United Drug adds robots to Dublin site amid labour shortage

25 May 2023

21 LocusBots have been brought to United Drug's Baldonnel Dublin distribution centre. Image: Tony Maxwell

The company has partnered with Locus Robotics to bring 21 robots to its Dublin distribution centre, in a bid to meet demand in a tight labour market.

United Drug, one of Ireland’s largest pharmaceutical distributors, has brought in a squad of autonomous robots to one of its Dublin warehouses to improve productivity.

The company has partnered with Locus Robotics to bring 21 LocusBots to the Baldonnel distribution centre. These mobile robots are able to navigate autonomously through the warehouse and assist human staff with handling orders.

United Drug said distributors are facing increased demand but a lack of available labour, creating challenges in meeting orders. The distributor expects this automation system to maintain order accuracy and improve workplace quality, ergonomics and safety.

Paul Malone, the head of operations for United Drug’s distribution and consumer business units, said the partnership with Locus Robotics is part of a commitment to “use advanced technology to address increasingly complex fulfillment challenges”.

“In a tight labour market, the Locus solution helps us to efficiently optimise productivity across our existing labour force so that we can enhance our customer service levels,” Malone said.

The Irish company has more than 650 staff across its operations in Dublin, Limerick and Mayo, with more than 1,900 partners including pharmacies, hospitals, clinics and primary care centres.

The Dublin facility is United Drug’s first deployment of the Locus Robotics technology, but it is unclear if the company plans to expand the use of these machines to other facilities nationwide. In 2017, United Drug invested €40m to significantly upscale its Citywest headquarters.

Locus Robotics was founded in Boston in 2014 and claims its robotics fulfilment products enable brands, retailers and third-party logistics operators to meet higher order volumes.

The robotics company said its products are in use across more than 250 sites worldwide, supporting more than 100 of the world’s top brands. The LocusBots combine with LocusOne, the company’s integrated warehouse orchestration and execution platform.

Locus Robotics CEO Rick Faulk said the company’s robots will address the needs of United Drug’s distribution warehouses “by eliminating unproductive worker walking time” and shortening order cycle times.

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Leigh Mc Gowran is a journalist with Silicon Republic