Case stories of our work with sustainability
Circular approach to product design
"Imagine if, through our product design efforts, we could provide sustainable solutions that make a positive impact on the environment around us."
Nicklas Christian Funk
Circular Approach to Product Design
In our efforts to work towards a more sustainable future, Ambu has chosen to look backwards. In fact, all the way back to the beginning of a product cycle – namely, the product design. One of three sustainability pillars defined by Ambu concerns circular design and pertains to sustainability related to the choice of materials, parts, processing, modules, products, packaging etc.
“We want to make Ambu’s sustainability efforts grow and become more integrated in the company, and we want a circular economy mindset to lead this,” says Nicklas Funk, Sustainability Engineer at Ambu.
Six design principles
Nicklas Funk has focused on product design and created a guide setting out six principles that support the company’s innovation projects and guide towards more sustainable processes and outcomes. The principles raise important questions and provide solid advice on steps that can be taken to make a product development project more sustainable.
“It’s important for us to have these guiding principles as they help build internal skills, make sustainability an integral part of every project and put all the considerations behind our product innovations into a larger perspective. They also help us, as a company, to speak the same language when it comes to sustainability,” explains Nicklas Funk.
A time of opportunity
In light of the growth and expansion journey that Ambu is on, Nicklas Funk finds this to be the optimum time to invest in more sustainability in the company, and says:
“Right now, in Ambu, there is a lot of focus on innovation and ways of ensuring long-term growth for the company, and that also means that there is plenty of opportunity right now for embedding a thoroughly sustainable mindset into the company. At Ambu, our work is dedicated towards optimizing workflows and improving the quality of patient care. Imagine if, through our product design efforts, we could provide sustainable solutions that make a positive impact on the environment around us, as well.”
During 2020/21, the main focus was on understanding our products from a sustainable perspective. This entailed gaining a thorough understanding of the materials used in our products and their sustainability indicators, Going forward - in an effort that has already been commenced - we intend to invest particular focus into the foundational work of bringing the circular approach to product design into the mindset of Ambu's innovation. Therefore a governance model has been establsihed where each project, together with a sustainability professional, sets ambitions for one or more of the six circular design focus areas.
How many patients can you operate in a day? This question reflects a volume-based view of healthcare. How many patients can you operate in a day, while making sure that their quality of life improves? This question, on the other hand, shows a value-based view of healthcare.
Value-based healthcare is a holistic approach that shifts the focus from the volume of healthcare provided to the value of that healthcare.
“In our work, we listen carefully to our customers’ needs and industry trends through extensive research and fieldwork, then we bring that intel back to the drawing board in our R&D department, and then through health economic studies and academic articles that we produce in my team, we verify and communicate the economic and clinical value that Ambu’s products bring to our customers,” says Casper Barsøe, Director, Market Access at Ambu.
Measuring the value
The ‘value’ in value-based healthcare is derived from measuring the health outcomes for patients against the economic cost of bringing forth this value.
“We want to be able to continuously justify the value of our technologies, and through the health economic studies and article publications, validate the products we bring to the market and their pricing,” says Casper Barsøe.
With the health economic studies and articles as a foundation, Ambu’s Market Access team also invests their time in sharing their findings with clinical societies, procurement teams, reimbursement authorities, ministries and more. This is so that there is an aligned understanding amongst the various stakeholders of the value that the Ambu portfolio brings to healthcare systems. Casper Barsøe elaborates:
“As a supplier, it is our responsibility to bring value to the healthcare sector by providing cost-effective solutions and work with the other stakeholders in a healthcare system, so that the patient is properly cared for.”
A phthalate-free company
"We were not willing to compromise on the functionality, durability or longevity of the final products."
Head of Biosafety
A phthalate-free company
Ambu has reached its target of eliminating harmful phthalates from all products. Phthalates are most commonly used as plasticizers, which are added to plastics to act as a softener and increase the flexibility, transparency and durability of the material. Due to their chemical components, some phthalates can be harmful. As of 30 September 2020, Ambu has ceased to manufacture products that contain harmful phthalates.
“This is a target which has been in progress for almost ten years, and so reaching it now is a great milestone for us,” says Annette Bitz, Head of Biosafety at Ambu.
A complex process
The target was born from a customer need, and in order for Ambu to meet that need, the company was required to investigate which plasticizers could be used as a suitable substitutes, and only then could the project to have 100% phthalate-free products begin.
“From the outset, we shared with our customers that we were willing to listen to their need for phthalate-free products, but we also pointed out that this was far from an easy process. It wasn’t simply enough for us to substitute the phthalates. It was crucial for us to find the exact right substitutions. We were not willing to compromise on the functionality, durability or longevity of the final products. It was also important for us that the substitution did not impose a cost burden on our customers,” says Annette Bitz.
The project commenced with a substitution of phthalates in the Ambu face masks and laryngeal masks because these products are used in direct contact with patients. Initially, the phthalate target was intended to only cover medical devices, however, this was soon extended to include the full product portfolio, including training equipment such as the Ambu manikins.
A collaborative effort
“We had to ask all our suppliers to remove phthalates from their products, and then we had to test the products. It has been an immense collaborative effort amongst all the parties involves, and it’s wonderful to see that the effort has paid off,” says Annette Bitz.
This past financial year, Ambu worked on substituting phthalates in circuits and VivaSight products, and as this was successful, Ambu has now reached the target of phthalate-free products in the entire product portfolio.