When medical student Katarina Kuikko, 23, started her summer job at Tamro’s distribution centre, she was surprised by the scale and bustle of the pharma industry. In the second part of the article series, we follow Katarina’s workday from her morning activities to the night’s final drug shipment.
9 a.m. – “My mornings start later than usual”
Katarina Kuikko, 23, had her daily routines reshuffled by a summer job working evening shifts at Tamro’s distribution warehouse in Tampere. With her medical studies on a summer break, her mornings are now free while the evenings are spent filling drug orders.
– My daily routine has turned upside down. In the mornings, I visit museums and art galleries, learn to play the guitar and take walks in nature. My evenings are spent working. I go to bed and wake up a few hours later than usual in order to get proper rest between my shifts, says Kuikko
2.30 to 3.30 p.m. – “The evening shift has a flexible start time of give or take 15 minutes”
Katarina works 38 hours a week, and her shifts start at different times between 2.30 and 3.30 p.m. She takes the bus for the six kilometres between her home and the workplace.
Employees must bring in their own snacks, and Katarina starts her shift by taking them to the kitchen. After this, she changes to protective footwear that all employees must wear.
– Otherwise, the dress code is free. The only condition is to wear something comfortable. Temperature-wise, a T-shirt is fine. Depending on how noisy the workstation is, I sometimes wear earplugs. Otherwise, we can listen to music at our workstations.
We clock in and out at the start and end of each shift with a photo ID card. The info board next to the time clock shows rosters and workstations for the day
– Our shifts have a sliding schedule of 15 minutes, which means that by arriving early, you can use the time to leave home earlier on another day. I also have the option to request shifts at a certain workstation if I want to learn or try out something new.
4.30 p.m. – “More routine, less uncertainty”
For several weeks, Katarina has worked at the Pemat collection machine, which picks the products for drug orders from the shelves automatically. Her work has become more routine with experience, and the uncertainty she felt the first few days on the job is long gone.
– The Pemat machine has a short and long side. The short side has more drugs and on two levels, while the long side contains the same type of drug across the length of the machine. First, I check how full my side of the machine is and whether it can be filled with new drugs. If I’ve had time the previous night to fill the machine up to the highest level, I start readying open packaging boxes for the orders or take cardboard waste out to the trash compactor, Kuikko says.
The most challenging aspect of the work is handling the drugs itself, as the products may not be damaged and drugs with factory defects must be filtered out.
– Some drugs have a seal tape that holds the package’s flap in place and sometimes, two packages have become stuck together. The packages can also be crumpled up or glued together in an unusual way. All such products must be taken to a separate shelf and not used for orders.
Products with a bach tracker contain a batch number that is used to closely track individual and new batches of drugs. Depending on the workstation, these may be handled in a few different ways.
– At the manual pallet unit, batch changes are marked easily with the Bütema handheld terminal, but with the Pemat collection machine, new batches cannot be filled in the machine before the old batch has been used. That’s why the batch change and details of the new batch must be entered separately on the computer.
7 p.m. – “Chats over a meal break”
The workday includes two coffee breaks and a half-hour meal break that employees can take freely, depending on the workstation.
– Some stations at the manual pallet unit have carefully timed breaks. At the Pemat collection machine, you can take breaks at any time as long as all employees don’t go on break at the same time.
The warehouse does not have a cafeteria, and employees must bring in their own lunch. Katarina doesn’t mind as she likes to cook and try out new dishes.
– I get bored easily if I have to eat the same food many days in a row. Today, I brought a macaroni casserole since I wanted something fast and easy, says Kuikko
Breaks are also an opportunity to meet coworkers and chat with other summer employees.
– The best part of the job are the great coworkers! Going in to work is always pleasant, and the days pass by like a breeze.
10.45 to 12 p.m. – “Taking the taxi home after a later shift”
On some nights, production is wrapped up early while at other times, Katarina has her hands full until the last minute.
– Mondays are the longest because of the sheer number of orders to go through. The shift ends at midnight and not a minute early. As the weekend approaches, the nights get shorter and on Friday, we finish as early as 10.45 p.m.
If production ends early, Katarina has time to tidy up her station, take cardboard waste to the trash compactor and sort out the station for the next day.
– At the Pemat station, for example, we often turn the cardboard boxes on the shelves on their sides so they are more easily on hand. At the end of the day, they must be turned back upright so that new drugs can be filled on the shelf from the other side the next day, says Kuikko.
The short commute is particularly pleasant on the way back home. On Mondays and Tuesdays, employees get home by a taxi ride arranged by the company as buses no longer run late at night. Taxi rides to the city centre are also offered on Wednesdays and Thursdays, but employees need to pay 2 euros out of pocket as buses also run on these nights.
– I get home late and head straight to bed after my evening routines.
First-year medical school student at the University of Tampere
First summer working at Tamro’s warehouse in Tampere
Values: “In my work, I am responsible for handling drugs and removing products with factory defects. In addition to the challenge, the best part of the work are great coworkers! The days pass by like a breeze.”