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Just do it differently

Aug. 22, 2018
When conventional methods don’t work, change things up and try something new

It had never been tried before. And you know what they say: There is a first time for everything. Thinking differently, sometimes with abandon, creates the most fascinating results.

This person of interest (POI) had a bowel obstruction, which unto itself isn’t a biggie for most of us, but this POI also has cystic fibrosis (CF), which complicated the issue. CF affects the body fluids and makes them less viscous.

So, the normal procedures were done with no benefit to the POI. It was done twice resulting in a “back to Square 1” scenario.

Enter Dr. Moscow, who decided after many hours of internal thinking that “this could work.” What, you may ask.

Well, it is a procedure that is performed for Task A but had never been done for Task B. Thinking out of the box, he performed the procedure over 90 minutes and cleared the blockage. The POI had instant relief, but was not out of the woods yet.

With CF, there are many things that can go wrong in one’s body, and, if the right thing isn’t done at the right time, then the world could lose that person. It was imperative that this new and improved procedure be successful. If not, I would hate to think what could have happened.

This procedure was so innovative that many people were in the room for observation and training while the procedure was being done. It was filmed, so that it can be shared on the Internet. There will be a medical-journal article based on this procedure. The POI will have a famous colon.

The people surrounding the POI were so thankful.

I have always thought that the human body is in fact a control system. Pneumatics, hydraulics and physics make up what we are. I have also thought that doctors need lessons in engineering. This Dr. Moscow must have had some engineering in his background somewhere.

So the latest project that I have been working on involves the latest in technology—Rockwell Automation’s ControlLogix platform, servo drives and an automated process for a product manufacturing line that creates the DNA swabs that one would use with ancestry.com, for instance.

The line is very impressive and produces one swab every 5 seconds. But they had a problem with a packager that the company had initially employed.

It flat out just didn’t work. The automation company made the decision to replace the packager at its own cost. Novel idea.

That put the service into customer service in my books, which is innovative in its own right.

A second project I am involved with is a true thinking-out-of-the-box scenario. A husband-and-wife team is producing sanitary pull cords for hospitals. The innovation here is that the existing light and nurse call button pulls were not sanitary. These guys saw the need for a “pull” that was easy to replace per patient, as well as having the ability to be cleaned and sterilized so they could be reused for the next patient—a very cool idea for everyone concerned. As the saying goes, if you want to get sick, go to a hospital.

The project requires re-engineering the process using the legacy equipment to make it easier for the operator to adjust the production line parameters in real time.

The legacy software is just that—legacy. It doesn’t have the nicey-nice things that modern-day software solutions have, such as the ability to change things on the fly.

I suggested that I rewrite the interface software for the stepper controls and use a modern PLC to recreate the system and allow for on-the-fly changes.

There are two parts to this—me coming up with this hair-brained idea and the customer having the faith in the final outcome. While not implemented yet, it has been proven in concept and in benchtop testing. It will work, but it took some doing because it had never been done before.

I am anxious to get this in place because it proves a point. If we are shackled with “the way we have always done things,” we can’t have any innovation, and thus things get boring and some problems are left unsolved, sometimes with fatal consequences.

Profitability notwithstanding, certain repeatable approaches are tried and true, but sometime they need to be rethought.

The POI had absolutely no issue with trying something new because the old way of doing things wasn’t working. That end result was reached by someone doing it differently.

I challenge the way I do things all the time and am always changing them up. What can you do differently? It may not save a life, but it can save your sanity.

About the author: Jeremy Pollard

ALSO READ: How innovation drives medical production

About the Author

Jeremy Pollard | CET

Jeremy Pollard, CET, has been writing about technology and software issues for many years. Pollard has been involved in control system programming and training for more than 25 years.

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