Aethon: Automating Internal Logistics through Robotics

Aldo Zini, President & CEO
Robotics is revolutionizing the material handling and internal logistics of a variety of industries. In healthcare, for example, robots are being used for a wide range of applications including drug delivery, meal delivery, and moving inventory to nursing units. In manufacturing environments, they can be used to replenish supplies to manufacturing lines, or move finished goods to the warehouse. Organizations are recognizing the tasks associated with internal logistics are draining their organizational productivity and employee satisfaction.

Headquartered in Pittsburgh, PA, “Aethon was founded with a goal to develop an affordable, safe, and reliable autonomous mobile robot to automate all the delivery functions within an organization,” says Aldo Zini, President and CEO, Aethon. Though many universities and research groups attempted to develop autonomous robots in the past, Aethon was able to not only build but commercialize the product. “Technologically the company was little ahead of its time, for instance instead of using expensive laser scanner, we used a combination of sensors and motors,” he adds. From the business perspective, the company first targeted the logistics problem in hospitals by working with the clinicians, nurses and pharmacists. “It took a few years for the company to get the technology solid but thereafter Aethon grew over years through disrupting robotic innovations,” says Zini.

Aethon’s flagship product, TUG, is a versatile autonomous mobile robot used to transport materials. “TUGs use existing carts with their bases modified to fit onto the TUGs exchange platform. For example, carts in the hospital are used to deliver meals, clean linen, waste, and soiled linen– up to 1000 lbs. In addition, secured carts are available to deliver medications, specimens or other sensitive supplies,” says Zini. These secured carts even have secured biometric access. In other industries, large carts carrying components can be easily retrofit to be compatible with the TUG’s base.

Aethon has discovered that their success is as much about the enabling technology they have developed as it has been about the robot itself. Yes, the TUG can work in places where there are unexpected obstacles to navigate around, yet still stay on task.
But, the ability to control elevators, respond to safety alarms, open doors, and provide a continuous connection to a command support center were all innovations necessary for success. With the command center, all robots installed at customers can be remotely controlled from a central command center over a secure internet connection. This allows Aethon to resolve 97 percent of all support incidents with no customer interaction.

They stay close to their hospital customers but are moving into new markets such as manufacturing and distribution companies. Keeping ears open to the customers and market demand has helped Aethon reach its current leadership position. “At Aethon, we foster creative and entrepreneurial environment with freedom, which acts as the driving force behind making robots viable, cost effective and reliable,” says Zini.


TUG is designed to automate the repetitive and non-value added delivery and transportation tasks making employees more productive and allowing them to focus on more meaningful tasks


In its ten years of existence, Aethon has the experience of deploying more than 450 autonomous mobile robots in 140 hospitals throughout the U.S. “Nothing speaks louder than happy customers, and we are able to deliver solutions according to customer’s expectations,” claims Zini. “Further, a catalogue of good partners and investors like Bosch and Mitsui, adds credibility and stability to Aethon,” he adds.

The company is making way to move its robots to industries like manufacturing and warehousing. “In coming years, we would like to partner with companies with similar vision to automate delivery, tracking and logistics functions through robotics,” concludes Zini.

Company
Aethon

Headquarters
Pittsburgh, PA,

Management
Aldo Zini, President & CEO

Description
Aethon manages internal logistics using an autonomous mobile robot to deliver and transport materials through a variety of organizations including hospitals, manufacturing environments and distribution environments.