Automated guided vehicle systems (AGV)

AGV face special challenges for use in the health care industry. The ability to meet hygiene and technical requirements combined with a compact and durable design are critical factors for this use.

In spite of personnel shortages in hospitals and clinics, more goods can be transported in the future without major effort.

The importance of transporting internal goods in hospitals and clinics as well as in the pharmaceutical industry and similar user industries has long been undervalued. Yet, a task that still requires a lot of manpower today could be undertaken by intelligent automation solutions tomorrow. Besides the classic electric monorail conveyors found in some hospitals and clinics, automated guided vehicle systems (AGVS) are also being used.

New vehicles for internal goods transport

According to Bachelor of Engineering Andreas Neubert, Sales Engineer at Bleichert Automation GmbH & Co. KG", "The crux of the matter is that the investment costs of AGVS technology, including the building modifications, are often enormous." The medium-sized manufacturer of special-purpose machinery has developed new vehicles that have been specially optimized to the requirements of hospitals and clinics. By eliminating magnetic navigation, and thus contact conductor bars and induction lines, the investment needed for the healthcare sector is reduced significantly. But the biggest advantage is that Siemens, as the general contractor, is engineering what is effectively a turnkey internal goods transport system.

 

Dipl.-Ing. (BA) Steffen Watzal, Director of Mechanical Design at Bleichert, explains: "The cooperation between our flexible medium-sized enterprise and the large global corporation lays the ideal foundation for sustainable and future-proof rationalization projects in the healthcare industry."

"Sirius Act" pushbuttons and indicator lights for the most stringent hygiene requirements

Even if the AGVS vehicles of Siemens/Bleichert – Siemens Autonomous Transportation or "Siatrans" for short – have a similar external appearance to those of other manufacturers found in many places, the professional eye sees important differences in the details. Immediately obvious are the Sirius Act pushbuttons and indicator lights from Siemens that are available in IP69K degree of protection and thus meet the existing requirement for IP67 degree of protection. Andreas Neubert stresses: "That is very important because healthcare facilities also have stringent hygiene requirements."

 

The modern pushbuttons and indicator lights are technically and visually state-of-the-art and reveal their special properties in the details. For example, the developer has ensured an especially high luminous intensity of the indicator lights, allowing them to be seen from afar, even in long hospital corridors. Steffen Watzal: "This enables clinic personnel as well as technicians to recognize important status messages on the vehicles from a distance."

Andreas Neubert adds: "Users place a high value on optics, haptics and ergonomics, which Sirius Act delivers in all respects." Through corresponding certifications, the pushbuttons and indicator lights are also approved for use in food technology of the hygiene-focused food and beverage industry, which underscores their suitability for the healthcare sector. For the SIRIUS ACT key-operated switches with IP69K degree of protection installed in the AGVS vehicles, there are even special protective caps for preventing accumulation of dust, liquids or foodstuff residues. Steffen Watzal explains: "While the task involved driving the AGVS units in non-clean spaces, such as in typical connecting tunnels in the cellar, it is just as easy to imagine them supplying goods to nursing stations."

Compact technology ensures rationalization in goods transport

A lot of technology in a small footprint – a simplified way of characterizing the new automatic transport units for internal goods transport. They enable safe shutdown of drive components as well as autonomous navigation without additional infrastructure. Thanks to the proven industrial hardware and software, the Bleichert AGVS meets the high technical and hygiene requirements in the healthcare industry.

 

The overall design is extremely compact so that the FTS vehicles can pick up and transport items such as food containers, laundry containers, sterile goods containers and even containers for medical supplies without additional small carriers. Andreas Neubert is enthusiastic: "The combination of a width of 600 mm, underclearance of 280 mm, lift height of 70 mm and load carrying capacity of up to 500 kg is better than anything I have seen before."

Last but not least, thanks to the Siemens "Sirius Act" pushbuttons and indicator lights with high IP69K degree of protection, the entire system is so robust that it can be cleaned manually – and possibly even by machine in the future. For Andreas Neubert and Steffen Watzal, it is simply a matter of supply and demand: "As a medium-sized enterprise with short decision-making paths, we are able to quickly and flexibly respond to the exact requirements of hospitals and clinics as well as the pharmaceutical industry."

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