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Alexandria business continues to revolutionize pharmacy automation that had its beginnings in Alexandria

Members of the Rotary Club of Alexandria learned at their weekly luncheon American pharmacy automation had its start right here in Central Louisiana.

"Back in the '60s, Jim Baker backed the ideas of Walter Pearson and Kearny Hearst, an engineer, and in a few decades they built quite an amazing business," said guest speaker Monroe Milton, president of Manchac Technologies, a pharmacy automation business based in Alexandria.

The business later became BakerAPS in the late 1990s where Milton worked before starting Manchac Technologies in 2006. A third of his staff also worked for BakerAPS and McKesson, a pharmaceutical distributor.

"A lot of amazing innovation really defined this industry, especially progress made in the 1970s and 1980s," said Milton. 

Relatively modern applications have also helped Manchac Technologies revolutionize the industry.

Manchac Technologies developed their own pharmacy workflow solution, the DOSIS Systems. They make dispensing towers that are like vending machines.

“Manchac Technologies is another unique Louisiana Central success story in manufacturing.” Lafe Jones, Executive Director of Industry Relations at Louisiana Central said. “Their team combines innovation, technology, and manufacturing to develop products that fill a unique niche.  Their systems are designed and built right here and sent to customers all across the country. Manufacturing Month is a great time to celebrate their story and the impact they make our our region.” 

"What we do is build these automated robots and the software to drive them that help these closed door blister card pharmacists," said Milton. "We didn't invent this format. It's been around since the '60s but we're helping to automate it and do it in a more efficient way."

Blister cards are the packets in which pills are individually packaged.

Closed door pharmacies are those that operate in settings like nursing homes, hospitals or correction facilities. Their customers are not regular pharmacies like Walgreens or CVS and operate more like a production shop than a retail pharmacy.

Their customers take specific medications and turn it into specific prescriptions for patients such as those who are longterm care or correctional.

The reason this is important is because most long term care patients are on about 15 different prescriptions and the medical staff has to give those medications accurately and timely every day. 

"When you look at your average patient who has 15 different prescriptions, some of them twice a day, some of them three times a day, those blister cards will stack up on the med cart for those individual patients," said Milton.

They also match their product to the workflow their customers' need.

"If they're serving mental health patients, that's a lot of group homes," said Milton. "They have six patients here, 10 patients there - every one of those facilities wants those prescriptions filled a different way."

The automation has to be done in a configurable way for their staff so they don't have to figure it out every month. By not doing it manually, their customers are able to save money. 

Manchac deals with about 300 closed door pharmacies across the country, he said. Five hundred of their dispensing towers are spread out among their customers nationwide. And they have both small and big customers.

They have about a 10 percent market penetration therefore they don't have a lot a competition and have lots of growth opportunity, said Milton. 

The development of high tech hardware, software, design work, assembly work and support work takes place here in Alexandria, he said, then distributed across the country.

"We're bringing in revenue from all across the country and flowing it into the Central Louisiana economy," said Milton.

They also offer services on a monthly subscription program so customers don't have to make a capital commitment.

They're able to sign up and then if it doesn't work for them or their business needs change, then they give it back," said Milton.

Manchac Technologies is the one in their industry doing this. Milton said it's rare for it to be done with hardware.

It was a game changer that helped them get through the pandemic since they service nursing homes which were hit hard by COVID due to people not wanting to place family members in one.

Milton started the company from scratch with a lot of ups and downs in the 15 years it's been in operation. In 2018 they were able to redefine and rebuild and have had three consecutive good years on which they are building.

He said they've had a lot of support locally and are now have $15 million flowing through the Central Louisiana economy.

"We have 75 employees. Fifty-five of those are based right here in downtown," said Milton. "Twenty are remote and scattered about the country doing service, sales, those types of things."

Manchac Technologies has over $6 million in payroll and benefits. 

He said it's not just the manufacturing work but the technology and hardware that makes their services valuable to their customers. 

"It's exciting to be able to do this kind of work here in Central Louisiana," said Milton.

Published by Melinda Martinez | Alexandria Town Talk

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