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The Industry Update -Manufacturing Magazine - Trolleys roll out, reducing risks for ICU patients

Sydney-based custom fabricator All Metal Products’ has a new winner among its many specialisations, which it aims to sell to intensive care units around Australia — and perhaps beyond.

The intensive care trolley or ‘tower’ is designed so that a patient can stay connected to critical life support, medicines and monitoring equipment when they are moved around a hospital. This trolley not only removes risk of errors in disconnection and reconnection, it saves nurses about 40 minutes on each move, each way.

Risk management was the project’s first priority but the time factor weighs also heavily on increasingly busy hospitals.

“The time-saving benefit is vital, too, because of availability of staff. If it takes 40 minutes each time a patient is disconnected and again when reconnected and the hospital moves even just 10 patients each day, then that is a lot of staff time.”

This clever ICU tower or trolley hooks onto an attachment on the patient’s bed and then staff only have to move the bed around the hospital. It’s not the first bespoke trolley but it is so much more compact and far lighter than previous attempts that it’s much more manoeuverable.

“The design challenges included connections to the many different designs of hospital beds, and also steady movement along ramps because the gradient might cause a trolley to topple,” said Grant Forsdick, CEO of All Metal Products.

“This trolley is wider at the bottom which helps balance things safely.”

“In the prototyping stages, we worked out exact spacings to maximise equipment that can be attached so there is a location on the trolley for an internal power board. But all fit-outs and equipment are done by hospital engineering departments,” says Forsdick.

The ICU trolley was developed over the past two years in collaboration with UNSW industrial designers and Prince of Wales (POW) intensive care unit managers and clinical engineers. Now 27 of All Metal Products trolleys have been rolled out to POW in Randwick, Sydney, which has put in an order for another 18 for its new acute services building.

There are another 2,200 ICU beds around Australia and All Metal Products aims to sell a tower for each bed.

“It’s a huge market opportunity and it’s our responsibility to market to all those different hospitals, which we are starting now,” says Forsdick.

As well as ancillary medical equipment, this 61-year-old firm designs and makes materials handling, lighting and electrical equipment, dust filtration cages, catering items, POS and shop-fitting equipment.

All Metal Products has had an ongoing relationship with NSW Health for decades and over the years has made many products for hospitals including linen trolleys, transport chairs, waste trolleys, blood bag units and many more products. UNSW and POW teams worked out what needed to be fitted in the unit and how it needed to be accommodated.

“Manufacturing is most competitive where it’s making complex items in small batches and achieves quick response times for customers.”

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, the firm had a surge in orders from the medical and health industries in products such as sneeze screens, trolleys, hand sanitiser stands and even temporary hospital beds. Demand generated by Covid and possibility of needs across 2,200 ICU beds also sparked the collaboration on this product.

The trolleys are being made in All Metal Products’ 9,000 square-metre factory in St Marys where the company also produces powder-coated, chrome-plated display, shelving and POS equipment, computerised ticketing kiosks, food industry items such as oven racks, roof-racks and other 4WD accessories, sheet metal and wire products, filter cages for industrial exhaust systems, and CPU racks.

If orders rush in again, All Metal Products is happy to scale up.

“We would love the challenge of scaling up,” says Forsdick, “We’ll get this in front of everyone [managing] ICUs. But I don’t think it’s the kind of product that’s going to sell 1,000 per month because hospitals can only replace within their budget.”

“We are making smaller batches at the moment for orders of a dozen at a time — which is easy to make — but I relish the challenge of making more,” says Forsdick.

“Australian manufacturing is most competitive where it’s making complex items in small batches and achieves quick response times for customers. That’s certainly in catering and medical where we do a lot of business.”

“This was our first project with UNSW but hopefully not our last,” says Forsdick.

All Metal Products manufactures ‘just about anything made from metal’ and works in partnership with customers from requirements to design, prototype, value-adding and making engineering improvements to reduce manufacturing costs through to finished product.

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