Frencken to manufacture and industrialise care robot
Frencken is taking on the production of the Lean Elderly Assistant (LEA), developed by the company Robot Care Systems, based in The Hague. This is a high-tech robot that provides part of the care for elderly people with reduced mobility but also for Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s patients. The device enables people to live at home independently for longer and can also reduce the workload for care home staff. The robot is packed with sensors that help it to keep an eye on the client; it can invite the client to walk or dance with it if they have been sitting still for too long and it can also raise the alarm if it senses that the client is lying on the floor. When taking a walk, the robot avoids obstacles and provides exactly the right support for the client in order to prevent them from falling.
The LEA is currently still in the testing phase and will be trialled in five European countries, including the Netherlands, this year. Frencken has now been asked to take on the industrialisation and manufacture of the robot as a system supplier: ‘We are doing some re-engineering in order to be able to manufacture it efficiently and at the lowest possible cost while meeting all the internationally applicable safety requirements for medical devices and making it suitable for long-term maintenance. We are also configuring a production process and supply chain that will allow us to scale up to bigger quantities quickly’, explains managing director Henk Tappel regarding the order from Robot Care Systems. ‘Of course we won this order because we have lots of expertise in industrialising complex systems and are big enough to be able to cope with a rapid ramp-up, but also – quite simply – because their people got on with ours from the get-go. RCS chose us based on a gut feeling.’
Henk Tappel says this is not the only new order received by the Eindhoven firm in recent months. ‘I can’t name any names, but in the first months of this year we have acquired new customers in the United States, France and Germany as well as in the Netherlands, in all the segments – semicon, medical technology and analytical – in which we are active.’ Has this successfully reversed the declining turnover trend of last year? ‘In 2015, the turnover of our entire group fell by 13 percent, but the most important cause of this was the unfavourable exchange rate of the euro compared to the Singaporean dollar (Frencken Group’s head office is in Malaysia, ed.). An additional important cause, in Europe, was that, as a result of Fukushima, we lost a major nuclear customer.’