Robots deliver sterile equipment to surgery

Gibotech, a Danish supplier of robots and automation systems, has been tasked with supplying a sterile service centre to Denmark’s National Research Hospital, Rigshospitalet, in Copenhagen. From now on robots on the bottom floor of the hospital will be used to carry clean instruments up to the operating theatre.


When surgeons and nurses need to use scalpels, scissors or the like during surgical procedures, it is essential that the equipment is clean and sterile. Whereas previously the sterile equipment has been delivered manually, from the end of 2018 human hands will be replaced by AGVs, shuttle cart conveyors, warehouse picking robots and mini-loads in a fully automated sterile service centre at Rigshospitalet, developed by the logistics company Gibotech. A similar sterile centre is also on its way to Herlev Hospital.

“Previously, hospitals depended on having staff present to pack equipment and carts for surgery.  If someone was sick or something went wrong, an entire team could be left waiting in the operating theatres, unable to get started. In the future, the entire procedure will be fully automated,” explains Mikkel Bjerregaard, Sales Director, Gibotech.

Fully automated and precise

In the new automated system, hospital staff book surgical equipment at the same time as they schedule the surgery. The system ensures that the carts in the basement are packed and ready to be taken up to the operating theatre on the scheduled day. This ensures that surgical operations are carried out at the appointed time.

The containers, in which surgical equipment is transported, are opened and emptied automatically. A trip through the autoclave ensures that the equipment is sterile, and the software makes sure that the container reaches the correct operating theatre. The automated system monitors sterilisation dates and ensures that the equipment is sent for re-sterilisation if it exceeds the time limit,” Mikkel Bjerregaard explains.

In addition to servicing Rigshospitalet in Copenhagen, the sterile service centre is due to supply smaller hospitals in the region as well. These hospitals will shut down their own sterile service departments and have equipment delivered from the automated service department in Rigshospitalet’s basement.

Proactive collaboration

Gibotech is responsible for designing most of its conveyor belts, grippers and equipment, and the company also develops its own software for the system. They design the conveyor belts down to the last detail and source specific parts from different external suppliers. One of these external suppliers for the project is Hoyer, which has supplied serrated belts and wheels.

“Hoyer has supplied a complete package that includes both high-quality products and specialist expertise. Our design engineers were invited to accompany us to the factory in Italy. Obviously we consider it positive that Hoyer took such a proactive approach to the collaboration,” Mikkel Bjerregaard says.

Hoyer has been similarly pleased with the collaboration. Based on Gibotech’s needs and wishes in regard to the belts’ function and use environment, the preliminary ideas were quickly and safely adapted so the finished solution could be put in place.   

We collaborated closely with Gibotech to ensure that we could meet their demands for quality, service life and operational reliability. Once the dimensions and type were in place, we could join forces with our suppliers to find the best solutions. During our visit to the manufacturing site in Italy, employees at Gibotech could see how the belts are produced and what they need to be aware of when they design new systems in the future,” says Carsten Jakobsen, Key Account Manager, Hoyer.

Facts about the sterile service centre

  • In the miniload warehouse, robots move 100 boxes in and out every hour
  • There are 12,880 storage spaces, and the boxes are picked from heights of up to 22 metres.
  • Hoyer has supplied two different types of timing belts as well as the wheels that move them.

Facts about Gibotech

  • In 2011, Gibotech developed a sterile service centre for Gentofte Hospital and has subsequently made a name for itself as an important market player for logistic solutions in the hospital sector.
  • In addition to the sterile service centre at Rigshospitalet, Gibotech will also automate the sterile service centre at Herlev Hospital. The two sterile service centres cost DKK 500 million each and are being followed with great international interest.