Robots supply sterile equipment for surgery

Danish Gibotech, a supplier of robots and automation systems, has been tasked with supplying a sterile service centre to Rigshospitalet in Copenhagen. There will soon be robots in the lowest floor of the hospital, that will dispatch clean instruments up to the operating room.

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 miniloads 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 in Denmark.

“Previously, hospitals were dependent on staff being available to pack equipment and carts for surgery.  If someone was sick or something went wrong, there could be an entire team standing waiting in the operating rooms, unable to get started. In the future all this will be run completely automatically,” explains Mikkel Bjerregaard, Sales Director at 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 room on the scheduled day. This ensures that the surgical operations will be carried out at the arranged 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 checks that the container reaches the correct operating room. The automated system monitors sterilisation dates and ensures that the equipment is sent for re-sterilisation if it exceeds the time limit,” elaborates Mikkel Bjerregaard.

In addition to servicing Rigshospitalet in Copenhagen, the sterile service centre is due to also supply smaller hospitals in the region. These hospitals will close 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 conveyors, grabbers and equipment itself, just as the company develops its own software for the system. They design the conveyor systems right down to the last detail and source specific parts from different sub-suppliers. One of the sub-suppliers for the project is Hoyer, which has supplied timing belts and wheels.

” Hoyer has supplied a complete package that includes both products of high quality and specialist expertise. Our design engineers were invited along to the manufacturing site in Italy and naturally we see it as a positive thing that Hoyer has taken such a proactive approach to the collaboration,” says Mikkel Bjerregaard.

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 have collaborated closely with Gibotech to ensure that we could meet their demands for quality, lifetime and operational safety. Once the dimensions and type were in place, we could work 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 at 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 moves them.

Facts about Gibotech

In 2011 Gibotech developed a sterile service centre for Gentofte Hospital in Greater Copenhagen and has since shown itself to be an important player on the market for logistic solutions in the health sector.

In addition to the sterile service centre at Rigshospitalet, Gibotech will also be automating the sterile service centre at Herlev Hospital. The two sterile service centres cost around EUR 67 million each and are being followed with great international interest.