Robots dispense global success for NewIcon
Robots can fly planes and drive cars. Thanks to the innovations of one Finnish startup they can also help you get the right medicine.
It is the robot’s time to shine. The hospital pharmacy has received a delivery of medications. The staff is busy, but no one needs to take the time to put the drugs in their places. Instead, the robot does it.
A small conveyer belt carries boxes of medicines up to a white robot arm, which takes each box, identifies it and sends it to the correct storage slot.
“Our solutions make customer processes more efficient and streamlined, and that gives financial benefits,” says Jori-Matti Savolainen, marketing director of the Finnish firm NewIcon. “Our products also ease employee’s work by doing repetitive tasks.”
At the other end of the pharmacy a pharmacist types in a new prescription. In the room behind her another robot arm whirs into action. It gently picks up a box of medicine with suction cups and drops it into a slot. The pharmacist simply reaches back and picks up the medicine.
“The most important benefit is the fact that by using our products customers can increase patient safety by minimising medicine errors,” Savolainen explains.
Bright international future
Founded in 2007, the Kuopio-based NewIcon is a pioneer in automated medical solutions. It creates sorting robots, automated storage systems for medications and robots for intravenous antibiotic compounding, as well as software to run all the equipment.
As health care providers continually search for increased safety and efficiency NewIcon sees a huge global potential for their business. Investors agree: in November 2014 Finnish Industry Investment and the pension company Etera invested 2.3 million euros into the company. The company is using that capital to further development of their products and to build an international sales network.
“Our international expansion journey has just begun,” continues Savolainen. “We have started export sales in Russia and we have built distribution networks in nine countries. At the moment we are looking forward to openings in the Middle East, the UK, Scandinavia and China.”
Savolainen credits the trust from investors and public groups like Tekes as one of the keys to their success. He also says there are other benefits of being based in Finland.
“We have here a great source of high technology and innovation expertise. We also have customers here who appreciate organisations who are dedicated to solving their problems.”
The Finnish domestic health care industry already knows NewIcon well and their storage automation systems are widely used and trusted. Back in the hospital pharmacy the pharmacist checks the box of medicine which the robot gave her. It’s correct; there will be no dispensing errors.
Improving safety and reliability is one of the prime concerns of medical professionals. A study published in Frontier Economics found medication errors cost the UK up to 3.5 billion euros annually.
“The automation for medical care is in a transition phase,” Savolainen concludes. “Pioneer customers are using new technology and behind them are many followers waiting for their feedback. The benefits and advantages can be seen easily and the future for medical automation seems really bright.”
Text: David J. Cord