Uninterrupted dynamic expansion is an ongoing challenge for PharmaCare Laboratories’ logistics operations. Now a holistic solution suggested by Linde has provided smart options for at least the next five years of growth.
PharmaCare is one of the fastest growing companies in the health, beauty and lifestyle products sector, with brands including household names such as Brut, Norsca, Nature’s Way, Bioglan, Ease-a-Cold, Rosken and Redwin.
Its products can be found in more than 5200 pharmacies, 3000 supermarket outlets, department and variety stores nationwide and hundreds of overseas outlets in Asia, America and Europe.
“From a material handling equipment perspective the challenge has simply been to keep up with the growth of the business,” PharmaCare Laboratories Operations Manager, Craig Dunlop said.
Linde’s attitude… they wouldn’t just sell us equipment which might ultimately not resolve our challenges.
“Over time on the logistics side we have been challenged for space, equipment and how to achieve our aims. We sell through different channels including pharmacy majors, pharmacy groups, independent pharmacies and grocery chains and we also deliver daily in many instances. On top of that we have a growing export business.”
PharmaCare operates out of adjacent warehouses in Warriewood on Sydney’s Northern Beaches with delivery unit sizes ranging from single carton to mixed pallets, full pallets, multi-pallet loads and shipping containers. Exports are sent by sea freight and air freight.
As part of its strong commitment to working smarter, not harder, PharmaCare began discussions with Linde two years ago. At that stage the PharmaCare MHE fleet included equipment from several suppliers, some of it rented, some leased and some owned outright.
“We were dealing with immediate growth challenges and trying to plan strategically,” Craig Dunlop said. “The initial suggestion from Linde was to look at where we were currently situated with logistics and then to look at where we might be in seven to ten years.
“Linde came to us suggesting they could use their Stratos warehouse simulation software to answer all the “what if” questions regarding our future logistics needs. That began a very sophisticated process which involved months of analysis of our warehouse data - something no other supplier or potential supplier had offered previously.”
PharmaCare management was open to the process, already recognising their challenges and with plans to solve them under discussion. Linde’s approach, to predict future logistics congestion issues and suggest fixes beyond simply forklifts to avoid them, secured the buy-in of senior management.
“The integrity of the process which impressed us all was Linde’s attitude; that they wouldn’t just sell us equipment which might ultimately not resolve our challenges,” Craig Dunlop said. “Through their Stratos warehouse simulation software Linde could perform analysis which would perhaps confirm what we thought or at least give us a new perspective in the logistics area. That was welcome. What was particularly attractive was that there was no cost involved for PharmaCare.”
Ultimately PharmaCare purchased a fleet of 26 Linde turret trucks, reach trucks, medium level order pickers and compact electric counterbalance forklifts, but that was over a year away when the Stratos analysis process began. After several months of extensive analysis of PharmaCare warehouse data Linde provided a comprehensive report to the company based on its proprietary software.
“The follow-up presentation of a computer simulation of our facilities was really impressive,” Craig Dunlop said. “It showed a day and a week in the life of Pharmacare logistics, based on the data we had provided. It also highlighted in a flyover-view all the congestion issues which were going to occur in various areas of our warehouses and at what time of the day as we grew by various percentages over time.
“The Linde program also suggested what we could do to avoid those issues in terms of reorganising shifts for instance. As a company we are very determined to remain at our current location and this simulation process was about everything we could do to make that possible. We have now been given some insights into what we can do to further maximise use of our facilities.
We invited Linde to participate in the exercise and it was then we discovered they had this warehouse simulation process not offered by the competitors.
Based on the Linde simulation outcomes PharmaCare subsequently tasked its racking supplier to provide forward projections for picking and storage configuration options. The outcome was a plan of enhancements an additional storage configuration (not previously thought possible) and an extension to an existing conveyor system.
“We now have a materials handling process plan to take us through the next five years,” Craig Dunlop said. “It was a plan hatched as a result of the initial Linde warehouse simulation input. That simulation process made it very easy for senior management to visualise the problems which we would have faced if we had done nothing. This is very important when you are discussing complex issues with executives who don’t deal with logistics issues on a daily basis.
“Apart from our storage and picking challenges we had been in a situation where we had equipment which needed replacing. We had been doing testing with other companies for a year to identify the best and latest forklifts to meet our needs, especially in relation to aisle widths and usage patterns.
“Two other vendors had provided submissions, but not across all the vehicle classes PharmaCare needed, so we invited Linde to participate in the exercise and it was then we discovered they had this warehouse simulation process not offered by the competitors. As we went through the process, and especially the simulation exercise, we realised that all things being equal it would be the best outcome for PharmaCare if we could strike a deal with Linde.”
During and before that period the company had done its own software analysis and had implemented two warehouse management system changeovers as well as commissioning a voice picking system for the warehouse. It also gained experience with Linde equipment by trialling a low level picker and a reach truck.
“We were renting Linde low level pickers to meet our needs,” Craig Dunlop said. “It soon became obvious the warehouse team members were very much in favour of the Linde equipment. They kept jumping on it in preference to the other brands we had on site. We asked them what was so special about the Linde equipment. The answers came back to quality of the design and construction and their smoothness gliding along the floor. If you want to make a change in the company you want to make a change that’s good for the staff and good for productivity.”
Linde saw the whole exercise as much more than being just about selling us more forklifts.
PharmaCare asked other potential suppliers to re-tender after an assessment of the full range of required material handling equipment identified. Following a final assessment and further negotiations it agreed to purchase it new 26 strong Linde fleet.
“I found dealing with Linde to be a great experience in terms of understanding,” Craig Dunlop said. “They made certain they absolutely understood our business without making any assumptions. They went away and did their homework, came back and provided options.
“I would say the equipment we now have is superior logistical handling equipment and we have no employee issues on acceptance. The Linde equipment is far quieter and smoother than what we had previously. There are smiles in the warehouse from the users of the equipment and it is enhancing our operation.
“Some of our equipment was getting old and we needed to stay ahead of regulatory requirements. The other equipment would have done that but the Linde forklifts are just superior. Crucially Linde saw the whole exercise as much more than being just about selling us more forklifts.
“Their Stratos warehouse simulation software let us explore many different logistics options. You can play a lot of what-if games. It might be about storage in general, or more specifically about how you store goods. In our case our issues arose from a combination of the way we store product as well as the way we pick it. We can’t change our product range, but we can change the way we store it and manage it.”
Linde’s Stratos warehouse simulation software system can add immense value for any business. One of its major features is that it allows management teams to confirm the viability of a project at the planning stage, before any commitment to major investment is required.