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The healthcare industry is under constant financial pressure to find new solutions that can improve working environment and the quality of patient care. That is why Aethon in a RoBi-X partnership with Blue Ocean Robotics introduced the autonomous delivery robot, TUG, to the European healthcare industry. The robot transports scheduled and on-demand hospital deliveries saving the staff’s time that they can now devote to their patients.
The need for automation in healthcare
The hospitals’ workflow requires a lot of deliveries – from supplying medicines, linens, meals, surgical equipment, lab specimens to picking up laundry, dishes, and waste. The hospital facilities are often large buildings and this means that the hospital staff needs to spend a lot of time and energy on the deliveries, instead of spending it on patient care. The problem called for an affordable and safe solution. Aethon has invented an automated robotics solution that is capable of making scheduled and on-demand deliveries and navigating safely in the busy hospital environment.
The TUG robots is designed to transport deliveries between all ancillary, support and patient care units, enabling staff to focus their time on patient care rather than deliveries. TUG moves independently around the hospital, it uses wifi connection, can be programmed with building’s plan and architecture and doesn’t require any additional infrastructure. It navigates safely among hospital staff and patients and thanks to fingerprint security system, it is also a safe way to transport drugs and lab specimens. The TUG robot is a complete solution with 24/7 support service. The support team monitors TUGs around the world and is able to take manual control of it if needed. This ensures maximum security and efficiency of the robot.
Aethon’s TUG solution gained wide recognition in the USA and so the company wanted to enter the European market. That is why in 2013 the company entered the RoBi-X Partnership with Blue Ocean Robotics. The partnership aimed at bringing TUG autonomous mobile robot to the market, and thus started in the RoBi-GoToMarket phase.
Entering the European market
In the RoBi-GoToMarket phase, Blue Ocean Robotics provided the knowledge of the European market and a network of sales partners. Aethon provided an extensive two weeks training for Blue Ocean Robotics engineers in Aethon’s headquarters in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. This resulted in the first sale of TUG – the Hospital of Southern Jutland (Sygehus Sønderjylland) in Aabenraa ordered the first TUG and started the pilot project in the close cooperation with Blue Ocean Robotics.
The hospital wanted to fully explore the robot’s potential and verify its efficiency, as well as check the hospital staff reaction to the new robotics solution. The pilot project gave very positive results and the Hospital of Southern Jutland has ordered additional 4 robots. Now the 5 TUGs have 12 to 15 active destinations around the hospital with the tasks focused mostly on transporting linens and picking up dirty dishes after the meals. That is why the peak of the TUGs usage is at 10 am, 13 am and 20 pm – after the three main meals served to the patients. Each TUG used at the Hospital of Southern Jutland covers the distance of around 8 km a day, which means the robots make approximately 14.000 km per year. That is the distance that the staff does not have to cover anymore thanks to the robotization of the delivery process.
The TUG is also used in the hospital in Seinäjoki, Finland.In 2016 the hospital implemented three TUGs and expanded to five robots in Spring 2017. The hospital plans to implement another 2 robots in 2018. The sales to the Finnish hospital was possible thanks to the Blue Ocean Robotics’ wide sales partners network.
Conquering the market with RoBi-ScaleUp
After the first sales, the RoBi-X Partnership is entering the RoBi-ScaleUp phase focusing on expanding the TUGs global presence. So far the TUG robots are used mostly in the healthcare industry, but the Aethon recently introduced a new version of TUG dedicated to the manufacturing industry and this means new business opportunities on the European market.
As of the beginning of 2018, Blue Ocean Robotics launched the company, Globe Robots, that will include a special sales team dedicated to TUG sales growth. The team will also include technicians and customer service and support staff. Through RoBi-ScaleUp phase, Blue Ocean Robotics creates the market for the autonomous delivery robot and continues to utilize its global potential. The RoBi-X Partnership is dedicated to every company seeking to optimize their business, improve their competitiveness and grow their global potential.
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