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10 years of pharmacy automation

Travis Schiller

We did an interview with Travis Schiller who has been managing ‘The Barossa Pharmacist’ in Nuriootpa, South Australia for just over 10 years. Travis is the first customer who installed a BD Rowa™ Robot in Australia.

ITK: Please describe your pharmacy in a few words – and how long you have been running it.

Travis: My pharmacy is situated in a regional shopping centre in the beautiful Barossa Valley. I’ve been managing this pharmacy for just over 10 years, the last four and a half as the managing partner.

ITK: You installed your BD Rowa™ Automatic Dispensing Robot 10 years ago. What goals did you want to achieve for your Pharmacy way back then? What was your reason for being the first automated dispensary in Australia?

Travis: I had just started at the Pharmacy and was discussing the use of dispensing robots with the owner (and still current partner) at the time. He was keen on the use of technology to find efficiency in the business and to allow our pharmacists to use their full range of skills.

Although we are only an hour out of Adelaide, getting professional staff outside of the city has always been difficult. We set out on a bit of a journey of discovery to find out what was available, and when we saw what the BD Rowa™ Automatic Dispensing Robot could do, we found it really was a long way ahead of the competition.

ITK: Where did you first find out about the technology and what interested you the most about it?

Travis: A BD Rowa™ representative reached out to us, having heard we were investigating options on the market. It was the multitude of things the BD Rowa™ Automatic Dispensing Robot could do that stood out. Where other products were seemingly just gravity feed shelves with a picking head, the BD Rowa™ Automatic Dispensing Robot was a smart solution.

The BD Rowa™ Automatic Dispensing Robot knew where every item of stock was, and had a fridge installed, so it meant we had a high percentage of our dispensary stock automated. The internal BD Rowa™ ProLog was great as well – our dispensary technicians had never been so happy putting stock away.

ITK: What was the initial reaction of your staff? Was the BD Rowa™ Automatic Dispensing Robot greeted with enthusiasm from the start?

Travis: The owner, Guy, was really keen on promotion, and we went out really strong to our local community. We had special shirts made up with various slogans. We named the robot ‘Knowbody’ (inspired by the rugby nickname i.e., Nobody’s Perfect), and ‘Knowbody is working at the Barossa Chemplus’, was one of the slogans!! There was great excitement both from the staff and customers, and it was all a lot of fun.

While change can always be challenging, our staff really took on board learning new ways of doing things. We had boxes of smarties put away into Knowbody, so we could bring kids into the dispensary to show them our new machine had a camera inside hooked up to a TV so the customers could watch it in action while they waited.

ITK: Did it take time to get used to it? What were the biggest changes to routines and where did you notice the first improvements?

Travis: All things take time to get used to. However, I can’t say there were too many challenges. It just made life easier, and it meant that our dispense technicians spent less time on stock management and more time supporting the pharmacists by dispensing the prescriptions. And the pharmacists were
freed up to spend more time with our customers.

The other big improvement was a reduction in wait times, which made all of our staff more efficient. The pharmacy assistants went looking for completed prescriptions when they were done and weren’t stuck somewhere in the dispensary.

ITK: What has changed most in the daily routine of your pharmacy since then? Where in particular have things changed for the better? How has this impacted the quality of patient consultations, efficiencies and time saved?

Travis: It’s hard to remember back to the pre-robot days, but within a few months of having the BD Rowa™ Automatic Dispensing Robot, our main dispensary order was changed from an afternoon to morning delivery, which was our peak dispensing time – but we were able to adapt to this change without missing a beat mainly thanks to the efficiency of Knowbody putting stock away.

Knowbody has also made it easier in recent years to adapt to the introduction of services such as vaccinations, as the pharmacists weren’t chained to the dispense bench tackling the prescriptions.

ITK: How do you and your staff feel about your BD Rowa™ Automatic Dispensing Robot today? To what extent is it a fully integrated part of your team?

Travis: Knowbody is part of the furniture, literally, and I’m not sure we’d be able to function without it. We moved a few years back as our shopping centre was redesigned, so Knowbody came with us and didn’t skip a beat. Given that our dispensary footprint became much tighter, having the robot meant we could maximise space for our staff in the dispensing and counselling bays and also build the clinic room we desired.

ITK: Could you ever imagine running your pharmacy now without your BD Rowa™ Automatic Dispensing Robot?

Travis: No, I don’t think our pharmacy would work anywhere near as well without a robot, and I wouldn’t want to try!

ITK: How would you describe the reliability and support of the BD Rowa™ Automatic Dispensing Robot over the 10 years?

Travis: Knowbody has been pretty reliable over the years, and while there has been the odd glitch, the support has always been there to get us back on track with very little to no real downtime over the 10 years to date.

ITK: For Pharmacy owners considering automating with a BD Rowa™ Automatic Dispensing Robot, what would be your recommendations or advice to someone considering the investment?

Travis: It’s easy to say just do it, but I think the best thing to do is not just write it off – genuinely consider what the benefits of automation could mean to your business. Sit down and make a business plan and map the financial implications. If you are still wavering, remember there are all of the intangibles as well.

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