Highlight on pharmaceutical and healthcare sectors at the International Materials Handling Exhibition IMHX

The International Materials Handling Exhibition (IMHX), which takes place at the NEC from 16-19 November, is a must-see event for everyone with logistics responsibility. In this press release, we highlight some key exhibitor products and services aimed at the pharmaceutical and healthcare sectors, as well as showcasing automated handling systems and capital financing solutions.

The pharmaceutical and healthcare sectors are huge contributors to the UK economy and have, unsurprisingly, been less affected than other markets by the global economic downturn. The UK pharmaceutical industry achieves a trade balance of exports over imports of some £3.4 billion per annum, before we even consider the healthcare sector, where public spending alone on the NHS is approaching £100 billion a year. A number of exhibitors at IMHX have specific expertise and dedicated solutions to help logistics managers in the pharmaceutical and healthcare sectors.

Austrian group KNAPP (stand 20D30) is the world's leading supplier of automated warehouse solutions to the pharmaceutical sector. In Europe, some 80% of the logistics automation equipment supplied to pharmaceutical wholesalers has been delivered by KNAPP - including the largest pharmaceutical warehouse in Europe, installed last year for The Co-operative Pharmacy in Stoke-on-Trent. Says Craig Rollason, Head of Sales & Marketing for KNAPP UK Ltd, "KNAPP has also supplied systems to US pharma companies serving the direct-to-patient segment, where picking accuracy is absolutely vital due to the stringent '3 strikes and you're out' régime in terms of misdelivery. Direct-to-patient services are likely to grow, not just in the States but also in Europe. With some 70% of prescriptions being for repeat medication, it makes sense to shift this fulfilment from the pharmacy to the warehouse, where it can be performed much more economically." At IMHX, KNAPP will be promoting its revolutionary OSR Shuttle™, which combines shuttle-based storage with pick-to-light stations. Over half of the 100 OSR Shuttle™ systems sold worldwide have been supplied to pharmaceutical applications.

Exhibitor Psion Teklogix (stand 18M95) specialises in making mobile workers more productive. The company recently announced that it has teamed up with partner Ryzex to provide mobile computers to Pharmacy Plus, the leading pharmacy group, in order to help reduce medication errors in care homes and hospitals. An estimated 1 in 15 of all hospital admissions are caused by drug errors, causing significant concern for patient safety and costing the NHS an estimated £1 billion per year. The Proactive Care System designed by Pharmacy Plus aims to improve control of the dispensing of medication, using barcode technology through Psion's mobile devices. The Ikôn hand-held computers allow staff to validate barcodes, check residents' photos, conduct an electronic drug register and control stock management. The system is currently in use at five homes run by Taunton-based Somerset Care Group, and a further ten homes across the UK, all of which are evaluating the system as part of a research programme.

Sheffield-based packaging innovator, Loadhog (18M142), has developed an alternative to roll cages and pallets for the UK healthcare industry. The Loadhog Pally and Lid system features a Pally - a pallet and dolly combined - at the base. A single pedal push at either end of the half euro-sized Pally engages four castors to the ground, transforming the unit into a wheeled dolly for loads up to 500kg. The lid secures loads with the use of retractable straps, eliminating the need for stretch wrapping. It offers a stable and easily manoeuvrable platform for moving goods quickly, safely and quietly. The system is more space-efficient than roll cages and yet eliminates the need for pump trucks to be taken into sensitive areas of hospitals.

Automated handling supplier SSI Schaefer (stand 18N100) has recently delivered a high-bay warehouse for the pharmaceutical giant Fresenius Kabi near Graz in Austria. The fully automated warehouse features two double-deep aisles with dedicated stacker cranes - with storage capacity for 7,500 pallets - a conveyor system and WAMAS logistics software. Due to the nature of the pharmaceutical products handled, the warehouse has three temperature zones, ranging from -15 degrees Celsius to room temperature. The new logistics facility supplies hospitals and pharmacies throughout Austria, as well as serving as a central logistics interface for Eastern European and world markets. SSI Schaefer in the UK is supplying a fully automated picking system for the pharmaceutical wholesaler, Lexon UK Ltd, at its distribution centre in Redditch. The solution comprises a central conveyor system, an A-frame automatic picking system, new shelving and a mezzanine floor.

