It’s heavy, it’s noisy and it’s stressful. In sterile centres in hospitals all over the world, transport operations are still largely manual processes involving numerous heavy lifts and a lot of pushing. But it no longer needs to be this way. KEN HYGIENE SYSTEMS has developed a game-changing robot solution – AL10 – which literally takes the strain, reduces noise, and frees up time.
With a simple touch on their tablets, sterile centre staff can summon a robot with an empty washing rack and load it with unclean instruments. They can then send it on its way to a vacant disinfectant washer, where it places the rack in the washer. The disinfecting washer is automatically notified to start its wash cycle and once the instruments have been cleaned and disinfected, another robot arrives on the “clean” side, empties the washer and completes the operation by transporting the clean rack to a packing table. The robots automatically return to their charging station to load before they run dry.
“Using MiR robots as our basis, we succeeded in building up and patenting the first fully automated sterile centre in the world. As a result, we now lead this technological field globally. Other systems are much more static and take up a lot more space. Our AL10 solution is competitive on price, flexibility, and ergonomics. The transportation link doesn’t generate value in a hygiene process. However, it does provide the staff with a more ergonomic working environment and improved flow in their work processes, allowing them to concentrate on preparing the instruments while the robots fill and empty the washers,” explains John Veje, CEO of KEN HYGIENE SYSTEMS.
In the KEN development department, the engineers agree that the combination of MiR and KEN is an excellent match between two globally oriented technology pioneers from Denmark, with the emphasis on quality, design, and user-friendliness.
“MiR has been extremely attentive and open in its working relationship with us.. And we must not overlook the great input from the staff at the sterile centre at Viborg Hospital, Denmark. They were the first to use the new system and contributed all kinds of constructive comments and suggestions to the product development project. Quite simply, we sold our first AL10 solution on the promise that the end users would have direct influence on the design of the finished product. The staff at the sterile centre tested in practice what’s needed to ensure that automation actually optimizes their work processes and working environment,” says Søren Ravnsted-Larsen, Development Engineer at KEN HYGIENE SYSTEMS. He continues:
“Innovation and creativity have to do with using familiar solutions, combining them in new ways to make new products. We were inspired by MiR’s open platform and saw it as the ideal technology to use as the base for building up the AL10 solution. For our part, we developed a top module with a conveyor belt, as well as the software and user interface. The real advantage of the MiR robot is that it can navigate flexibly around dynamic settings where people are present, which means that we were able to produce a much less static automation solution than our competitors.”
Surprisingly fast commissioning
In the KEN HYGIENE SYSTEMS sales department, Brian Mølmer Pedersen, Director of Sales, has no doubt that AL10 has hit the bullseye, facing the challenges that meet hospitals all over the world. Just a year after the solution was launched, six hospitals in Europe had already adopted it, and the company is receiving a constant stream of enquiries from sterile centres in Asia, Europe, and North America.
“It’s extremely competitive because it’s a stand-alone product that customers can install remarkably quickly and easily. In fact, we ourselves were almost surprised at how easy it is to commission and start using the robot system. It takes less than a week to automate the transportation process in a sterile centre. We’ve just seen this in practice at a hospital in Hamburg, Germany, where the robots arrived on the Monday. We installed them, taught the day and night shifts how to use them, and the system was up and running smoothly on the Friday,” says John Tvingsholm, Development Engineer, of the project.
The KEN AL10 concept is set to be an authentic game-changer on the market, so the company has made sure to patent the technology.
“When we presented the concept for the first time as a prototype at the Medica expo in Düsseldorf in 2015 – the biggest hospital expo for medico-technical equipment in the world – we knew we had a winner. Never had we had so many customers and competitors visit our stand,” recalls Brian Mølmer Pedersen, Director of Sales.
In the medical sector and in laboratories, the staff often expend a lot of time and energy changing clothes when they have to switch between clean and sterile rooms. This is another area where the KEN AL10 robot solution helps optimize the process because robots do not need to change clothes, which makes it possible to establish uniform logistics.
The next step from the perspective of product development may be that KEN – in partnership with other parties – can also offer hospitals an automated system for collecting the unclean equipment from the wards. Similarly, it should be possible to create systems in which KEN’s larger machines and autoclaves work in conjunction with the MiR robots.
KEN HYGIENE SYSTEMS take their own robot medicine
KEN has also applied automation to the internal logistics of their own production facilities. Here, a MiR100 robot pushes carts of finished units from the welding department to the assembly department warehouse, and then returns with the empty cart.
“It was a good move for us to take our own ‘medicine’ and start automating our own logistics processes because it provides us with a better understanding of the logic in the technology.
MiR’s robots are ideal for use in the ever-changing environment of our production department because the robots are much more autonomous than competing solutions. They move securely and flexibly around our facilities. Space is limited in the busy and dynamic setting, where a total of 200 people work in different buildings. We are planning to bring in more carts and more MiR robots to optimize even further,” concludes Peter Eskelund Madsen, COO, Supply Chain Director at KEN Hygiene Systems.