Usually, when hospital leaders think of “supply chain”, visions of procurement, inventory management, asset management, contracting and ERP systems come to mind.  These processes are typically managed by a central department and have predictable controls.  However, there’s an entirely new discipline emerging in the supply chain realm for the management of a hospital’s internal logistics – or intralogistics.

Cause of Operational Breakdowns

Operational executives are quickly realizing internal processes are affecting their overall efficiency and the effectiveness of caregivers.  The chart below summarizes the findings in a recent Harvard Business Review article.  Notice that ineffective “internal logistics and process design” had the largest impact on nursing.  While you wouldn’t immediately think that logistics would have a negative impact on patient care, it clearly does! 

Cause of Operational Breakdowns in Nursing

Magnitude of Logistics Tasks

Part of the reason for these breakdowns is the sheer amount of materials that move in a hospital and the staff’s reliance on those materials.  Think of this as your internal supply chain.  Based on our experience in over 120 hospitals and after 19 million deliveries, we determined a typical “load” for an average 200-bed hospital.  The graphic below summarizes this load:MaterialsMovedInHospital

Hospital Construction Magnifies the Challenge

Now, let’s fast forward a bit.  What if you’re building a new hospital or expanding your facility?  The problem, literally, just got a lot bigger.  This growth complicates internal logistics.  Robots can be used to deliver materials and these helpers will navigate new and existing facilities alike to provide a seamless logistics solution.  An article recently written by Health Facilities Management highlighted UCSF’s large-scale building project and discussed Aethon’s TUG robots and how they were instrumental in managing logistics in the expanded facility.

Improve Efficiency Through Robotic Automation

We can help you get a handle on this internal supply chain.  Aethon’s TUG autonomous mobile robot moves materials to enable staff to better focus on higher-value tasks and provides nursing with an improved level of service that is predictable and reliable.

The benefits of automating the material flow are numerous.  The graphic below provides a summary of the benefits of automating material movement with TUG robots.

Benefits of Automating Maternai Movement

Consider Worker Safety

As a national statistic, hospitals are the #1 workplace for days-out due to injury or illness.  Worker safety related to internal logistics processes are sometimes overlooked, but they contribute to this statistic.  Moving 600lb carts – sometimes two at a time – can be a source of injury.  If robots do the work these injury rates and associated costs can be reduced.

Simulation & Optimization

Many hospitals are now using simulation techniques to plan and optimize workflow.  This is an excellent way to experiment with various logistics workflows to calculate an optimal flow in the confines of a computer model before making investments or changes.  We provide simulation services to hospitals that want to incorporate robots into the facility – we can simulate deliveries and material movement in the environment before TUG robots are purchased or before the facility is built.

See us at IDN Summit

We hope you will visit us during the upcoming IDN Summit meeting.  This is an excellent way to talk about your specific situation and get to know how this technology might benefit your organization.  You can visit us before the show at our website or send us an email at


Bill Keyes, VP Sales

AethonBill Keyes Aethon