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AMI destackers lay the foundation for fulfilling customer promises in GEHE distribution centers


Upstream of the core process and yet of central importance

What many people take for granted demands the highest standards from others. In this case, we are talking about the availability of medicines in pharmacies. In Germany, GEHE Pharma Handel GmbH, Stuttgart, is one of the companies responsible for this. In order to keep the promise made to its partners of prompt delivery, two distribution centers had to replace what at first glance appear to be rather inconspicuous units in the material flow technology.

Many patients visit a local pharmacy directly after a doctor's appointment to buy their prescribed medication. Sophisticated pharmaceutical logistics are essential to ensure that the customer only has to make the trip to the pharmacy once if possible. As a manufacturer-neutral, full-service and nationwide pharmaceutical wholesaler, GEHE Pharma Handel GmbH acts as the central link between around 6,500 pharmacies and around 1,500 pharmaceutical companies throughout Germany as part of the complex distribution process.

Each of GEHE's 18 locations stocks a complete and manufacturer-neutral range of up to 128,000 different medicines and standard pharmacy goods. The company and its approximately 2,300 employees supply the pharmacies connected to the service network several times a day from this wide range, thus ensuring the immediate availability of medicines in urban and rural areas.


It takes an average of 45 minutes from receipt of the order to the start of delivery. In emergencies, pharmacy orders can even be prepared for delivery within 15 minutes.

To ensure these performance values, the processes in the distribution centers are largely automated. Reusable container handling is also characterized by a high degree of automation. Depending on the size of the order, GEHE uses two different container sizes, which are continuously circulated between the distribution centers and the individual pharmacies. When the orders are delivered, the drivers collect the empty containers and bring 


With a separation capacity of 2,000 containers per hour, the AMI destacking machines ensure that the automatic processes do not come to a standstill due to a lack of shipping containers

The stacks of containers, which can be up to 1,500 mm high, are sorted by container size and placed on one of two conveyor lines in the dispatch area and separated by destacking machines. However, the destacking machines at GEHE's Porta-Westfalica and Landshut sites were getting on in years. "After 18 years of using the four machines in the Porta-Westfalica and Landshut distribution centers, problems were accumulating," says Martin Freier, Regional Operations Manager for the Landshut region at GEHE Pharma Handel GmbH. "No wonder, with a destacking capacity of around 4,000 containers per day and per machine. At some point, even with the best technology, there comes a time when the wear on the mechanical components is so high that it is no longer worth repairing them."


AMI destackers can be integrated into the infrastructure without intervention

Against this background, the decision was made to replace the destackers. In order to avoid changes to the material flow layouts or the infeed and outfeed conveyor technology of the destackers, one of the project requirements was that only those machines that could make do with the space of the predecessor units would be considered. Freier: "This was a knock-out criterion for one of the conveyor technology providers participating in the tender. AMI, on the other hand, had no problem meeting this requirement."

Besta 1000 destackers from AMI's wide-ranging handling technology portfolio are used. "With the help of servo drives in the lifting axes, these devices can be used to separate the minimum 1,400 containers per hour required by GEHE," says Sven Jesberg, Sales Manager at AMI Förder- und Lagertechnik GmbH, Luckenbach. "In times of order peaks, this figure can rise to 1,600 containers per hour. Thanks to the combination of moving and fixed-position gripper systems, the devices are characterized not only by their high performance but also by their low noise emissions and gentle operation."


Quality made in Luckenbach: The Besta-1500 destacking machines from AMI Förder- und Lagertechnik GmbH

The performance of the destacking machines is determined by the varying order behavior of the pharmacies throughout the day. For this reason, the AMI technology communicates with the existing warehouse control system. Freier: "The fact that the machine control system could be integrated into our warehouse control system virtually via plug and play was another important decision criterion in favor of AMI."

And the choice seems to have been the right one. Freier reports that since commissioning, he has been able to walk through the halls of the distribution center in Landshut relaxed again, safe in the knowledge that the AMI destacking machines are doing their job reliably and in the interests of health.


Sven Jesberg (left), Sales Manager at AMI Förder- und Lagertechnik GmbH, and Martin Freier, Regional Operations Manager for the Landshut region at GEHE Pharma Handel GmbH, can look back on a successful project at GEHE's Landshut distribution center

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