On stand 19L136, AEB (International) Ltd will be promoting ASSIST4, a comprehensive control suite for global supply chains. AEB supplied the ASSIST4 transport and warehouse management software modules to the medical technology manufacturer, Erbe, for a new distribution facility in Tübingen, Germany. Erbe, which produces and distributes equipment for various types of surgery, operates an automatic small parts store with 15,000 totes, a high-bay VNA truck warehouse and a block storage area. AEB's ASSIST4 maps the entire warehouse processes ¬- from goods receipt and stock putaway to picking, packing and dispatch.

Many more exhibitors have products and services tailored to the needs of the pharmaceutical and healthcare industries. Visitors wanting to pre-register for free tickets to attend IMHX 2010 can do so on-line by visiting the IMHX web site at www.imhx.biz.

Automated handling pavilion

For the first time ever, IMHX will feature a special pavilion to promote the show's many automated handling system exhibitors. Hosted by the Automated Material Handling Systems Association, the AMHSA Pavilion will feature a number of exhibitors in stands arranged around a central hospitality area. Commenting on the tie-up with IMHX, AMHSA President, Mike Vernon, said, "This is great news for AMHSA and provides us with a highly visible platform for automated handling within the UK's premier materials handling exhibition."

Exhibitor VoiteQ (stand 19J94) provides voice-directed warehouse picking solutions that enable increased productivity and accuracy. The company has supplied voice picking solutions to two companies within the Hachette Group, book distributors Littlehampton Book Services (LBS) and Bookpoint. VoiteQ's solution for LBS replaced the firm's paper-based system, achieving a 95% reduction in errors and realising ROI in less than six months. As well as VoiceMan, the UK's leading middleware software for voice solutions, VoiteQ supplies fully integrated retail solutions which incorporate Business Management Systems, Warehouse Management Systems and EPoS systems.

Automated handling specialist SSI Schaefer will be showing its innovative storage, handling and picking systems on stand 18N100, including the new Orbiter deep pallet storage and retrieval device and the company's latest 'silent conveyor' system. The company will also be promoting i-Pick, a cost-effective, entry-level pick-by-light system which consists of a touch-screen PC with preinstalled i-Pick software. The i-Pick system will increase warehouse output levels by 300% over standard picking systems yet has no costly installation fees - it is the only pick-by-light product on the market that the customer can install without external support. Visitors to the SSI Schaefer stand will also be able to take an interactive stroll through the firm's 'House of Technology' for a glimpse into the future.

A fully automated pallet exchanger from Payne Pallet Inverters (stand 20G85) is raising productivity and safety standards at Alliance Boots' Stores Service Centre (SSC) in Nottingham. A small percentage of lines at the site are handled outside the facility's automated solution and a number of vendor pallets have to be switched for system pallets to ensure compatibility with the automated equipment. The automated pallet exchanger, which eliminates manual handling during the transfer of loads between pallet types, features a pallet alignment function to keep loads centred. The machine was supplied with 2000mm safety guards and a pedestrian light barrier system to ensure compliance with Boots' strict health and safety requirements.

Warehouse automation specialist KNAPP will be running a live demonstration of its OSR Shuttle™ sorter on stand 20D30. This new type of dispatch buffer is a modular solution, installed in the goods-out area, and uses technology from KNAPP's proven OSR Shuttle™ system. Totes ready for dispatch are fed to flow-rack channels by a shuttle, with each customer order assigned to one or more channels. Channels are selected so that the driver can load his vehicle according to the sequence of his route, with visual guidance on a large monitor minimising errors. KNAPP will also be promoting the OSR Shuttle™ system itself, which combines shuttle-based storage with pick-to-light stations to achieve up to six times the rate of totes in/out than a traditional ASRS, while having about 20% less footprint and using less than 10% of the energy consumption. As well as paperless order picking through RF, pick-by-light and voice-directed systems, KNAPP now offers its innovative optically guided picking solution, KiSoft VISION. The company is currently constructing its largest ever project - an automated warehouse in Brazil for a client in the cosmetics industry that will handle 5 million single unit picks per day.

Italian firm Elettric 80 is a global provider of end-of-line automation solutions that increase operational efficiency and cut costs by moving products out of the warehouse quickly and effectively. The company's product range is based on Freeway® - a flexible material handling system which utilises palletising robots, Laser Guided Vehicles (LGVs), Automated Guided Vehicles (AGVs), high-speed stretch wrappers and a pallet control system - with the entire process managed centrally by a Warehouse Management System. The company supplied 24 LGVs to Carlsberg in Falkenberg, Sweden, enabling the brewer to benefit from a warehouse automation solution that allows dynamic updates and modifications whenever required.

