Automatic for the people

Bringing Digital to Life 11 June 2018 Michael Gustavsson

The automation of hospital logistics is helping healthcare providers spend more time with patients.

Expert columns
4 mins

Modern hospitals operate 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Behind the scenes, logistics play a vital role in keeping things running smoothly and efficiently, and this process is increasingly becoming automated. 

This is in response to changes in lifestyles and demographics which are putting pressure on healthcare facilities as never before. 

“Improving the quality of – and access to – healthcare, while controlling costs as populations age and grow is a major challenge for the healthcare sector,” says Michael Gustavsson, Global Division Director of Hospitals at Ramboll. “Automation of internal hospital logistics is a way for hospitals to reduce costs, secure documentation and spend less time on non-care related tasks.”

Hospitals should be seen as an eco-system where food is brought in and waste thrown out, while beds, medical instruments and thousands of other things are constantly moved around. The more this is automated, the more time healthcare staff can spend with patients. 

Freeing up resources 

Ramboll has recently acquired German company MMG, which has long specialised in implementing healthcare logistics, in particular automated guided vehicles (AGVs). 

AGV technology can be tailored to work in existing healthcare facilities but is particularly useful if factored in during the initial design of new hospitals as the technology has an impact on the overall design and blueprint of the building. 

Denmark is investing significantly in new hospitals and in Aalborg, where Ramboll has been involved in building the new University Hospital, the automation of logistics has been an integral part of the design process. 

“It is expected that new hospitals should offer better and more effective treatment at lower costs than older buildings,” says Heine Overby, Head of Department at the New Aalborg University Hospital. 

“AGVs are among the technologies that can help make our processes more effective. They can transport goods such as linen, food, medicine and empty beds and deliver them to each department as they need them,” he says.

 

Written by Andrew Somerville and Michael Rothenborg

 

 

Easy work - AGV facts

Automatic guided vehicles travel along the floor of facility on designated paths. They are directed by a combination of software and sensor-based guidance systems. They travel along a predictable path with precise acceleration and deceleration and are able to detect any obstacles, making them perfect for the safe movement of loads.

The AGVs navigate using guidance technologies such as magnetic tape or bars mounted on the floor, lasers, and optical sensors. This makes it easy to alter the routes they travel and expand the AGV system in response to facility changes or demand.

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