Online pharmacy, Apotea with the world’s first robot piece-picking solution integrated with AutoStore
Sweden’s leading online pharmacy Apotea places high demands on its warehouse to deliver approx. 50,000 orders a day quickly, easily, and smoothly to its customers. The maximum capacity is significantly strengthened by installing the successful AutoStore automation system from Element Logic. For the first time, automation is being installed for the entire process, including the unique eOperator piece-picking and packing robot that works around the clock together with AutoStore, even in the dark.
Watch the video from Apotea's logistics center:
Pharmacy products are one of the fastest-growing e-commerce industries in the world. Apotea.se is Sweden’s largest online pharmacy, with the country’s most comprehensive range of over 24,000 over-the-counter products and almost 16,000 prescription drugs for both humans and animals. Since the start of 2011, sales have increased from approximately EUR 1.1 million to EUR 450 million. The company has also received various prizes and awards, including being named Sweden’s favorite online store (PostNord) in 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020, and 2021.
Cooperation between Element Logic, AutoStore, RightHand Robotics and Apotea.
The Industry's Leading Customer Experience
Apotea strives to provide the industry’s and e-commerce’s best customer experience, where expectations are exceeded through pleasant and simple shopping that appeals to both existing and new customers. A central part in achieving this is fast and accurate deliveries, which start from Apotea’s logistics center in Morgongåva business park, six miles west of Uppsala. The facility, which was inaugurated in 2018, is 38,000 square meters in size and ships around 1 million packages every month. During 2022, the company has had a major automation focus.
Pär Svärdson, CEO at Apotea
“Apotea is an online pharmacy, and our business concept is fast deliveries, a large range, and that we deliver free of charge,” says Pär Svärdson, CEO at Apotea, “Fast, cheap, and free shipping say a lot about what we do here. And that’s what our customers think is important. We send out approximately 50,000 packages a day.”
“Fast, cheap, and free shipping says a lot about what we do here. And that’s what our customers think is important. We send out approximately 50,000 packages a day.”
Meeting the challenges with AutoStore
During the pandemic, Apotea’s demand increased quickly. The massive and ever-increasing orders placed great demand for the company’s logistics center. To solve this Apotea has invested in automation from Element Logic which takes care of the entire process – from in-bound delivery to out-bound delivery, via AutoStore, eOperator, and additional functions.
The installation includes 20,000 bins (with space for a total of 25,000), 30 AutoStore robots (R5), and four carousel ports, whereas three are handled by the piece-picking robot eOperator. The goal is to optimize delivery as well as increase efficiency and better cope with large variations in order intake that can occur over time. Apotea’s new installation is a collaboration between Element Logic, AutoStore, RightHand Robotics, and Apotea. In December 2022, all CEOs and founders from the respective companies met at Apotea’s logistics center in Sweden, to inaugurate the system.
Pär Svärdson, CEO at Apotea
“During the pandemic, we looked at expanding the capacity to be able to go from delivering 50,000 orders to 100,000 orders,” says Pär Svärdson “That’s when we thought of Element Logic and AutoStore. When we started looking at installing AutoStore, it was precisely the combination of being able to robotize the piece-pick that was one of the driving forces. It was important to get the kind of solution we wanted, but also to feel that we got a solution that will be very effective for us.”
When we started looking at installing AutoStore, it was precisely the combination of being able to robotize the piece-pick that was one of the driving forces.
“To Apotea, the automation solution of AutoStore, eOperator, and other features from Element Logic goes splendidly with their combined targets of optimal warehouse efficiency and environmental care.” Dag-Adler Blakseth, CEO at Element Logic Group continues” we look forward to following Apotea’s journey towards highly accurate deliveries along with saved energy, reduced noise levels, and ergonomically friendly working hours.”
Dag-Adler Blakseth, CEO at Element Logic Group
A Scalable Solution that is Easy to Integrate
AutoStore is a modular and scalable robotic solution for storing bins of products extremely efficiently. After picking from AutoStore, the order either goes directly to delivery or back to be filled with additional products. Compared to a manual warehouse, picking performance is ten times higher with AutoStore. The system consists of a grid, where robots pick and deliver goods on the smartest available routes in the grid, which is calculated by the control unit. The robots work around the clock and recharge themselves when needed. The robots move the bins around, and the software has complete control of the bins’ content. At the ports, the picked goods are delivered to the operator for further handling. In Apotea’s logistics center, this is seamlessly integrated with the other automation zones. Initially, the new capacity at Apotea is estimated to be 800 order lines per hour.
“To us, it was important to have a system that can handle variations in product size and order intake, and that it can be expanded as we grow,” says Pär Svärdson “This investment helps us become more efficient, which makes it easier for us to exceed our customers’ expectations.”