Automated handling systems integrator Dematic (stand 18N110) recently supplied leading clothing and homeware retailer, Next, with an innovative high performance order picking solution at its distribution centre in South Elmsall, West Yorkshire. The system's 'high rate put stations' have achieved a near-threefold increase in order picking rates, along with far greater peak capacity to meet changing business requirements. At each station, an operator is directed by light displays to fulfil a series of orders, fed by a seamless, sequenced supply of product from an automated storage and retrieval system. Each station holds up to 24 totes, allowing a single operator to work on up to 24 store orders at the same time.

Autotech Controls Ltd (stand number 19L133), the automated control systems specialist, has recently completed work on the conveyor and crane control systems for the automated handling system at Coca-Cola Hellenic's bottling and distribution facility in Ploiesti, Romania. A critical factor in awarding the contract was the need to minimise downtime during installation, despite a challenging timescale of just nine months. Autotech is now working on another project in Romania - the electrical installation services for the handling equipment at Ford's new paint shop in Craiova - as well as undertaking robot simulation and programming for Cadbury in Bournville and Land Rover at Halewood.

Advanced Handling (stand 18M171) takes pride in the design and manufacture of equipment that is custom built to customers' specific requirements. For example, the company recently supplied Coca-Cola Enterprises in Milton Keynes with 13 pit-mounted static scissor lift tables, each with a capacity of 1000kg and a lifting height of 1600mm. The company, which processes some 350 vending machines every week, required the lift tables to enable their engineers to work safely and comfortably on the machines.

Schoeller Arca Systems (stand 20F86), the global market leader in returnable transport packaging systems, has launched a new attached-lid container, the Integra™ Ultimate, which it hopes will form the backbone of many automated distribution centres. The new container features increased height, smoother design and ergonomic handles, and it can be equipped with RFID tags.

To find out about other automated handling exhibitors at IMHX, visit the IMHX website at www.imhx.biz, where you can pre-register for free tickets to attend the show.

Financing capital expenditure

IMHX's main sponsor, Albury Asset Rentals Ltd, will be introducing visitors to its range of finance products on stand 20G70. One of the UK's leading providers of finance for forklift trucks, Albury Asset Rentals has financed over 23,500 forklifts for the customers of over 350 materials handling suppliers and manufacturers since 1997. Offering finance products makes the decision to purchase easier for the customer and provides dealers with a valuable competitive edge in difficult economic times. The company offers forklift dealers free software - Albury ToolBox - which calculates rentals and captures proposal information, emailing it direct to Albury.

Leasing company Bibby Leasing Ltd (stand 20G111) will be also addressing the issue of asset finance at IMHX. Explains Sales Manager, John Bradshaw, "Our group formed a specialist division, Industrial Equipment, in 2007 to provide funding facilities specifically tailored to the needs of the materials handling industry. We'll be explaining our range of services to visitors on our stand in hall 20."

Rivermore Asset Finance (stand 19L141) provides finance facilities that are specifically designed to offer attractive alternatives to cash purchase and the traditional sources of bank finance. Established in 2004, Rivermore has provided finance to thousands of renowned UK companies, as well as local authorities, government departments, NHS trusts, universities, schools and pension funds. Rivermore serves over 100 equipment manufacturers and dealers who offer its Hire Purchase, Finance Lease and Contract Hire packages a unique item of software - the Rivermore ProTools Calculator - to help structure business-winning finance packages.

Temporary buildings supplier Spaciotempo UK Ltd (18M190) will be explaining the benefits of using modular buildings in recessionary times to increase capacity, rather than investing huge capital expenditure in permanent buildings. Slow growth and caution, combined with budgetary pressures and a lack of banking finance, can affect the decisions of businesses to build extra space. The option of hiring a temporary building allows an organisation to expand in line with demand when, where and for how long it is needed. The company's Tempastor warehouse, for example, can be up within a week of ordering and Spaciotempo is also able to source specialist doors, floors, lighting and HVAC systems.

VIP parking returns to IMHX, courtesy of Toyota

The exclusive VIP valet parking service returns to IMHX in 2010, sponsored by Toyota Material Handling UK. VIPs will be able to drive directly to the door of hall 18 at the NEC, from where their vehicle will be parked for them and returned to the door on leaving the exhibition, ensuring a totally hassle-free visitor experience. The VIP guests will also have access to the IMHX Premier Club Lounge, which offers complimentary refreshments and Internet facilities.