No compromises when it comes to the reliable and fast supply of medicines: this is the motto of GEHE Pharma Handel GmbH, which, with a total of 18 branches, supplies over 6500 pharmacies across Germany, up to four times a day. To make sure there is no gap between expectation and reality, GEHE is constantly investing in new services and, of course, in process reliability at its individual sites. Like recently in Nuremberg, where the complete warehouse logistics was rebuilt and brought up to the latest state of the art. To ensure that medicines can be stored perfectly cooled, GEHE invested in two new cold room complexes from Viessmann on the basis of the TectoCell Standard Plus 80 cold room with wall thicknesses of 80 mm.

Ergonomics and efficiency

Both cold room complexes are arranged within the workflow layout to allow the GEHE order-picking team to pack the different medicine packages into the order boxes with a few simple moves. “For this purpose, we modified the front side of one cold room line with a 130 cm high and 50 cm deep cutout, so that the transport conveyor belt for the order boxes can pass directly below the glass removal doors. This overhanging design allows the fast-moving items in the product range to be placed in the boxes particularly quickly. This concept, which is very ergonomic for our employees, has already proven a success at the Landshut site, so we have now also chosen it for the replacement investment in Nuremberg,” explains Thomas Merkle, Project Manager Logistics at GEHE Pharma Handel GmbH.

GEHE’s refrigeration specialist, Schrezenmaier Kältetechnik GmbH based in Schwerte, also refuses to compromise in its contracts and therefore chose Viessmann as project partner again for the custom design required for the overhanging cold rooms. “Partnering with Viessmann we successfully completed the project in Landshut and were therefore confident that it would work in Nuremberg as well,” says the responsible project manager, university-qualified engineer (Diplom-Ingenieur, BA) Dominik Schrezenmaier.

“For us, of course, such special requests are always a unique challenge, but it is precisely this that makes the difference. As one of the leading international suppliers of refrigeration systems, what sets us apart is that we can also deliver custom solutions, individually tailored to the respective requirements. This is what the Viessmann project expertise stands for,” explains the responsible area manager from Viessmann sales, Norbert Monger.

The entire assembly of the cold rooms was carried out by Viessmann, so that the team from Schrezenmaier Kältetechnik GmbH could integrate the fully assembled cold rooms into the refrigeration cycle. “We benefited from being able to install the new systems parallel to the existing rooms, so the old infrastructure could still be used while the rooms were being set up,” explains Dominik Schrezenmaier. Conversely, however, this also meant that when switching to the new rooms, the logistical processes had to be completely changed. “We had one weekend to make the switch. It was close, but in the end it worked out well,” explains branch manager Gerhard Marx.

Increased hygiene

The high-end TectoCell Standard Plus cold rooms from Viessmann are predestined for use in the pharmaceutical industry, as they feature particularly high thermal insulation and are therefore very energy-efficient. The antimicrobial powder coating SmartProtec prevents hygiene risks, as does the continuously underlapped stainless steel floor. For the cold rooms at GEHE in Nuremberg, the particularly strong version with a load of up to 4000 Newtons and slip resistance up to R11 class was selected.

The shelves in the cold rooms at GEHE in Nuremberg are stocked from behind, which required a further custom design. To enable employees to enter the cold rooms from the side with a pallet truck full of medicines, the cold room floors are completely level on the inside, and stainless steel ramps allow easy access from outside as the threshold is flush with the floor. Before the new investment, Gerhard Marx’s team could only stock the cold rooms from the front. “This was of course much more difficult, time-consuming, and anything but energy-efficient, as the shutters were open every time the cold room was stocked,” Marx explains. Shutter systems are no longer used in the GEHE cold rooms in Nuremberg; modern glass doors are installed in the new units. In the complex containing medium- and slow-moving items, there are also shelving units with magnetically closing drawers. “This too makes work much easier, as the drawer closes itself and you don’t have to check each time by hand whether the drawer has really closed,” says Marx.

Capacities expanded

The concept is a success. Thanks to the two new cold rooms from Viessmann, each measuring 11 meters × 4.60 meters, GEHE was able to drastically increase its capacities for refrigerated medicines. “We have been able to increase the volume by a quarter compared to previously. This is extremely important, as the market is developing rapidly. The demand for medicines that need to be refrigerated is growing by between six and ten percent each year,” explains Thomas Merkle.

For GEHE and refrigeration specialist Schrezenmaier, maximum process reliability is essential. Therefore, all refrigeration installations are designed to be redundant, so that one system can take over for another in the event of a failure. To ensure that the required temperature range of 2 to 8 degrees Celsius can be maintained at all times in each storage area in the cold rooms, each cold room complex has been fitted with six evaporators, and cold compression is controlled by frequency converters. There is continuous monitoring to ensure the temperature range is maintained. “Here, we have been trusting the team from Schrezenmaier Kältetechnik GmbH for many years, who not only take care of all installations for us but also the monitoring, necessary audits, and qualifications, such as those required by the current EU GDP guidelines for the distribution of medicines,” says Merkle.

For Dominik Schrezenmaier and his team, there is always something to do at GEHE. Just this fall, GEHE put its most modern branch into operation in Rostock-Laage, with fully digitalized warehouse and automation technology. The refrigeration logistics are going to be renewed in additional sites in the months ahead.

About GEHE: The pharmaceuticals wholesaler GEHE Pharma Handel GmbH is a subsidiary of McKesson Europe. From 18 branches, GEHE supplies pharmacies across Germany with medicines every day and therefore contributes to securing the supply of medicines in Germany. The Stuttgart-based pharmaceuticals wholesaler supports its customers with pharmacy management and marketing services through the pharmacy cooperation gesund leben, the strongest of its kind in Germany with 2100 members and around 60 industrial partners.