Happy Lab Rats

The Challenge:

The health research centre of a leading U.S. university houses a large animal care facility containing 10,000 cages of various animals used in research. Of course, each animal has to be fed and watered throughout the day, which creates a variety of practical and logistical challenges.

From the time, effort and cost involved in keeping the animals healthy and hydrated, to the challenge of keeping the cages clean, dry and comfortable, the managers of this facility are always looking for new and better ways to be efficient and control costs while meeting strict standards for cleanliness and care.

The facility recognized it had an unsustainable challenge in the requirement to manually deliver 10,000 bottles of food and water to their animal cages every week; each of which had to be cleaned, sanitized and refilled after every use. There were two significant problems with the process. First, the high labour cost content involved in preparing 10,000 bottles per week with no automated system; second, a percentage of these bottles were leaking into the cages and creating health issues for the animals.

The Solution:

The director of animal care had an idea to improve the efficiency of feeding and watering these animals by utilizing an automated packaging system and switching from a liquid to a gel form of hydration, which would eliminate the leakage problem. The gel was tested in a small animal population with positive results. Now, he needed a system to automatically batch, package the hydrating gel for easy delivery to the facility’s animal population.

The facility was certainly big enough that automating this process would save major time and money, but not big enough to justify a multi-million dollar industrial equipment product. So the question was how to automate batching, packaging and delivery of the hydration gel in an economical and flexible manner.

Bagging machine

After obtaining several quotations for expensive industrial packaging machines, the director realized that a custom-made equipment solution was not only the best way to get exactly what he needed, it was also the most cost-effective solution to his challenge.

He approached Pure Ingenuity Inc. for a customized solution that would better fit his facility and his budget. We came up with a relatively simple, custom solution that would lower the facility’s per-package costs, while eliminating the problem of leakage into the animal cages by integrating a bagging machine with an automated batching system of our own design. Our automated bagging system was based on a PLC-controlled vessel that heats water and allows addition of a gelling agent. When in operation, the mixture is pumped to an automated bagging machine that packages the water-gel mixture. After refrigeration, the semi-solid water and gelatin mixture eliminates the leakage problem.

Boiler

The Result:

The automated machine now requires only one operator and reduces the time required to create 10,000 bags per week. As an added advantage, the new PLC-controlled mixing vessel is accurate enough to largely eliminate human error in mixing tightly controlled trial batches of new ingredients, medicine, and other additives.

Flexibility – Pure Ingenuity’s automated system was flexible enough that our client could set their own temperatures, ingredients, mixing times and batch numbers.

Cost-efficiency – Not only did our solution cost a fraction of what the client was quoted by industrial machine producers, we also dramatically lowered the per unit cost from $1 per bag to 18 cents per bag.

Reduced labour – The use of inexpensive, single-use packages, packaged and delivered automatically, means there is no human intervention required to feed the animals, and no more bottles to clean, sanitize and re-fill.

Our strength is building high-quality, cost-effective equipment solutions that you can’t buy off the shelf. In this case, our custom solution not only perfectly addressed our client’s challenge, it saved them a ton of money,” says Pure Ingenuity Inc. project manager Jonathan Toelle.

Not only did Pure Ingenuity develop an innovative equipment solution, they really worked well with us to understand our facility and our unique challenges. They customized something that was effective, cost-efficient and that would save a lot of time and money over the long-term.” – Animal Care Director

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