Material Handling Solutions Fit for New England’s Pharma and High Tech Manufacturing
Matthew Koral | 22 February 2023
The New England area is well known as a center for academics, medicine, and high-tech manufacturing. The concentration of notable academic institutions is a big factor in the concentration of companies providing pharmaceutical and high-tech manufacturing. Each of New England’s leading industries requires unique considerations. For this post, let’s take a look at the pharmaceutical industry, specifically. Examples of pharmaceutical and healthcare companies located in New England include the Thermo Fischer headquarters, 3 R&D sites for Pfizer, multiple facilities for Johnson & Johnson, and a multitude of hospitals such as Massachusetts General Hospital.
Distribution operations for either pharmaceuticals or technology usually have very specific needs and stringent requirements when it comes to material handling and product storage. Whether it’s delicate handling or operations in cold temperatures, a systems integrator can help assess the right technology fit and configuration considering space constraints and need for rapid storage builds.
As a premier automation integrator, we know that the future of material handling is the delivery of integrated solutions. To align with market changes and customer needs, the Toyota Advanced Logistics Group (TAL) complements Toyota Material Handling Group (TMHG) with advanced logistics services. By combining data-driven designs, scalable material handling systems, and innovative software, Bastian Solutions and TMH work together to help clients across a broad spectrum of markets become leaders in their industries.
What is Automated Material Handling?
To begin with, how do you define automated material handling? One may think that this applies only to companies that have a business model similar to that of Amazon – facilities that support e-commerce such as distribution centers and fulfillment centers. However, it covers much more. At its simplest it’s the automation of a variety of tasks that involve holding products. There are several applications that could benefit such as automating storage capabilities, or communication between equipment and the WMS.
Automated Inventory Control in the Pharmaceutical and Healthcare Industry
In the pharmaceutical industry, more often than not, items may be too small for a conventional conveyor systems or large AS/RS (Automated Storage & Retrieval Systems). However, almost every operation will store their products on shelving and as storage needs grow or the number of shelves to go through becomes too massive for workers to easily find and locate a specific item , it may make sense to consider a new way of getting products to the worker. Advancements in automation mean that shelving can now be brought to the worker. The worker doesn’t always have to navigate to the shelving, saving time, providing an ergonomic environment and creating efficiencies. Companies such as Scallog, a goods to person solution leveraging autonomous vehicles, can help make this possible with their Boby robots.
Not only can AMRs (Autonomous Mobile Robots) increase efficiency, but they can also provide increased reliability and control. Especially when you are dealing with costly medication or other products, knowing the last time a product was picked and who did the picking, you can rest-assured that there will be less product loss once the system WCS (Warehouse Control System) communicates with your WMS (Warehouse Management System).
Goods to Person Systems
Automated storage can be achieved in many other ways. The solution provided to J. Knipper & Co, a pharmaceutical company that we partnered with to setup a new facility in Charlestown, Indiana, showcases the OPEX Perfect Pick, a goods to person system that uses multidirectional wireless vehicles called iBots. iBots utilize more vertical space than AMRs without the need for elevators, lifts, conveyors, or transfers. This system also provides flexibility as your operations transform, with the ability to add modules, aisles, or iBots with minimal downtime. The Perfect Pick software provides increased security of your product as operators are required to confirm the quantity of SKUs remaining in each bin. With full bins dedicated to SKUs, this option may make more sense if your product is too large to fit on conventional shelving.
While both Scallog and OPEX Perfect Pick allow for smarter storage of product, some companies may not see a benefit from these systems as their storage is done in pallets. Bastian Robotics provided Mölnlycke with a robotic palletizing system that allows for product to be stacked and wrapped autonomously, a process that may usually occupy a worker for an entire day. After being packed, the custom conveyor system also uses semi-automatic case sealers and automatic labelers to require only one operator to handle the palletizer and still be able to perform other warehouse duties. With this complete system, Mölnlycke can maintain clean room conditions, a requirement for many companies in the Pharmaceutical & Healthcare industry.
Delivering Integrated Solutions
With so many possibilities, the Bastian Solutions consulting group is here to help analyze your operations and determine what will bring the best benefit to you. No two solutions are exactly the same and Bastian Solutions has the experience to provide those in the pharmaceutical and healthcare industries with the leading edge to become as efficient as possible. Located in Boston, we are ready to meet with companies throughout Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont.
Keep an eye out for more insights on our blog about other leading industries in the New England area.
Matthew Koral is a Field Application Engineer at Bastian Solutions, based in Boston. Partnering closely with the local Toyota and Raymond forklift dealers, he works with the team to deliver integrated solutions to the New England region.
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