The implementation of MPC 5 terminals from DLoG has enabled online connection to the job and inventory control system of AstraZeneca's fork lift and picking vehicle fleet at the company's Central Warehouse in Sdertlje, Sweden. Planning is already underway to roll out this solution to Sweden Operations Manufacturing sites.
AstraZeneca Sweden Operation manufactures 10 billion tablets a year and supplies medication in the form of vials or sprays. Around 100,000 pallets are sent annually to distributors of its products throughout the world.
After expanding its central warehouse, the company quickly realised that its picking vehicles required a modern solution to replace the outdated terminal hardware. Based on low-power radio standards, the units were not compatible with modern Windows operating systems and thus unable to fulfiil AstraZeneca's growing demands for operability, integration and data transfer speeds.
In his search for a new system, project manager Bo Akerberg approached several manufacturers during November 2003, including the Swedish distributor for terminal specialists DLoG GmbH, based near Munich, Germany.
"We required our in-house logistics software to run on the system without any significant modifications," explains Akerberg. "We wanted the same user interface for the warehouse and for our office workstations so that we can keep development and training costs to a minimum. We were also looking for modularity and upgradeability and easy maintenance of the terminals and operating elements.
Going the 'extra mile'
DLoG had no problems in furnishing the terminals with industrial hard drives or memory media with more than 5 GB storage capability for the AstraZeneca software and Windows 2000 operating system but were initially unable to provide an uninterruptible power supply for the forklift terminals.
"We simply did not have that feature," explains DLoG's foreign marketing manager Manfred Lachauer. "As a flexible medium-sized company with our own competent hardware and software development team, we saw this as an opportunity to surpass our competitors."
Swedish branch DLoG Norden and DLoG combined their efforts to supply a solution that would meet AstraZeneca's requirements. This positive 'can do' attitude was a key factor in the tablet manufacturer's decision to work with DLoG.
"This endeavour on behalf of a customer really convinced us to place our business with DLoG," says Akerberg. "The company demonstrated that they would go beyond providing us with standard catalogue products and even assume financial risks to develop the solution we required."
DLoG also agreed to replace the implemented hard disks on the terminals with more robust CompactFlash cards as soon as they become available with sufficient memory capacity. Whether or not this becomes necessary is yet to be seen: Until now, not a single hard disk with the special suspension system has failed under the harsh warehouse conditions they have been exposed to.
Bo Akerberg has another tip for his industry colleagues: visit the manufacturer before you place an order.
"A manufacturer with a large catalogue and impressive Internet presence may disguise what is in reality a very small company. In important logistics projects, this represents an intolerable risk, especially for global players such as AstraZeneca who, in striving to roll out a project internationally, requires an extensive service infrastructure and long-term support."
In this respect, AstraZeneca was convinced by the many years of capable service and support that they had received for the DLoG ADC/MDC terminals they had been using in production.
Importance of ergonomics
By developing a successful UPS solution and ensuring international service support, the joint efforts of the German DLoG GmbH team and Swedish partners at DLoG Norden, won over AstraZeneca.
"Many solution providers have not yet understood that the winning factor is not always having the product with the most features or the lowest price," says Akerberg. "It is essential that a provider can justify the trust that a customer places in them - starting with being able to meet deadlines and fulfill promises as early as the bidding phase. For example, DLoG impressed us early on with a very simple idea.
At AstraZeneca, warehouse pallets are loaded and unloaded from the front but, for other reasons, the barcodes are attached to the sides. To save forklift operators from unnecessary movement or having to step off of their vehicles, they can now read the barcodes on their scanners using an auxiliary mirror. A simple yet brilliant idea that will save the company much time and effort."
Overall, DLoG placed great importance on the area of ergonomics such as deciding on the best position for the terminals on the various types of forklifts.
Since December 2004 the AstraZeneca warehouse logistics in Sdertlje have completely switched over to using DLoG MPC 5 terminals with 10" and 12" displays, keyboards and barcode scanners. The data is transferred across a Cisco WLAN network with eight access points in the handling area and cold storage area. Because of the legal traceability requirements for pharmaceutical products, each pallet movement is recorded precisely. The forklift operators use the same AstraZeneca software and user interface as their colleagues in the office, which is why employees required just one day's training on the new system.
"We are convinced that, in the terminals and service infrastructure provided by DLoG, we have moved to a future-oriented platform. The fast and reliable data transfer to and from the forklifts is increasing our efficiency," explains Akerberg. "Consequently, planning is underway to roll out the new system at other plants."