Covidien – PB980 Ventilator

Company Retains Leadership with New Flagship Product

The Business Problem

Six years ago, a market leader of respiratory care devices and $10 billion in annual sales, decided to re-imagine its flagship product.

The flagship product is the PB980 ventilator, familiar to clinicians in hospitals throughout the U.S. and 150 countries worldwide.

After spinning off from Tyco International and inheriting this brand along with other Tyco Healthcare brands in 2007, the company management concluded that increased competition and the possibilities afforded by advancing ventilator technologies were raising the bar within this vital product category.

The company imagined a slimmer, sleeker successor. A primary goal was to enhance safety by creating the ideal user experience, consisting of an intuitive design with easy interactions. In particular, they sought to address the perceptions of one important user category – neo-natal intensive care specialists –who perceived the existing product as bulky and taking up too much space in equipment-intensive NICU rooms.

The Client’s Challenge

Like any major medical product manufacturer, the company faced the enormous challenge of making certain that the product being brought to market aligned with user needs identified through design research at the beginning of a lengthy and complex development process.

It’s just the consistency, the responsiveness and really somebody delivering what they say they’re going to deliver, and it’s the lack of surprises. I mean these guys always delivered, always hit our expectations, we didn’t have surprises. And they really delivered the goods.


Jon Guy

VP of Research & Development – Covidien

Our Solution

After being selected as the company’s industrial design partner, MPE (Formerly Mindflow Design) began conducting design research to study how respiratory therapists, nurses and biomedical technicians used the PB980 ventilator and its competitors’ ventilators in multiple hospital settings. MPE (Formerly Mindflow Design) also solicited the opinions of the company’s sales, marketing and research and development teams. Once stakeholder needs were fully understood, MPE (Formerly Mindflow Design) presented its concept for a thinner, sleeker ventilator that would revitalize the brand while simultaneously addressing adverse perceptions of size and bulk.

At the start of the engagement, the client empowered MPE (Formerly Mindflow Design) to fulfill the role of advocate throughout the process for the original design intent, preserving alignment with the executive team and internal stakeholders’ original expectations. It would have been easy for the design to stray off course without consistent design leadership over the duration of the project.

The client expected that the redesign would be a multi-year project, and indeed it was. Over the six-year product development span there would be changes in project team members and an increase from 10 to 70 in the number of company engineers involved, leading to periodic requests to alter the new design. Fortunately, MPE (Formerly Mindflow Design) ’s engagement was continuous rather than periodic, so when such requests were made, we were present to provide guidance aimed at accommodating the change while preserving the design intent.

One of the reasons the company chose MPE (Formerly Mindflow Design) was for its design-related engineering capabilities, which the client felt were integral to the process. MPE (Formerly Mindflow Design) co-developed the device’s graphical user interface, battery charging system and special NICU cart, as well as a lift system for loading it into vehicles. A MPE (Formerly Mindflow Design) engineer worked side-by-side with company’ engineers at their offices for two years, evidence of a fruitful and deepening strategic partnership where constant communication was critical.

The Business Benefits

The company launched the Puritan Bennett 980 ventilator in early 2014 after earning clearance from regulatory agencies in the U.S., Europe, Japan and Canada. A company official described this advance as a “simple, safe and smart way to care for patients.”

MPE (Formerly Mindflow Design) believes that the company’s consistency in adhering to its original design precepts will help the PB980 earn outstanding marketplace success.

Covidien 980 Ventilator
Covidien 980 Ventilator

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