pharmacy automation process

The different stages of the pharmacy automation process

Pharmacies are key players in public health, offering advice and quality care to their patients. Although this profession continues to evolve with broadened scope of practice and recognition, they are facing major challenges. They face, among other things, economic pressure, staff shortages, changing regulations and increasing demand.


In this context, automation is a solution (increasingly popular) that meets the needs of pharmacies. It allows for the efficient management of drug distribution, error reduction and improved productivity and quality of care.


However, it can be difficult to know how to embark on a pharmacy automation process. Many questions may arise: Where do I start? What should I do to ensure that I choose the system that best meets my needs? How do I secure my investment in the long term? …


In this article, some key considerations for the successful implementation of pharmacy automation will be presented.


steps in the pharmacy automation process

1. Analysis of the pharmacy's needs

The needs analysis is the first key step in the process of implementing a pharmacy automation system. It consists of evaluating the functionalities and features required to meet the pharmacy’s needs. This step involves assessing:


  • Pharmacy’s current distribution processes;
  • Level of manual labour required to perform these tasks;
  • Which manual processes could be automated vs. those which must stay manual.


This analysis can be carried out by the pharmacists themselves or by consultants specialising in pharmacy automation. Involving pharmacy staff in the needs analysis process provides an in-depth understanding of current processes. And consequently facilitates identifying improvements that can be done through automation.

steps in the pharmacy automation process

2. Study of the different automation systems available

Once the requirements have been identified, it is time to start researching the automation solutions available on the market. A wide range of pharmacy automation systems are available, each with its own features and benefits. Here are some key factors to consider when researching automation solutions:


  • Functionality: Understanding the key features of each system is essential to determine whether they meet the specific needs of the pharmacy.
  • Flexibility: Some automation systems are more flexible than others and more or less customizable. Knowing the flexibility of each solution is important to determine if it can meet the pharmacy’s needs.
  • Ease of use: The ease of use of the system will ensure successful adoption by pharmacy staff.
  • Compatibility with existing systems: Determining whether the automated system is compatible with other systems and software used in the pharmacy is essential.
  • Costs: The costs of acquisition, installation and ongoing maintenance of the automation system should be considered when evaluating the various options.
  • Space planning: It must be determined whether there is sufficient space available and/or whether reorganisation is required to accommodate the system efficiently.
  • Cost-effectiveness: Asking for a cost-benefit study and the lifetime of the system is essential. This will also be useful when building the financial plan.


To obtain this information, pharmacies can approach the sales representatives of the various companies offering automation systems. It is also worth visiting a customer site to understand how automation works in context.

steps in the pharmacy automation process​

3. Creation of a financial plan

Automation systems can be a major investment for pharmacies. It is therefore important to have a solid financial plan. To do this, you need to:


  • Evaluate the costs: The first step is to evaluate the costs associated with the purchase, installation and operation of the system. It is important to take into account all costs such as:
    • costs of purchasing the system;
    • costs of redesigning the space;
    • furniture costs;
    • consultants’ fees for establishing procedures;
    • installation costs;
    • maintenance costs.
  • Identify sources of funding: The second step is to identify possible sources of funding. These may include: bank loans, government grants or sector-specific funding programmes.
  • Evaluate funding options: Once funding sources have been identified, it is important to carry out a thorough analysis of the different funding options. This will help determine the best solution for the pharmacy’s situation. The interest rates, the repayment terms and the collateral required for each financing option should be considered.
  • Project revenue: The second to last step is to project the savings or revenue that the pharmacy may realize from using the system. This may include reduced costs related to: inventory management, increased productivity, expanded customer base, etc.
  • Establish a reimbursement plan: Finally, work on a reimbursement plan.

steps in the pharmacy automation process​

4. Implementation of the automation solution

The implementation of the automation solution is a crucial step in the automation process. The implementation time and some solution-specific steps may vary, but the general process includes:


  • Review of the implementation process: During this review, the different steps of the implementation process and the requirements for its implementation will be discussed.
  • Installation preparation: Prior to the installation of the automation, the space should be prepared and everything should be checked for installation. This may include wiring and/or construction work, as required.
  • Workflow preparation: In order for the installation and training to go smoothly, it is important to take care of patient record requirements, labelling and confirming the list of medications to be put into the automation.
  • Compliance with IT requirements: Preparing for the arrival of an automated system also means ensuring that the IT requirements necessary for it to function properly are met. For example, ensuring access to the network, giving permission for remote access or confirming licensing information.
  • Replenishment: Preliminary training may be required, such as container replenishment training. This will allow the pharmacy to replenish the containers before the installer arrives and needs them for testing.
  • Installation and configuration of the automated system: An installer will come to the site to install the automated system.
  • Staff training: Once the installation is complete, training will be provided to pharmacy staff to operate the system.


It is important to note that the implementation of automation takes time and careful planning. Pharmacies must dedicate time and resources to ensure an effective implementation.

steps in the pharmacy automation process​

5. Optimisation of the automated system

Monitoring the performance of an automated system is essential to maximise it. Often, automated systems collect a lot of data and provide reports for: the output, the number of replenishment stops, alarm-related downtime, latency between productions or system uptime.


In order to use this information in a relevant way, an operational dashboard must be set up. A person should be appointed to update and analyse the data in order to optimise system performance.

In conclusion, the addition of a pharmacy automation system is a project that can be divided into five main stages: analysis of needs, study of different solutions, creation of a financial plan, implementation of the system and finally its optimisation. In order for this project to be successful, a project manager must be chosen. He or she will be responsible for coordinating the various steps and setting the stage for ongoing successful use of the automation.