Modern Fulfillment Services: Pneumatic Tubes

It’s a curious contrast: at Stanford University, one of the most cutting-edge places on Earth, Stanford Hospital relies on a technology that was popular in the 1850’s. Using a gargantuan network of pneumatic tubes, the hospital can whisk specimens across its vast building.

But what are pneumatic tubes, and why keep using this system? Well, you know when you go to the bank drive-thru and put your check and deposit slip into a tube that’s sucked back inside the bank? That’s a pneumatic tube system. At Stanford, the tubes are used to carry lab samples. These samples make more than 7,000 daily trips across four miles of tubing, all of it tucked away behind walls throughout the complex in an elaborate spider web.

The system is still in use because its speed can’t be beat. The tubes travel through the system at 25 feet per second (18 m.p.h.), much faster than lab techs can stroll the floors. And while Stanford is quick to point out that this configuration is not unique – other hospitals across America do use them – it is unquestionably one of the largest.

See how a similar pneumatic tube system works at another university:

Getting all those messages where they need to go is an epic undertaking requiring 124 stations, 141 additional transfer units, 99 inter-zone connectors, and 29 blowers (It takes a lot of hot air to keep this system moving!).

To help hospital workers keep track of their deliveries, the system also incorporates over three-dozen combinations of chimes. Different tones go with different types of deliveries, so employees can listen in for the ones that pertain to them. Get a behind-the-scenes look at Stanford’s pneumatic tube system here to see how they use this amazing fulfillment system.

At Ohio Valley Goodwill, we offer some pretty amazing fulfillment services, too (though most of ours involve fewer tubes). Best of all, when you choose Goodwill, you’re also supporting our mission to employ veterans and people with disabilities in our community. Contact us today to find out how we can put our motivated employees to work for you – and fulfill your every request!

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