Philips Engineering Solutions helps Philips Hospital Patient Monitoring accelerate shift to a circular economy
A circular economy is high priority at Philips. Philips aims to generate 25% of sales from circular products, services and solutions by 2025. To accelerate progress, Philips Hospital Patient Monitoring turned to Philips Engineering Solutions. Together with a multidisciplinary team they developed a circular economy roadmap, which has since become the blueprint for sustainability roadmaps in other Philips businesses.
“For a sustainable world, the transition from a linear to a circular economy is essential. A circular economy requires innovation in the areas of material, component and product reuse, as well as related business models. By using materials more effectively, economic growth will eventually be decoupled from the use of natural resources and ecosystems. In such an economy, the lower use of raw materials allows us to create more value.”
Frans van Houten, CEO at Philips
A huge shift in mindset and business focus
Sustainability and circular economy are an urgent priority for our society, but it’s not easy. It’s about re-thinking the entire production system. “It requires a significant investment and long-term commitment from everyone in the organization. This is a complex process that business divisions of Philips are tackling,” says Thijs Maartens, Consultant Circular Economy, Philips Engineering Solutions.
Philips Hospital Patient Monitoring has experienced that firsthand. This business develops a full portfolio of bedside and transport monitors, central stations and mobile applications that work together to identify and alert caregivers to critical events at the earliest possible stage. Philips Hospital Patient Monitoring asked Philips Engineering Solutions in 2020 to help them translate their circular economy ambition into a roadmap with clear milestones for getting there.
“It cannot be over emphasized how big this shift is. We’ve been doing things the linear way for years. Changing to a circular model makes it a different ball game,” says Dominique Pfeiffer, Program Manager for Sustainability in Monitoring Analytics at Philips, who is responsible for the roadmap. “We are now taking ownership for our products for their entire lifecycle, so we are more invested in them. The ideal is to think about everything that goes into our product, and how we can use each component to make a new product. And how we continue providing new features without throwing everything else away.”
The right partners and the right timing
“Philips Engineering Solutions is the linking pin that can bring together all of the knowledge inside and outside of Philips to help a product group develop a roadmap and implement key elements of it to have a more circular future,” says Maartens. “For this project, we collaborated closely with the Philips Hospital Patient Monitoring team, as well as specialists from different part of Philips: Group Sustainability, Experience Design and experts from different departments of Philips Engineering Solutions. This is a great example of collaboration in our Innovation and Strategy organization.”
The right partners and the right timing
“Waste and pollution are not accidents, but the consequences of decisions made at the design stage, where around 80% of environmental impacts are determined.”
Source: Ellen MacArthur Foundation
Setting out a circular economy roadmap
A circular economy roadmap serves as the long-term sustainability strategy of a business. It is intended to provide focus and direction for decision making. Philips Engineering Solutions led the Philips Hospital Patient Monitoring project team through a four-step process to develop the circular economy roadmap:
- Set up a governance structure
- Identify the opportunities
- Prioritize the opportunities
- Sign off roadmap and assign ownership, budget and capacity
“With a project like this, you have to make sure the right stakeholders are involved because you are looking at very complex challenges. You can actually never be inclusive enough, because the person or group that is not in the room can become the bottleneck later on,” says Maartens.
Meeting circular design criteria
“Philips Engineering Solutions began by helping the team look at what we were already doing or planning to do to see how we could close the gaps or accelerate these initiatives. This played a major role in the success of the project. Based on the requirements, we looked at where do we stand and what does it take to close the gap,” says Pfeiffer. “We discovered we were already doing a lot of things right and had a lot of things in place to move forward. That’s because our products are very durable, so we naturally get them back and keep them running.”
Pfeiffer: “When looking at circular ready requirements, for example, you want devices to run as long as possible and maybe be able to intervene before they break. That’s actually what we do with our PerformanceBridge Focal Point software. It aggregates, processes, stores, and presents inventory, statistical, and alert information for Philips Hospital patient monitoring devices, applications, and network equipment to help support increased uptime.”
Another aspect is design for durability according to Pfeiffer. “We were already taking in all the complaints as part of our repair process. But why not look at the most common failures and pin them to the parts causing those failures. By doing that, we noticed that if we make those critical parts more durable, there is less repair, less waste and less impact on the environment.”
“The best savings is the part you don’t need to build anymore and that happens when you go from analog to digital. On our obstetrics monitor, the entire labor process is currently recorded on paper, but the obstetrics’ team wants to offer a paperless option that records it in a PDF.”
Philips Hospital Patient Monitoring had tried to use recycled plastic in the patients monitors before, but failed to find suitable materials because of the strong disinfectants needed to clean patient monitors. Pfeiffer: “By now it is becoming more and more feasible to recycle plastic all the way back to oil, so the plastic that comes out of is of virgin quality. We are now testing that out with a potential supplier to use that in our housing. This project made us challenge our assumptions and take a new look at this area.”
Saving people’s lives and saving the planet
Pfeiffer: “That is the difficulty with circularity, it is so cheap to build new that it’s a struggle to make a viable business case. This time with the circular economy approach, we are making it work. That’s because we’re not just looking at the economic story, but also at the societal impact. We are running out of resources. We feel it.”
“We have a super hero job. Not only did we sign up to save people’s lives, now we are also saving the planet. I’m proud of working for a company that’s making strong commitments and then following through on them,” says Pfeiffer.
Maartens: “What’s really special about my work is that it’s an engaging topic. People are very motivated and committed to working on it, and it’s a privilege to lead these sorts of exciting projects.”
This project far exceeded its initial goal of creating a roadmap and starting three pilot projects. “We have identified 12 pilot projects and most of them have already begun. Philips Engineering Solutions supported us in several of the pilots, especially in setting up our Hospital Patient Monitoring take back program with AllParts Medical in the U.S.,” says Pfeiffer. “We are ready to sign a service level agreement to have AllParts Medical do parts harvesting and will start a pilot for refurbishment this year.”
The timing was right for this program according to AllParts Medical, which was acquired by Philips in 2011. They take back medical equipment from hospitals in the U.S. and provide responsible repurposing of parts and recyclable materials. “Hospitals have changed their focus. They want to know that the equipment they return is being disposed of in a more responsible way,” says Richard Gerler, Director of Operations, AllParts Medical. “They are reducing their waste and their total eco footprint across their enterprise. Their environmental strategy greatly affects their image in the community.”
“Another key project is Enterprise Monitoring as a Service (EMaaS). That’s a natural result of circular economy thinking and can have a huge impact. We have made a big commitment to develop and roll out such a service in the near future,” says Pfeiffer.
Maartens: “We help the businesses structure the pilots for these initiatives and find local partners to support the programs. Our role is to advise the businesses strategically, as well as guide them through the implementation, so they can stay focused on their core activities, while still moving to a circular economy.”
A huge ripple effect
“Based on our success with Philips Hospital Patient Monitoring, our approach is now being used as the blueprint for developing circular economy roadmaps for other Philips businesses. We are currently working on developing standardized sustainability roadmap methodologies together with our partners at Group Sustainability and we look forward to help more businesses accelerating shift to a circular economy”, says Maartens.