For many years, H.Essers has been the provider of logistics services and warehousing activities for the American biopharmaceutical company Pfizer. We do not take this responsibility lightly, considering how delicate and demanding the storage and transport of pharmaceutical goods is. Fortunately, we have ready access to the latest technology. Like, for example, a few months ago, we started using a tool developed by Arkite.
Especially on longer routes, pharmaceutical goods present considerable challenges. Vaccines, for example, require a constant temperature of between 2°C and 8°C – which is not easily maintained on transport flights stretching across entire continents. “Vaccines have a limited life cycle and depend on the ambient temperature,” says Ingrid Medats, Operations Manager Pharma at H.Essers. “In the case of air freight they are therefore packed and loaded onto pallets, which are then placed in large, double-walled boxes made of insulating material. A refrigerated gel is applied between the double box walls.”
In practice, it soon became clear that this work had to be carried out meticulously and by experienced employees. Ingrid Medats: “For the best results, you need to stack two or more pallets according to certain patterns. However, depending on the product, there are up to twenty different patterns. Besides, the cargoes differ in volume, and there are also two types of gels, one frozen and one chilled. Quite complicated, isn’t it? That’s why we initially worked with a permanent team in order to guarantee a consistent working method. But we also wanted to be able to work more flexibly and deploy a wider team. So we started looking for a solution. We found it through Arkite.”
Genk-based Arkite developed a system to guide operators by means of augmented reality. This means that the complex loading patterns have been entered into a computer system. A beamer projects the right patterns on the floor, layer by layer. The operator can therefore simply follow the computer’s instructions to place the boxes correctly in the cartons. The system also indicates what type of gel the operator should use, for each layer, around the goods. Very efficient!”
Danny Hendrikse, Vice-President of Intercompany Operations at Pfizer, totally agrees. “This innovative project is a good example of why our many years of partnership with H.Essers is such a success. You really try to see things from our perspective and think critically in order to subsequently optimise or develop solutions. As a customer, you know that you will always get the best possible solution, tailored to your specific needs”.
Security and flexibility
We have been using the tool for several months now and are very happy with the quality assurance we can offer. “The loading system also leaves room for flexibility,” adds Ingrid Medats. “We can now deploy our operators in variable shifts and activities. It saves time and increases the efficiency of H.Essers as a logistics service provider.” A good example of what a technology like AR can mean for our customers and which will undoubtedly be implemented throughout the company in the future.