For Oriola, the year 2017 was both eventful and difficult. The new ERP and warehouse management system that was implemented in September challenged our ability to serve our customers and fulfil our role in the Finnish pharmaceutical distribution system. At the end of the year, we continued to concentrate on improving our operations and drove forward actions to improve the customer experience. This work continues in 2018 with the aim of restoring customers’ confidence in us, and raising our operational efficiency to an even higher level than before.
In Sweden, we continue the construction of the new automated distribution centre. Its operation is expected to start in the end of 2018. However, we will not be implementing the new ERP system in Sweden this year. We will carefully evaluate the system renewal and it will take place in 2019 at the earliest.
The intense competition in Sweden's pharmacy market was a challenge, but we succeeded well in developing the online store of Kronans Apotek. Our online sales grew faster than online sales of the pharmacy sector as a whole. In Finland, we established Hehku, a new health and wellbeing chain, together with Kesko. The first Hehku stores and online store opened in January 2018, and we aim to open a total of 30 stores in 2018.
"We work hard to offer excellent customer experience to every customer, every day."
In Sweden we signed a dose dispensing contract covering the Norrland region and a pharmaceuticals distribution contract with the Västmanland county. The new contracts doubled the sales volume of our dose dispensing services and we now have altogether 68,500 patients that use dose dispensing services in Finland and Sweden.
We operate in the complex field of health and wellbeing, where various changes impact our operations. However, many of these changes are highly favourable for the development of our business. The aging population needs more comprehensive health services, increasingly affluent citizens are more and more interested in their own health and invest in their wellbeing, digitalisation opens opportunities for new services, and the proportion of specialised medicine products in pharmaceutical services is growing.
During recent years, Oriola has embraced many new opportunities and has consolidated its position in the consumer trade and in digital services in both Finland, with the new Hehku chain of stores and online trade, and in Sweden with Kronans Apotek's online services. We also help society produce healthcare services for aging citizens in a safer and more cost-effective way. Furthermore, we develop our expert services that cover all phases of the entire lifecycle of medicine products, to help our customers in the pharmaceutical industry in the Nordic market.
Amid all the changes in the health and wellbeing sector we at Oriola do not compromise on the security of supply or the safety and the quality required by our societal role. We are part of the pharmaceutical service chain, and work closely with the entire industry to take care of the health of the citizens.
We have a year full of work ahead of us, during which we will review and develop our operations. Amidst all the changes we need to take care of our personnel. Our skilled personnel is our most important asset in the constantly changing environment. I want to thank our entire personnel for their tireless work in overcoming the difficulties of last autumn.
I also want to thank all of our customers for their help, cooperation and patience during autumn 2017. I promise that going forward, we will discuss, listen, be open and take responsibility. We work hard to offer excellent customer experience to every customer, every day.
President and CEO since 12 February 2018