In continental Europe and Scandinavia, it has long been the practice to store medicines stock in high volume, purpose made cabinets - both front of house and in the dispensary. This gives a clean, clinical and professional image to the pharmacy, lifting its status above the image of a local high street store to more of a caring and trustworthy clinic. This image may not be to everyone’s taste but it certainly delivers the professionalism that practitioners have studied years to attain and for which they deserve to be recognised.

Continental manufacturers

There are various different manufacturers of continental pharmacy drawer systems from Germany, France, Italy, Spain. They also vary in price but the job they do must be seen as an investment in greater efficiency and security.

The open shelves where you can see everything but can find only the most popularly used products are so ‘last century’ now. In fact, the Victorians were storing their medicines in this way in the century before that! The objection often raised against this continental type of storage is that on shelves the pharmacist can see everything at a glance and find it quickly. The fact is that this is the result of familiarity with the stock, and the same familiarity will apply to the drawer systems after a short period of working with them.

One of the most important aspects to be considered when deciding to install a pharmacy drawer system is the robustness of the drawers and stability of the structure. In a busy and pressured environment, these drawers need to be reliable and functional, closing smoothly and quietly once product has been selected. Indexing of the drawer fronts is vital to speed and efficiency, and quick changing of internal dividers to suit varying stock levels means pharmacists can always find the item they need without delay.

Making the most of limited space

Much more product can be stored safely in these continental drawer systems. Tall and deep, this type of storage means stock remains clean and well protected and, if managed properly, minimises outdated inventory. The closed away product and mesh bottoms to the drawers means that dust falls freely through the unit and does not contaminate the packaging, so keeping a cleaner more hygienic environment.

The question often asked is: “Why should I spend on more fixtures when the economic climate is so uncertain?” Well, the answer to that is that as the country emerges from the recession, it is the right time to invest and stay ahead of the competition. The big players in the market know this and will be making their investment plans now to attract more than their share of customers into their stores. Those that do not continually invest in their businesses get quickly left behind by the competition. Those that do invest reap the rewards of increased sales and profitability.

Justifying the investment

Imagine that the life of a continental drawer system could easily extend to 10 years (3,000 working days), then the purchase price over this period would only equate to £2.00 per day for a £6,000 investment. And if this system increases your efficiency and you save an hour a day at, say £30 an hour, you are saving £28 per day for 3,000 days - £84,000. £8,400 on the bottom line per year goes a long way towards a luxury, relaxing holiday! In addition, the efficiency can also be counted in increased sales because the previous dispensing time is now spent with customers. So, if you sell an extra £30 worth of profit per day you can add another £90,000 over the 10 years. A £174,000 return for just £6,000 outlay would now seem to be a really good investment.

In these economically challenging times, now really is the time to look at where your money is best spent and continental drawer systems from any of the major manufacturers can deliver the returns that you need to improve the health of your business.

Richard Hooley of ATL Associates ltd