When creating a medication roll, Apotheek Voorzorg selects tablets, dragées, and capsules for each patient according to the time of ingestion and then packages the medicine in a special plastic bag. One sachet contains all the pills that should be taken at the same time and are filled automatically using industrial machines that work around the clock. Storing up to 400 pills, these machines can only process a prescription automatically if all the required pills for that sachet are present. This allows for the creation of medication rolls in automatic mode. However, productivity is significantly reduced when the products aren’t all available on the same machine.
With thousands of possible pill assortments and prescriptions, we set out to uncover what the optimal combination of pill assortment should go into each machine to ensure maximum efficiency and quality without any errors.
Assessing Apotheek Voorzorg’s production process to see if it could benefit from smart data analysis, we pinpointed the machines as the biggest bottleneck. The best way to improve efficiency was, therefore, to ensure all necessary pills were assorted so prescriptions could be filled without human intervention.
As we couldn’t stop the pill-making process to test different pill-to-machine combinations as it would interfere with customers’ prescriptions, we built a digital twin of the production chain. This served as a real-time digital counterpart where we could simulate different combinations of pill arrangements. We also created an optimization algorithm that analyzed historical data and gave recommendations to handle as many possible prescriptions automatically.
Apotheek Voorzorg specializes in automated customized packaging of medicine for patients. Based on received prescriptions, they package medicines per intake moment in a Medication Roll that is personalized for each customer. Deliveries are made to care centers, correctional facilities, nursing homes, and home care patients across the Netherlands within several days after an order is made. Their goal is to help people that use different prescriptions to independently, easily, and safely take the right amount of medicine at the right time.
Building the Digital Twin allowed us to run hundreds of different simulations and assess the impact of each of them without having to disturb Apotheek Voorzorg’s production line. We were even able to estimate exactly how much more efficient they would become with each different combination. Within the first year, we were able to achieve 14% increase in automatically handled prescriptions. In practice, this all added up to a cost saving of €0.5 million per year for the client.
Furthermore, we also built a Planner Module that would automatically allocate the right prescription to the right machine at the right time in order to increase efficiency of the production process even more. Thus, helping Apotheek Voorzorg handle non-urgent orders only after pill assortments were optimized instead of accepting lower efficiency. In the end, we managed to help the client overcome several bottlenecks, allowing them to increase efficiency and be able to help more people receive their medicine at the right time.