Watch the video from Apotea’s logistics center:
Pharmacy products is 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 in 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.
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 and is 38,000 square meters in size, ships around 1 million packages every month. During 2022, the company has had a major automation focus.
– Apotea is an online pharmacy, and our business concept is fast deliveries, a large range and that we deliver free of charge. 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, says Pär Svärdson, CEO at Apotea.
Meeting the challenges with AutoStore
During the pandemic, Apotea’s demand increased quickly. The massive and ever-increasing orders places great demands on the company’s logistics center and 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.
– During the pandemic, we looked at expanding the capacity to be able to go from delivering 50,000 orders to 100,000 orders. 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, says Pär Svärdson.
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. This investment helps us become more efficient, which makes it easier for us to exceed our customers’ expectations, continues Pär Svärdson.
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 enable us to be able to deliver quickly to customers, even at nights and weekends. With this, we have managed to get a 24-hour operation that is completely exceptional. We get greater productivity, faster deliveries, everything becomes cheaper and more efficient. It became natural to say; yes, let’s do this, continues Pär Svärdson.
Sweden’s most sustainable e-commerce wants to lead the development
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 (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. It is important for humanity, 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, explains Pär Svärdson.
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 providing increased status and stimulation for the operators.
– Many of our employees have this as their first job, and a lot of them are young. I think it is a great developing process going from a working model where you start with a manual job and then learning about technology and to working with robots. You learn a lot going from lifting packages to becoming a robot operator, concludes Pär Svärdson.
See the video from Apotea’s logistics center:
Facts about Element Logics installation at Apotea:
- 20,000 bins (with space for a total of 25,000)
- 30 AutoStore robots (R5)
- 4 carousel ports
- 3 piece-picking robots (eOperator)
- 800 order lines per hour (calculated capacity)
- 24/7 operations