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Brenda Adams’ top 3 key tips to improve your design for success

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Brenda Adams is proud her pharmacies look anything but typical.

By Jack Kohane

Photography by Shannon Lepere

“They are not white, they’ve been decorated by an interior designer from floor to ceiling, including specialty lighting,” says the pharmacist/owner of Janzen’s Pharmacy, a group of five (and growing) independent drugstores in Thunder Bay, Ont., servicing the province’s Northwestern region.

Her shelving is custom-made either in dark cherry wood or light walnut finishes, and countertops are granite for a finishing touch. The customer reception area is always the main focal point. Inventory consists mostly of professional and nutritional products.

Top tips to improve your productivity through workflow and design:

#1. Consider lighting levels and ergonomics. Just how well can your staff and clients see… and how far are you asking them to reach and bend?

#2. Use high density shelving systems and flexible furniture. A more flexible approach takes into account the changing needs of the pharmacy environment.

#3. Consider changing the layout of your pharmacy. Form follows function, and so too must the layout of your pharmacy and the internal layout of the cabinets themselves.

Opened in 1916, Janzen’s first store and current head office is a 5,000-sq.-ft. location in the city’s north end. Since 2002, the enterprise’s operation has expanded steadily to the point that today it employs about 100 employees and generates over $25 million in annual sales.

By 2008, Adams believed the time had come for dramatic makeovers for her stores. While searching online for ideas in pharmacy design, she kept coming across one name — the Caverly Consulting Group, based in Saint-Lazare, Quebec.

Company president Wayne Caverly came to Thunder Bay and spent a few days analyzing the operation, recording wait times on prescriptions, measuring staff’s walking distances, workstations, workflow, and space requirements. Returning to his office, he followed up via email providing drawings for several possible layouts.

At the main Janzen’s store, Caverly conducted a total redesign of the pharmacy including dispensary, compounding and consulting areas, stock room and retail space. At another location, he analyzed work flow and space requirements for accommodating medication-dispensing machines. And at the latest 4,500 sq. ft. store, formerly a bank, Caverly designed the entire space to achieve optimum efficiency from the get-go when its doors opened in early 2013.

“At the time of this major renovation, we took the opportunity to completely re-brand Janzen’s Pharmacy under the banner ‘Live Better Everyday,’ creating a whole new look and position in the community,” says Adams. “Wayne’s design input has led to greater dispensing and customer service efficiencies, bringing innovative ways of managing workflow – whether it be through technology, pharmacy layout, or staff positions/duties.”

Where to start?

Designing a modern pharmacy can be daunting. No one layout will be right for all pharmacies, but a good pharmacy designer should help find the one that works best for a client’s store. In that way a first-rate design plan can help modify the environment to achieve higher production rates, lower error rates and execute more cost-effective renovations.

“Pharmacists are facing the challenges of efficient product storage and accessibility everyday, making a professional workflow and design crucial to the efficient and profitable running of a pharmacy,” Caverly is quick to note. His Design Questionnaire affords a 360-degree analysis of a client’s current dispensary design and workflow, including such questions as: How is your dispensary currently organized? How and where do you store medication today? What is your growth potential? Where are current bottlenecks?

Caverly generally charges about $6,000 for a pharmacy redesign. He advocates that pharmacists be positioned at the pharmacy’s forefront to be accessible to patients and free from the technical activities of the dispensary. “Pharmacists should spend as little time as possible in the dispensary, focusing instead on patient care activities in the consultation areas,” he insists.

When does a pharmacy need a facelift? According to Caverly, there are some definite signs: when dispensary personnel constantly collide into one another; when new automation is introduced into the dispensary; or when a renovation is planned. “When you think it’s all right because ‘we’ve always done it this way in the dispensary,’ it’s probably time to think about creating a new workflow and design plan,” he advises.