“This investment helps us become more efficient, which makes it easier for us to exceed our customers’ expectations”
The Piece-Picking Robot Solution, eOperator – A Unique Solution
The installation of eOperator means that Apotea is investing in the world’s most advanced piece-picking robot, making them pioneers internationally in having robots picking from an AutoStore. eOperator picks automatically 24/7. Through machine learning, eOperator automatically selects the best way to handle an item to be picked from AutoStore, which increases order capacity, goods handling, and delivery time.
“To us, the delivery time is important. eOperator enables us to be able to deliver quickly to customers, even at night and on weekends.” Pär Svärdson says “With this, we have managed to get a 24-hour operation that is completely exceptional. We get greater productivity, and faster deliveries, everything becomes cheaper and more efficient. It became natural to say; yes, let’s do this.”
Anders Bohlin, Sales Director at Element Logic Sweden
“When we started talking to Element Logic about running AutoStore in combination with robots, they saw that we will have a return on investment. We get greater productivity, faster deliveries, everything becomes cheaper and more efficient. Then it became natural to say; yes, let’s do this”
“Apotea is an impressive giant in Swedish e-commerce and since one of their main selling points is fast and accurate deliveries, it was natural to connect their AutoStore solution with Element Logic’s smart piece-picker, eOperator.” Anders Bohlin, Sales Director at Element Logic Sweden continues “The result is improved order capacity, goods handling, and delivery time.”
Sweden's most sustainable e-commerce wants to lead the development
Apotea Solar panel Grid
Apotea is not only the Swedish market’s leading online pharmacy but also Sweden’s most sustainable e-commerce, according to the Sustainable Brand Index 2020 and 2021. It has also received the awards for Sustainability of the Year by Price runner 2022 and Sweden’s most sustainable e-commerce company in PostNord’s consumer survey 2021. Apotea’s goal is to reduce the climate footprint through the entire chain, from production to end consumer. The logistics facility is environmentally certified as an Environmental building Silver. In addition, you will find one of Sweden’s largest solar cell facilities on the roof of the logistics center, which supplies the entire AutoStore system. This consists of 5,560 solar cell modules, an area of 9,100 square meters, providing a capacity (of 1.5 MW) equivalent to what 70 houses consume in a year or what is needed to drive an electric car 230 times around the world.
“Our goal is to become Sweden’s most sustainable company, and that is both a bold and an ambitious objective.” Pär Svärdson continues “It is important for humanity, and for our environment, but also to be competitive, because I believe that the customers of the future will demand a different approach to sustainability from companies than what is done today. On the roof, we have one of Sweden’s largest solar cell installations. It consists of 5,500 solar panels that produce almost all of our energy consumption.”
”… I believe that the customers of the future will demand a different approach to sustainability from companies than what is done today.”
A More Inspiring Workplace
According to Pär Svärdson, the installation of AutoStore in Apotea’s logistics center not only means saving space, reducing costs, and increasing warehouse efficiency. The company also develops the employees’ workplace and as a result, provides increased status and stimulation for the operators.
“Many of our employees have this as their first job, and a lot of them are young.” Pär Svärdson says “I think it is a great developing process going from a working model where you start with a manual job and then learn about technology and eventually to working with robots. You learn a lot going from lifting packages to becoming a robot operator.”
Facts about Element Logics installation at Apotea:
ABOUT SDI & ELEMENT LOGIC
SDI, a division of Element Logic®, has been offering turnkey Materials Handling systems and solutions to brands all over the world since 1977. They are specialists in apparel sortation, unit handling, consulting, engineering and design, systems, and software integration. SDI integrates various innovative technologies such as Joey Pouch Sorter and Enzo AGV, and manufactures their own Tilt Tray Sorter and SORTRAK G4 — a Bomb Bay-style unit sorter. Headquartered in Los Angeles, California, SDI services domestic and international clients with operations across the Americas and has more than 400 Distribution Center systems installed. Learn more at www.SDI.SYSTEMS
In 2022, SDI was acquired by the Norwegian integrator, Element Logic® — the world’s first and largest AutoStore® partner. Their extensive experience in designing and installing tailor-made solutions that streamline customers’ workflow, along with their robotic solutions; material handling systems; and software and consulting services, help improve customers’ value chain become more profitable — meeting the end customer’s expectation of fast delivery. Optimizing warehouses of all sizes in a wide range of industries, including electronic components, parts distribution, consumer electronics, 3PL, pharmaceuticals, apparel, sports equipment, and more. Element Logic® is headquartered in Norway and owned by employees, with the European Private Equity company Castik Capital as the majority owner.
Together, SDI and Element Logic® operate worldwide with a total revenue of US$347 million in 2021 and form a robust integrator with numerous years of experience in diverse technologies across the world. Their combined regional expertise provides the most competitive solutions across the globe.
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