Herba was established in Vienna on 12 May 1916 as an association of pharmacists for pharmacists. The McKesson Europe subsidiary is now the leading pharmaceutical wholesaler in Austria. The 100 years that have passed since the company was founded have been characterised by growth, customer focus, the pursuit of quality and innovations.
A look back at the beginnings
The difficult years of the First World War were dominated by major supply shortages. The idea behind the foundation of Herba – which started out as an association of pharmacists for pharmacists in 1916 – was therefore to make joint purchases of raw materials for pharmaceuticals on the market and to pass these on to the pharmacists. At that time, the new company's activities also included the cultivation of medicinal plants such as melissa, digitalis and peppermint.
"If Herba only achieves half of what we are setting out to do, it will be a great company."Dr Franz Stohr, 1916 at the inaugural meeting of Herba
The company stayed true to this idea. In 1923, the growing business was made a stock corporation (Aktiengesellschaft) and focussed its development on pharmaceutical wholesale. Before the first cars made it into the fleet, the deliveries of medication were made by apprentices on bicycles or on foot.
Between tradition and innovation
Nowadays, bicycles are still used alongside state-of-the-art electric cars for lightning-fast deliveries. Any order can be delivered to anywhere in Austria within 90 minutes. Whichever way it does it, Herba serves more than 1,100 pharmacists and hospitals daily. Around 900 employees work at seven sites, giving their very best for their customers every day.
It is Herba Chemosan's anticipative and customer-focused way of working that unites the supposedly contradictory dimensions of tradition and innovation. "The company has always taken an evolutionary path, rather than a revolutionary one. This is still true today. We prepare ourselves for upcoming trends so that we can offer our customers what they need. This can be seen for example in the pioneering role in warehouse logistics and all levels of information technology," says CEO Dr Andreas Windischbauer regarding the development at Herba.
Technical innovations have a long tradition at Herba. In 1979, for example, the subsidiary in Graz became the first wholesaler in Austria to have an electronically controlled goods flow system. In 2009, Herba Chemosan became the first pharmaceutical wholesaler in the world to work with the fully integrated ERP system from SAP, taking pioneering steps. And the switch to paperless order picking is just as innovative as it is environmentally friendly, and is reducing the error rate to practically zero.
Aims for the future
Herba Chemosan has ambitious goals for the future too. The Austrian market leader in pharmaceutical wholesale wants to expand its presence as a full service provider of pharmacy equipment, computer applications and marketing services.
"Society is changing and so Herba needs to continue to develop and move with the times. That is the foundation for the next 100 years. The aim is to become Austria's biggest health corporation," says Dr Andreas Windischbauer, explaining the vision of the future at Herba Chemosan Apotheker-AG.
There will also be a focus on business solutions relating to digitalisation since the generational shift towards "digital natives" brings new challenges for the market. This will enable Herba to guarantee full coverage for medication in Austria in the future too and so fulfil the founders' mission of "being there for the people".