Analysing the economic efficiency of transport robots
Fraunhofer IPA has developed a new, flexible transportation robot that specifically addresses the needs of healthcare facilities such as hospitals and nursery homes. A research team from the Fraunhofer Center for International Management and Knowledge Economics IMW headed by Dr. Marija Radic examined the economic viability of the robot based on a life cycle cost analysis.
Transport and logistics tasks are part of everyday working life in healthcare facilities. However, they take up valuable staff time that is not available for care activities. Even though driverless transportation vehicles are already being used in many large hospitals, they can only operate in separate supply wings. In addition, some service robots have been introduced, which move about between people and so can help with transportation on a hospital or nursing home ward. However, the larger of these robots, which are used to carry containers, often have difficulties in safely and reliably reaching their destinations through narrow hospital corridors. Using smaller robots can help but to a limited extent, as they can only transport a few individual items.
Within the “MobDi – Mobile Disinfection” project funded by the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft, Fraunhofer IPA scientist Theo Jacobs developed a new transportation robot which is set to bridge this gap. Built as an underride tractor, the robot with its chassis is able to drive under various care carts and containers, lift these up and independently transport them to the patients’ or residents’ rooms in which they are needed.
A research team from the Fraunhofer Center for International Management and Knowledge Economics IMW headed by Dr. Marija Radic examined the economic viability of the robot based on a life cycle cost analysis. This includes all costs based on the measured and future achievable performance data and the cost of the robot from purchase to disposal. As a comparative value, the costs of housekeeping staff who only carry out the above transport duties were used. That staff currently spends several working hours every day carrying dirty laundry from all wards to a storage area in the cellar and then distributing the fresh laundry to the wards.
Dr. Marija Radic, Head of Department at Fraunhofer IMW, explains: “If the robot fully takes on transportation of dirty and fresh laundry, it can be used in a cost-effective manner with a depreciation period of three years. It becomes even more cost-effective when it takes on additional transportation services.” In this scenario, the robot works around the clock, including charging.
Over the coming months, the newly developed transportation robot is set to be tested in care facilities and, using the knowledge acquired there, the technology will be further developed and optimized accordingly. Parallel to this, discussions will be held with potential manufacturers and sales partners who wish to further develop and sell the robot as a series product in the future.