple carousels in a pod can create variable access points to create an efficient, worker-friendly layout that can triple average pick rates.

Pick to Light

Pick-to-light is a cost-effective solution that streamlines warehouse picking operations and increases picking speed, accuracy, and productivity. Especially in omnichannel fulfillment centers, pick-to-light solutions enable the reliable processing of high numbers of SKUs, while increasing efficiency.

Pick-to-light solutions are often a good entry point for a warehouse’s automation transformation. They can work as standalone systems or integrate with Warehouse Management Software, enabling them to easily scale with a company’s growth.

Print and Apply

Print and apply labeling reduces the number of touches, labor, and costs associated with shipping processes, improving shipping accuracy and warehouse throughput. This is an especially critical feature in the healthcare industry, where labels often include important instructions for the care of the product while in transit, as well as for the end user.

Print and apply allows a facility to process hundreds or even thousands of packages an hour, all with accurate weight, measurements, and freight costs. Shipping manifestos and labels can be automatically printed and applied to a variety of packaging materials, shapes, and sizes. They can be combined with accumulation conveyors and other automation to further increase shipping efficiencies.

Robotic Palletizers

Robotic palletizing increases the accuracy, consistency, and efficiency of palletizing operations. This not only increases throughput, but also lowers shipping fees and optimizes the use of space in a warehouse by palletizing items more compactly.

Automation can eliminate, or at least reduce, the manual labor associated with palletizing, freeing that labor to move on to more value-adding and rewarding tasks. With the right end-of-arm tool, they can handle everything from the heaviest boxes and pails to the thinnest slip sheets and dunnage.

AS/RS

Automated Storage and Retrieval Systems (AS/RSs) optimize productivity and operational throughput through the combination of data-driven optimization, warehouse management software, and labor reallocation. Especially when dealing with small pieces, the manual storage and retrieval of eaches can drain a facility’s profitability. By automating this non-value-adding task, companies can increase both profitability and employee morale, while reducing opportunities for theft.

Any business that deals with the movement and storage of physical goods needs fast, accurate, and efficient storage and retrieval systems. AS/RSs integrate with a facility’s WMS to allow for increased throughput in decanting, reracking, and conveyance of goods; expanded floorspace through the maximization of vertical storage; reduced or avoided capital expenses related to expansions and reallocations; and lowered labor costs.

AGV

Automated Guided Vehicles (AGVs) enhance productivity and workflow in both manufacturing and distribution facilities. AGVs help streamline processes, decrease delays, and move heavy, bulky materials efficiently and safely.

Guided vehicles use a number of navigational methods, tailored to your facility’s needs. They can be customized and programmed to follow the paths in a facility that are safest for staff and most efficient. They can be an integral part of a facility’s material handling and also programmed for complementary tasks such as trash collection or other housekeeping tasks.

Vertical Lift Modules

Vertical Lift Modules (VLMs) are ideal for expanding a facility’s footprint by maximizing vertical storage while also improving throughput rates and reducing labor costs. Vertical lift modules can be ideal for small parts and pieces, as they use inserters and extractors to automatically move trays of goods in and out of compact storage. They can also work with cases, totes, and large items.

VLMs provide user-level access for restricted goods, have basic user controls, and integrate with existing software management systems. Because of their small footprint, they optimize vertical space while freeing up valuable floor space.

ModuCart

ModuCart is a patent-pending material handling solution that is ideal for many healthcare-industry needs. It’s a closed-loop logistics system that reduces the risk of debris and contamination, while streamlining fulfillment processes. Each ModuCart holds up to 20 totes that are pre-organized for their destination within a facility, limiting touches and increasing order accuracy.

Less handling also increases efficiency, while decreasing costs associated with labor. The interlocking totes can be mixed and matched, are environmentally designed to reduce waste associated with transport, and are designed to roll quietly to minimize disruption in facilities.

Sortation Systems

Automated sortation is the process of first identifying and then diverting items on a conveyance system. The conveyor is connected with the facility’s Warehouse Management System (WMS) and, depending on the system, can identify items by weight, color, shape or identifying tags.

Conveyors might use a number of sortation systems to get product to the right destination, including pushers, paddles, shoes, cross belts, and more. In the right applications, automated sortation systems are both faster and more accurate than manual sortation and picking.

Advance your healthcare operations.

Schedule a consultation.

Tell us about your needs and we’ll have someone contact you to talk about the various automated material handling solutions for your healthcare operations.

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