kohlpharma Accelerates Signature-Based Workflows

40 years after its foundation, kohlpharma is one of the biggest German importers of patent-protected and prescription-only medicines in Europe and the undisputed market leader in Germany. Founder Edwin Kohl has been focused on essential competitive pricing for the benefit of consumers since the beginning, with the health system saving hundreds of millions of euros each year as a result.

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How kohlpharma uses Dropbox Sign API

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Company Profile

Founded: 1979
Headquarters: Merzig 2019
Annual Turnover: 600 million euros
Employees: 700+

A deeper dive with kohlpharma

The Challenge

Most medicine is manufactured in Europe by international companies which typically choose a central production site in the EU. Reasons for this strategy include low tax requirements and more competitive salaries. Medicine is then put into circulation across the EU under the typical market conditions of each member state, and are generally cheaper than in Germany. kohlpharma takes advantage of the lower costs in other EU countries to offer original preparations on the German market at attractive prices. These original medicines are then relabeled or repackaged according to German requirements. The resulting savings cause less strain on the health system, benefiting doctors, pharmacists, and most importantly, patients.

Since kohlpharma uses excess stock for its supply, reliably meeting demand is a key challenge. Goods availability and potential supply issues can vary for reasons that are outside the company’s control. One particular challenge for logistics is the quality-assured transportation of refrigerated medicines, such as insulins or vaccines, which need to be stored at a constant 2 to 8°C throughout the entire supply chain. It’s therefore even more important that processes from purchase to supply are coordinated in the best way possible. For this reason, kohlpharma increasingly relies on the potential of digitalization.

Before a medicine can go into circulation after purchase, there are a multitude of documents to fill out and sign. As a pharmaceutical manufacturer, kohlpharma follows GMP (Good Manufacturing Practices) regulations, which means extensive written documentation for all processes and completed production orders. Correspondence including order placement and contracts, have historically been carried out using analog processes: time-consuming printing, signing, scanning, and emailing. As Johannes Reinert states: “The throughput times, particularly for GMP-relevant documents, are sometimes very long and complex. That’s why we looked for a solution that could accelerate these operations. We were looking for a simplified, digital, single foundation with all our EDP suppliers and service partners.”

“Many of our users are now working from home, which has been a whole new experience for both our home workers as well as those in electronic data processing. I’m delighted to have chosen Dropbox Sign, as it helps me make work considerably easier for both employees at home as well as in the office."

Johannes Reinert
Board Member and Head of EDP, Facility Management, Logistics and Production
The Solution

kohlpharma first tried to develop a solution in-house, which wouldn’t just be based around eSignatures but would also map the related workflows. However, evolving priorities resulted delays in completion, so the company wanted to invest in eSignature management. Dropbox Sign proved to be the best solution because of its transparency, simplicity, direct availability, and contractual frameworks. Due to the success of Dropbox Sign‘s cloud-only solution and eSignature API, the company quickly made the decision for thorough testing.

"I saw that Dropbox Sign was the best solution for us. We worked on a small trial to begin with, and quickly felt the benefits of the solution--suitable for solving all the issues we were aware of and that arose during the trial. ” – Johannes Reinert

The Results

High usability, quick to use

The Dropbox Sign user interface is intuitive. Step-by-step guidance through contracts and forms is able to ensure that all relevant fields are filled out and all required signatures are inserted. Dropbox Sign can be integrated into any environment, including with individual branding. This immediately helped kohlpharma successfully transition to home working. From verbal ordering to software implementation, the whole process took less than an hour.

“I had the ideal solution for signature workflows ready to go, which meant we could enable and encourage our teams to work remotely. It created the potential to improve business processes and to allow for a higher degree of freedom of work location.” – Johannes Reinert

From analog to digital: the paperless future

After the initial tests exceeded all expectations, kohlpharma is already planning the next stage to accelerate business processes and improve working conditions using Dropbox Sign.

Internally – increasing transparency

The plan for the future is to fully digitize internal document workflows, as well as mandatory internal training confirmation too. This will greatly increase transparency and eliminate the need to digitize corresponding documents later. For documents that need to be signed by multiple parties, eSignatures simplify the process for both editors and signatories alike.

The Future

Externally – improving collaboration

Supplier contracts red-lining and signing will also be digitized. Through this process, the contract structures and agreements with suppliers will benefit from template unification. Documents for business customers signed by kohlpharma could exclusively be edited with Dropbox Sign in future

Quality assurance – permanently accelerating processes

For SOPs (Standard Operating Procedures) where production processes are closely regulated, for example, in quality assurance and the EDP quality system, manual signatures will be replaced by their digital equivalent. Now, with its automated warehouses and seamless remote supply chain monitoring, kohlpharma is already a pioneer in the areas of digitalization and automation in the German pharmaceutical industry. They plan to remove all paper-based approval processes as much as possible for the foreseeable future. There’s still a way to go before then, but with Dropbox Sign, they’ve reached a significant milestone. Over time, forms can be converted into Dropbox Sign documents, reducing physical record keeping along the way.

As Johannes Reinert explains: "Looking forward, I’d like to see quality assurance, for example, switched over to digital forms. Digital forms are much easier and can be managed more effectively. Any legally required updates can be made in the shortest possible time, and across all relevant documents, without piles of forms needing to be destroyed. Everything is signed and filled out using seamlessly integrated Dropbox Sign components. So we again benefit in terms of transparency—every single detail in every process will be traceable."

Want to achieve the same level of success as kohlpharma?

Ask us about Dropbox Sign today. Dropbox Sign is an easy way for businesses to send, receive, and manage legally binding eSignatures. If you need help with choosing the right Dropbox Sign product, arrange a demo appointment and discover how signature-based processes can be optimized in your business.

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