Alliance UniChem is rolling out a replenishment system to eight European countries after successfully deploying the software in the UK.
The pharmaceutical firm's wholesale business, UniChem, completed the UK implementation of Manhattan Associates' DPR system in October and aims to complete the European roll-out by the end of 2006.
UniChem expects the system to improve the quality of service that its customers - both independent pharmacies and chains - receive. It supplies pharmacies in the UK with 20,000 product lines and it delivers to each store at least twice a day.
Anthony Roberts, UniChem's IT director, said, "If we can improve our service levels, that is a very visible business benefit to our customers. Improved service levels also provide an internal benefit for us."
Before the implementation could begin, UniChem managers had to agree common business processes that could be used to operate the IT system in all nine countries.
Adrian Chen, Alliance UniChem's director of group IT, said, "Logistics was one of the critical areas for the project because there were a lot of differences between the processes we used in different countries."
In some European countries, each warehouse location had its own business processes. UniChem decided to introduce central replenishment departments in each country to run the new system.
Chen said, "We believe it is best practice is to get a central department, so we had to show everyone what the benefits of a central department were."
Pharmaceutical wholesalers have more complex supply chains than most retail suppliers because they provide a greater numbers of products and make more frequent deliveries to stores.
UniChem has 11 warehouses in the UK. They supply more than 3,000 of the UK's 10,000 independent pharmacies as well as the 939 stores that operate under the Alliance Pharmacy brand - Alliance UniChem's retail arm.
Alliance UniChem and pharmacy chain Boots announced a £7bn merger in October. The combined company, which will trade as Alliance Boots, will have about 2,400 stores in the UK.
This was first published in December 2005