Comfort & Care is a small company of 9 employees specialising in the design, manufacture and marketing of a range of dependant care Hospital type beds which are supplied to both the private and public Health Care sectors in the UK.
The existing beds may be adjusted to allow the patients position to be adjusted to meet medical requirements, reduce manual handling of the patient to a minimum, or to improve the comfort and dignity of the person under care. As a patients position must sometimes be changed every 30 minutes the workload on nurses to assist where traditional beds are used can be significant. The current product uses electric motor actuators, and a patented gravity assisted articulating space frame system to meet particular requirements for a wide range of Patient Care beds.
The objective of the application experiment is to integrate an embedded microcontroller device to control the Nightingale Care bed system to prevent pressure sore formation. However, in order that this capability can be fully exploited the microcontroller must provide the following features:
- The selection of appropriate control procedures for the movement of the beds sections over time using microcontroller based algorithms.
- Providing positional control and monitoring functions for the movable bed sections.
- The monitoring of motor drive current levels to ensure the safety of the system in the event of the obstruction of the moving bed sections and other hazards.
- Operator interfacing, including the provision of interfaces for the control keypad and the units display.
- Battery back up operation in the case of power failure.
Comfort and Care developed the prototype control unit in eight months from the start date of the 1st. October 1997. The total budget for the development was 39.2 KECU; this included 185 person days of company effort.
The improved product will significantly improve patient care, reduce the incidence of pressure sore formation, and reduce nursing staff workload. These advantages associated with the improved beds use will create very strong competitive advantages for the product. The resultant increase in sales is expected to produce a payment period for the application experiment of 2 years, and a total return on investment of 148 % over the product life of 3 years. The relatively long period for the payback period is due to the fact that in the first year only a modest growth rate will be achieved as the majority of customer hospitals will buy a few units only for trials and acceptance approval. The company anticipates the employment of an electronic engineer in the future to assist in the management of this sales growth.
The companys experiences in defining a management strategy to overcome some unanticipated supplier problems and in allocating time to the development activity in these circumstances will offer valuable insights on best practice management approaches. The information provided in this demonstrator document is therefore, expected to be of interest to the Technical and Managing Directors of small companies involved in the manufacture of fabricated metal products, furniture and medical equipment.