Heading towards a centrally planned hospital logistics
L’Area Vasta Emilia Nord (AVEN) is the result of a voluntary association of seven local health authorities in the provinces of Modena, Parma, Piacenza and Reggio Emilia: Local Health Unit (USL) of Piacenza, Local Health Unit of Parma, University Hospital of Reggio Emilia, Hospital of Reggio Emilia, Local Health Unit of Modena, University-Hospital of Modena. To the purpose of seeking synergies and standardizing the provision of care, AVEN decided for a centralized management of the hospital logistics from a single distribution centre equipped with automated handling systems. This represents an innovative and significant choice in the field of public health in Italy. The new distribution centre located in Reggio Emilia, has been operating since July 2013.
AVEN’s ambitious target was to create a centralised management of seven associated Health Units, providing 100% of goods flow for each Health Unit to pass through the distribution centre and avoiding all deliveries to hospital by producers. Covering a total area of 5,000 square metres, the new distribution centre is run in 2 shifts for 14 hours a day, 6 days a week, and when full-time operative, it will manage approximately 6,400 references, including medical devices and pharmaceutical products, and products requiring special storage and transport conditions (flammable, temperature-controlled storage, and drugs). To meet the need typical of the healthcare system to manage very different references in terms of weight-volume ratio, storage and transport conditions and rotation index, the project involved different storage and picking areas specifically designed for each product type.
The implemented solutions
The warehouse receives items from about 300 suppliers, with 5 bays dedicated to the incoming flow and 6 to the outgoing flow. The pallet storage warehouse covers an area of about 2,000 square metres and consists of 8 pairs of single-depth racks, about 60 m long. Handling is performed by man-driven two-sided loading trucks with automatic positioning. The products picked from traditional racks are directly placed in the shipping units (roll container), while those coming from areas for non-bulky codes, with low and high rotation, are delivered into plastic containers and transferred to an automatic labelling and sorting line. These containers are identified by barcode laser scanner, automatically weighed and labelled, and finally sorted by trip or delivery point. The entire logistic process is radio-frequency managed, thus avoiding hardcopy. The internal structure presents three solutions: gravity systems, automated system (stacker crane), adjustable pallet racks. The operators are equipped with hand-held terminals to identify the items to pick, their location and quantity. The terminal sends in real time the picking data to the management system (Incas Easystor) for writing down the quantities picked. An automated system based on the item weight, checks picking and order for compliance prior to transport, so as to minimize errors (and consequently goods returns). Shipment preparation and organization is managed by the WMS, which transfers the list of picking orders to the specific software module (GDO) that defines the trip creation, i.e. the load for each transport vehicle, and transfer it to WMS.
By the time the warehouse is full operating, expected in the second half of 2014, all delivery flows to hospital will pass through the new distribution centre, bringing obvious benefits to the entire supply chain. The heterogeneous nature of the products being managed resulted in the creation of a warehouse with different picking and storage areas specifically designed for each type of product, also supported by automated solutions.
Year of entry into operation 2013 Civil structure New building Warehouse function Distribution of finished products Type of customers Hospital departments Total area 5,000 mq Type of stored UdC Containers Pallet (800×1.200 mm, hmax=1700mm; peso max 800kg)Contenitori (400×600 mm, hmax=285mm; peso max 20kg) Type of shipping unit Tote Number of picking lines /day (outgoing flow) Peak of 11,000 lines/ day Height under chain wire 10m Material identification systems Barcode; RFID Data transmission systems to operators Hand-held terminals Handling devices Transpallets, order pickers, two-sided pickers Served departments Over 2000 Automated warehouse 10,000 totes Pallet warehouse 5,000 pallet