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Wholesale automation for Sanacorp

13 November 2018

German pharmacy co-operative, Sanacorp, has embraced automation from KNAPP across its distribution network.

The oldest pharmacy co-operative in Germany, Sanacorp is one of the country’s leading pharmaceutical wholesalers. With its co-operation with KNAPP going back several decades, Sanacorp uses automated intralogistics systems from the Austrian integrator at no less than 15 of its 16 regional sites, which together ensure rapid delivery of medicines and health products to its 8,000 pharmacies across Germany.

The latest of its sites to take delivery of KNAPP kit is Sanacorp’s distribution centre in Bad Segeberg, some 25 miles northeast of Hamburg. The intralogistics solution combines KNAPP’s central belt autopicker technology with the KNAPP-Store system to provide a comprehensive solution that takes care of both fast-moving and slow-moving articles.

A-frame autopickers

KNAPP’s ‘A-frame’ central belt autopickers have been a proven technology in pharmaceutical logistics for over 25 years now. Ideal for fast-moving SKUs, the solution allocates a section of the continuously moving central belt to each order and then ejectors dispense the required articles fully automatically onto that section, with all the goods for a particular order then falling into a tote at the end of the belt. Now Sanacorp’s Bad Segeberg facility is reaping the rewards of the speed and accuracy of KNAPP autopickers in high-volume applications. What is more, the central belt is combined with the KNAPP-Store solution for the processing of slower-moving lines and returns at the DC.

Storage robots

The modular KNAPP-Store system features two storage robots that operate from a mast that runs along rails secured top and bottom on each side of the store, much like mini cranes. Goods are not stored in bins but multi-deep directly on glass shelves – with the distance between the shelves being variable to suit the product range and achieve maximum storage density.

Articles suitable for the KNAPP-Store are identified at goods-in, scanned and allocated to an order container. These are then conveyed to workstations that are equipped with intuitive touch-screen monitors. Employees simply place the articles on the storage conveyor – no time-consuming pre-sorting is necessary. Then iScan image-recognition technology captures all the article data – including measurements, expiry date and lot number – fully automatically. Items such as boxes, bottles and pots in various dimensions are automatically stored in the system by the robots, which use a system of two grippers that can move independently of each other. When it comes to picking, the gripper moves to the specified location and takes hold of the required article, transferring it to a buffer box on the retrieval side of the KNAPP-Store. The buffer boxes then transfer the picked articles to an allotted order space on the central belt conveyor.

Lot tracking

Just one person can operate all four KNAPP-Stores at Bad Segeberg simultaneously, enabling Sanacorp to achieve very high storage performance at minimum personnel cost. Meeting all current pharmaceutical industry requirements, KNAPP-Store supports lot tracking; in fact, articles with a specific date mark, lot number or serial number can be retrieved at the touch of a button. This feature makes the solution ideal for handling returns.

After consolidation of the items from the A-frame autopicker and the KNAPP-Store with any goods from the manual picking or cold storage areas, the completed order is transported to the dispatch zone. Here, containers are automatically lidded before being loaded and dispatched to the pharmacies.