After developing colon cancer around a decade ago, Mike Butler – Quality Director at Ford’s manufacturing plant in Cologne, Germany – developed a keen interest in the way cancer patients were treated at a nearby hospital. He realized that many of the practices that help make Ford’s Cologne plant one of the most efficient vehicle production plants in the world could help positively transform the cancer ward, improving patient flow.
“I spent five years in treatment rooms and thought about how I could make life easier for patients,” says Butler, who is now in remission. “There was a real lightbulb moment when I realized that many of the systems that ensure car plants run smoothly could be applied to the hospital.”
In 2008, about a dozen Ford engineers met with administrators, patients, nurses, and doctors to outline how the Cologne plant’s processes could improve the cancer treatment center. The collaboration led to the hospital painting colored lines on walls and floors to make navigation easier for staff, patients, and visitors; installing large screens to help ease communications between key medical employees; and creating flexible rooms with removable dividers, making it easier for the hospital to reconfigure their space as needs dictate.
The collaboration with German cancer treatment centers has blossomed further, as now, the Centre for Integrated Oncology at the University Hospital of Cologne is advising Ford on its use of big data, which could help shape the way that Ford explores future vehicles and new technologies. Ford’s Cologne manufacturing plant and the cancer ward at a university hospital may seem like strange bedfellows, but together, they’re sharing their respective experiences to help one another operate more effectively.
“Medicine is an ever-changing science where small changes have a huge impact on the lives of patients,” says Centre for Integrated Oncology Director Prof. Dr. Michael Hallek. “With Ford’s help, we are making huge improvements that will benefit the lives and treatment of future patients for years to come. And hopefully, some of our methods of doing things will help Ford to develop what mobility might look like in the future.”