A pharmaceutical co-op with a competitive edge

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INFORMATION: Free information is available from IBS on the subject in this story. Click here to request a copy

Sophisticated and flexible software is key to Itriafarma, an Italian pharmaceutical cooperative, which takes pride in being a technology leader in its industry.

The individually-owned pharmacy may be a dying breed in many countries, but in Italys fragmented retail environment, it is very much alive. Small pharmacists, to ensure some clout when dealing with manufacturers, often unite in cooperative associations. Itriafarma, a pharmaceutical cooperative located in Martina Franca, near Taranto in southern Italy, is one of these.

Our motto is service, availability, convenience, says Dr Francesco Lembo, president of Itriafarma and the son of one of the co-ops founding members. These attributes are not possible in our industry without advanced technology.

Because of the importance of technology to Itriafarmas day-to-day activities, the co-op has always looked for solutions that would give it a competitive edge. Before changing to IBS in 2004, it used a software system developed in Italy that was advanced for its time. We were the first company in our industry to adapt that system, back in 1997, says Sandro Quarta, the companys controller. Eventually it came to be the standard for all companies in our industry here, so it no longer offered us a competitive advantage.

Our previous IT software was customised to reflect Italian realities, which are different from those of other countries in Europe, Dr. Lembo says. But it had limitations. It was written in an old language, it was not open, we could not add newer applications like CRM, business intelligence or intranet functionality.

IBS invited Itriafarma to see its pharma solution in action in Switzerland, where the logistics of pharmaceutical distribution are somewhat different. In Switzerland, information demands are spread out over the course of a day; at Itriafarma, activity is concentrated in two intense spurts. The showcased system handles an average of five items per order, whereas Itriafarma handles 110.

Despite the differences, we were impressed, says Dr. Lembo. We saw the systems potential. It was an integrated package, more cutting-edge, and it covered everything from orders to distribution. We bought it allfor financials, distribution, production, analysis and so on.

IBS opens the door to many applications not previously possible. Marketing manager Anna Maria Grippa points out that she can now pick any number of products and monitor how sales are affected by a promotion. She can analyse by product, size, manufacture, geography and more. Although I was able to do this with our previous system, she says, it was a time-consuming process. Now I can collect everything quickly from my desk.

Training is another promising area. Every year, Italian pharmacists are required to take a number of training courses. This activity will eventually be linked to the IBS solution.

A major objective is to link Itriafarmas customers to the co-op through an intranet instead of the EDI-based system currently in use. Dr. Lembo, who has his own pharmacy in Martina Franca, looks forward to this transformation. That way I can manage my business from my office and enjoy my free time at home.

INFORMATION: Free information is available from IBS on the subject in this story. Click here to request a copy

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