A study of the application of technology to inventory management in community pharmacies in Lagos,Nigeria
The study investigated the types of technologies applied to inventory management in community pharmacies in Lagos, Nigeria. It also examined the factors influencing the use of technologies and assessed their impact on business performance and inventory management. This was with a view to recommending strategies for enhancing technology application to inventory management in the industry. The study covered registered community pharmacies in Lagos, Nigeria and data were collected using questionnaire, observation, interview, case study and focus group discussion approaches. Two sets of questionnaire were used. The first set was administered on 150 selected pharmacists to garner information on the profiles of the pharmacies: the type of technologies used for inventory management, factors influencing the uses and their effects on business performance. The second set was administered on 750 selected patrons of the selected community pharmacies. The questionnaire elicited information on their perceptions on the quality of services rendered by the pharmacies. Furthermore, two community pharmacies using manual inventory management were selected as case studies. Inventory management procedures of the two pharmacies were compared before and after installation of Electroclerk, inventory management software. Focus group discussion, consisting of eight pharmacists, was conducted. Secondary data were collected from publications, journals and records of relevant stakeholders. Descriptive and inferential statistics were employed for data analysis. Results showed that browsing (67.8%), website (71.9%), e-mail (75.8%), telephone (87.5%), and chatting (76.8%) were adopted by the respondents. In the case of mobile phone technologies, telephone (94.0%), e-mail (87.3%), SMS (86.4%), Internet (71.4%), telephone conferencing (17.2%), and bluetooth 16.7%) were adopted. Other technologies adopted included electronic payment (42.0%), computer system (53.3%), Closed Circuit Television (CCTV) (18.6%) and barcode (9.3%). There was a significant difference in the areas of application (F = 12.04, p ≤ 0.05) of the technologies. The uses of the technologies were high in accounting integration (3.40), printing invoices (3.75), grouping of products (3.63), and generation of reports (3.69) and fairly high in purchase order generation (3.38), automatic reordering (3.23), and expiration date tracking (3.05). Barcode scanning was rarely used. Based on a 5-point Likert scale, the technologies had high impact on inventory management in the areas of tracking of medicine (3.60) and record keeping of inventories (3.54). They had impact in business performance in the area of customer waiting time (3.46), patronage (3.45), availability of more time for pharmacist (3.42), and customer satisfaction (3.31). Also, case study revealed an increase in sales, purchases, stock level, order frequency, and patronage; and a decrease in time taken to generate purchase order and carry out stocktaking, pilfering, medicine expiration, stock-out, and customer waiting time. It further showed that determination of ordered quantity and inventory monitoring became faster. Furthermore, acquisition cost (F = 10.957, p = 0.000), sustainability cost (F = 12.805, p = 0.000), fear of technology application (F = 5.551, p = 0.003), fear of loss of social interaction (F = 6.458, p = 0.002), limited knowledge of pharmacist in technology application (F = 4.932, p = 0.042), and size of pharmacy (F = 3.242, p = 0.000) were significant factors (p ≤ 0.05) influencing the use of the technology. The study concluded that technology application to inventory management in community pharmacies enhanced business performance and inventory management.