SINGAPORE - Distribution of meals at The Salvation Army's Peacehaven Nursing Home used to be a strenuous task for senior staff nurse Thomas Jeena and her colleagues.
They spent about 80 minutes a day collecting meals at the kitchen and manoeuvring heavy trolleys over uneven floors before food could reach the 380 residents.
But all that changed one year ago when the home bought two Automated Guided Vehicles (AGVs) to distribute meals in a safer and more efficient manner.
"Food can be served earlier to the residents and we can spend more time with them" said Ms Jeena, 44.
The AGVs have also replaced some of Peacehaven's outsourced manpower for kitchen tasks, enabling the home to save about $12,000 a month on salaries alone.
The vehicles were officially launched on Tuesday (April 16) after the one-year trial, as part of a national drive to get nursing homes to automate and use technology more effectively.
Peacehaven is currently the only nursing home in Singapore that uses such technology.
Each AGV, which has a trolley, is wirelessly operated by a tablet control panel.
The vehicle has built-in sensors and 3D cameras allowing it to detect its programmed route via magnetic strips installed across the three-storey home. It uses this system to detect its destinations, where it stops for staff to load or unload the trolleys.
According to Peacehaven, the machines automatically route around obstacles and can brake firmly even on slopes. Should a Wi-Fi breakdown occur, trolleys can be detached from the AGVs and manually manoeuvred without disrupting meal schedules.
Besides the four meal distributions each day, the home will also be using the AGVs - each with a high load capacity of 300kg - to transport logistical supplies once a week.
The two AGVs cost $220,000, which was heavily funded by the Healthcare Productivity Fund and Community Silver Trust, administered by the Agency for Integrated Care (AIC).
Mr Tan Kwang Cheak, chief executive officer of AIC, attended the launch as the guest of honour.
Madam Low Mui Lang, executive director of Peacehaven Nursing Home, said: "When we adopt a system, we have to adopt a system that is safe and follows regulations."
She hopes to minimise the occurrence of workplace incidents and injuries, adding that the technology "will also benefit the nursing home's efforts in recruiting and retaining older staff".
With the time saved, staff will be able to provide more personalised care for the residents, improving their quality of life, she added.
Correction note: The story was edited for accuracy.