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Automation Surges as Companies Search for Efficiency

From pharmacies to agriculture, automation is becoming increasingly popular for companies looking for more efficient and reliable results. The pandemic has helped propel the technology forward.

scanning a barcode in a pharmacy
Shutterstock/i viewfinder
(TNS) — Autonomous cars, drones delivering packages and robots filling prescriptions are becoming familiar sights, so today we look at where automation might impact businesses the most.

Even before the global pandemic, waiting in line to get prescriptions filled in a pharmacy was a pain. Enter NowRx, a company that started in the Bay Area and expanded to Orange County with sights on extending its reach to other regions of the state and Arizona.

The company claims it has 99% of the pharmaceuticals typically found at brick-and-mortar pharmacies (and online) and can deliver medication to you on the day or sometimes hours after your doctor submits a prescription.

Volume and speed

How can that happen and be profitable? Automation and logistics are key.

“NowRx uses a micro-fulfillment strategy that matches its service up against the 10 or more pharmacies in a 5-mile radius of its warehouse,” says co-founder and CEO Cary Breese.

Breese says the company operates with significantly less overhead with no need for retail spaces, and the use of robotics means prescriptions are filled “extremely fast.”

Also, a typical pharmacy in a grocery store, with people counting pills, might average a couple of hundred prescriptions a day according to McKesson, a pharmacy advisement company. “The NowRx pharmacists can process more than 2,000 a day,” Breese says.

Getting to you quickly

The company also uses technology to speed up deliveries. Drivers follow specially designed routes that use technology to optimize speed and the number of stops per route.

“It might cost a typical big-box pharmacy about $8 per prescription to make, while our cost is down to about $2,” Breese said. A study of human errors in dispensing pharmacy prescriptions found a mistake rate of about 0.015. NowRx’s dispensing error rate is about 0.00012.

Automation and logistics are essential in the speed of same-day service. Plus, you won’t have to get out of your pajamas to get your medicine.

Where machines could replace humans

The estimated global number of potential employees who could be replaced by 2030 in millions and the percentage of total employees for each sector:

Automated farming

Automated farm tools can work for hours without rest and are being applied to all areas of agribusiness.

Advancements in automated agribusiness are expected to have the largest global impact on the workforce. There are hundreds of startup companies focusing on livestock, orchards and fields. Here is a look at some technology available to farmers:

Farm management software to help manage resources, crop production and animals.

Precision agriculture and predictive data analytics decisions to save energy, increase efficiency, optimize herbicide and pesticide application.

Animal data aimed at better understanding livestock, from breeding patterns to genomics.

Smart irrigation helps monitor and automate water usage for farms using various data exhausts.

Sensors that collect data and help farmers monitor crop health, weather and soil quality.

Plant data/analysis: Granular data about plant composition and/or analyzing that data to improve seed research, development and breeding. 

Rise of robotics

In 1495, Leonardo da Vinci designed the first humanoid robot. In 1954, George Devol and Joe Engleberger designed the first programmable robotic arm. This led to the development of the first industrial robot, pictured below, “Unimate” in 1961.

Sources: Iron Ox, McKinsey & Co., CB Insights, HandsFree Hectare, Fieldwork Robotics Ltd., Yamaha, DOT Technologies, Postscapes, Bureau of Labor Statistics, NowRx

©2020 The Orange County Register (Santa Ana, Calif.) Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.