"Standardization pays off"
Fabian Generotzky is Director Operations at the Harsewinkel site. At this multi-client location, he has an overview of the activities for various customers from different industries and can assess cross-divisional processes particularly well.
We talked to him about how the pandemic is affecting processes, particularly in the healthcare industry.
The corona pandemic is currently causing significant increases in some industries. To what extent do we see these increases in your area in particular?
We see a highly diversified picture in the Healthcare business unit in terms of volumes in the sector. We are currently experiencing significant volume increases in the area of pharmaceutical delivery. This applies both to the generics market, which we serve from our site in Landsberg, and to the pharmaceutical and biopharmaceutical business, which is supplied from Harsewinkel, among other places.
The situation is also differentiated within medical technology. Delivery volumes are declining for all items required in hospitals to perform operations. We see this particularly with customers for intraocular lenses and customers with endoscopes or endoscopy accessories. Planned or plannable operations are currently being postponed in order to keep resources in the healthcare system free for potential corona cases. However, since these are normally medically necessary operations, we expect the volumes known to date to be reached as soon as the situation returns to normal.
By contrast, we are dealing with significantly higher volumes of medical technology in areas from which we supply protective clothing and consumables for stationary patient care. This mainly affects our business in the Netherlands.
The area of e-commerce, where products are shipped directly to the end user / patient, still has a special position. For example, contact lenses are shipped online from the Bad Laer site for a large chain of opticians. As the chain of opticians had to close all its stores due to the Corona crisis, all customers were informed that they could order their contact lenses in the online shop. As a result of this shift from local retailers to the online shop, we have seen a massive increase in volume in this area.
What measures are we taking to cope with the higher volumes?
The fact that we are experiencing both effects, the increase and decrease in volume, gives us the opportunity to shift our own employees between the areas. Due to the legal requirements to which we are subject in order to be allowed to ship medicines, we have relatively high expenses for new employees. This shows once again how important it is to have standardized processes to ensure the necessary flexibility between the businesses. Incidentally, standardization has been one of our Key Strategic Projects for several years, and its added value is currently paying off.
Flexibility also means that employees are trained in several areas/businesses. This allows us to move Healthcare employees from simpler processes to more complex businesses, enabling us to integrate external staff more quickly without losing productivity.
The transfer of staff also happens across locations. There are many colleagues from Harsewinkel, for example, who are currently helping to get the e-commerce business up and running in Bad Laer.
Does each business unit operate on its own, or are there also cross-divisional cooperations?
The site in Harsewinkel is a multi-user site across two business units. In addition to the healthcare industry, the logistics operations of the Corporate Information Management (CIM) division are also located on campus. There are central functions, such as goods issue, which work for both industries, but in this example are assigned to the CIM area.
CIM has suffered a significant volume drop as a result of the shutdown of some customers, so that short-time work had to be registered for this area. In order to keep the central functions stable, they were organizationally attached to the Healthcare business unit at short notice to make it easier to take them out of short-time work.
In addition, employees from CIM's order picking areas were "loaned" to Healthcare in order to be able to handle the increased Healthcare volume.
Is there a forecast of how long the volumes will continue to be so high, or when could the situation normalise?
The situation is difficult to forecast. It depends mainly on how the measures develop in Germany and internationally. We expect a second wave of high volumes when the currently postponed operations are made up for.