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Mobile robot distributes equipment to departments at University Hospital

BETTER SERVICE AND HEALTHIER WORK ENVIRONMENT WITH AUTOMATED LOGISTICS IN HOSPITAL

Internal transport at the University Hospital of Zealand has been automated with mobile robots from Mobile Industrial Robots. The implementation is also part of the realization of flexible and automated logistics at the upcoming super hospital of 190,000 square meters.

Since June 2018, a MiR100 robot has automated internal transport of sterile disposable equipment in the hospital. The new technology improves service, minimizes storage space and saves steps. The robot travels more than 10 kilometers per week.

“I’m really surprised at how quickly both staff and patients have gotten used to Optimus. They refer to the robot as a colleague, and in a few weeks ‘he’ has become ‘part of the inventory’. This is a sign of the way that we humans are rapidly adopting new technology as a natural part of our everyday lives. With MiR’s technology, we release service assistants from logistics tasks to “warmer tasks” such as patient care. We have already reaped astonishingly great benefits by introducing this driverless technology”, says Johnny Hansen, chief operating officer of Zealand University Hospital.

Before Optimus came to Køge, the service assistants had to provide weekly deliveries of equipment to the departments. The manual work process involved heavy lifting and demanding twists of the body. Now the robot drives out daily with equipment and ensures that the departments do not run out of equipment.

“Heavy, one-sided and repetitive work must be solved with technological solutions. That is why I am pleased that our collaboration with MiR and Flextek has shown that, in fact, we can create great benefits by automating physically exhausting transport”, says Johnny Hansen.

Hansen explains that robot technology changes the way tasks are carried out, requiring job descriptions to be reorganized and redefined in order to get the most value. “This changes the way we work,” he says. “We have all the reasons to believe that we started a positive automation wave. We have freed up both the human resources that were deployed for transportation and expensive square meters used as depots. At the same time, we can improve the entire flow and minimize waiting times thanks to more frequent and targeted deliveries.”

One robot and 10 carts

Flextek, a Danish distributor of Mobile Industrial Robots, was responsible for the technical implementation of the hospital’s first mobile robot. This consists of four parts:

  • At the base is the MiR100robot, with a lift capacity of 100 kg.
  • A top module by the accessory manufacturer ROEQ is installed on the robot’s load surface.
  • A wheeled cart clicks onto the top module when the robot autonomously drives underneath the cart.
  • A cabinet is mounted on top of the cart, which is sealed by the sterilization center.

At the sterilization center, the staff packs disposable equipment and sterile tools into the cart-top cabinets. The mobile robot then runs between the sterilization center and ten different stops in the hospital. Service assistants in the different departments empty the carts.

The hospital staff has seen the possibilities of the mobile robot and has continuously provided useful inputs for a smooth and safe implementation. For example, Optimus has been programmed to politely warn patients and staff that it is getting closer before it silently drives through automatic doors or out of the elevator. Signs have also been mounted on its front, which indicate the robot’s current destinations to the people around it.

The experience with the first mobile robot from MiR has actually given the hospital more ideas for automation of other transport tasks in the facility. One of the scenarios envisioned by Zealand University Hospital is the transport of customized equipment packages for every planned operation. This will have tremendous impact once the number of operating rooms is quadrupled. The pilot project has shown that the hospital can program operation plans into the MiR robot’s daily program and ensure deliveries of the right equipment at the right time. The automated delivery of medicines from hospital pharmacies and laboratories is another obvious task for mobile robots in a super hospital.

About Zealand University Hospital (Køge, Denmark):

The hospital is being expanded with 130,000 square meters to a super hospital and will become Region Zealand’s flagship with its 190,000 m2, which will gather the region’s medical expertise into efficient units. The hospital is expected to receive 400,000 outpatient visits and 90,000 hospitalizations per year.