Like most e-commerce companies, Apotea, an online pharmacy started off small – delivering just a handful of packages a day in Sweden seven years ago. Fast forward to 2019 and Apotea is the country’s largest online pharmacy delivering more than 170,000 packages to customers every week. Among the many factors that have contributed to Apotea’s stellar growth are the high-performance ABB robots that have helped boost productivity by 30 percent.
To stay ahead of competition, Apotea, which does not have any physical stores, automated some of its operations at its new logistics center in Morgongåva.
“Our customers want fast deliveries, they want it to be cheap and they prefer to have it free of charge. This is our challenge and something that we focus on every day,” said Maria Alriksson, Business Development Manager at Apotea.
On a busy day about 35,000 packages leave the center to be delivered to customers across the country. In order to handle the large order flow, technical solutions are a must. Three of ABB’s IRB 4600 general purpose industrial robots at the logistics center fulfill the need for quick and efficient work flow. ABB collaborated with one of its oldest Value Providers - Löfqvist Engineering – to develop a software solution where the robots sort and package products directly into designated cages for distribution.
“The IRB 4600 is a highly productive general-purpose robot that perfectly fits the short cycle times required at Apotea’s fulfillment center,” said Peter Öhrn, Sales Manager, Robotics Sweden. “Reducing the time taken to efficiently sort and deliver products is an important factor in the e-commerce business and high speed ABB robots are helping Apotea maintain its industry-leading status.”
Creating better work for humans
Apart from boosting productivity, the ABB robots have also improved sustainability and freed up time for employees to do more qualified work.
“Our workers have gone from just lifting packages to becoming machine operators. The fact that they get more varied and qualified work is very positive (for employees),” said Pär Svärdson, CEO of Apotea.
The ABB robots are equipped with SafeMove2, a robotic safety software that can make any industrial robot a collaborative one. Arc sensors built into the robot can stop all robotic movement when a human operator enters the cell. This is useful to Apotea as employees need to change load cages at regular intervals. Once the operator steps out of the cell, the robot can be restarted with a simple push of a button.
All these factors have set Apotea on a growth curve. In 2019, the company shipped two million package more than 2018 with capacity expanding in the future.
“In order to be competitive, we must continue to expand our capacity, improve our flows and find good automation opportunities. Going forward, I think we will have twice as many robots as we have now. We already see that the robots are a great help to increase capacity,” says Svärdson.
Apotea.se is Sweden's first fully stocked pharmacy which is only available online. Apotea.se has the largest assortment, over 18,000 prescription-free products and 8,000 prescription drugs for humans and animals with lowest prices according to the Norwegian Institute of Trade Research, HUI. With quick deliveries and provides assistance via email, chat and telephone, Apotea.se makes it easier for their customers to live everyday. Since its inception in 2011, sales have increased from approximately SEK 12 million to SEK 2 billion in 2018. Apotea.se has just over 650 employees in Morgongåva
and Stockholm. For more information see: apotea.se.