The Center for Comparative Medicine (CCM) is the central laboratory animal care service to investigators at the Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, MA (www.massgeneral.org). CCM's activities include routine husbandry, transferring animals between research institutions, preventive and clinical veterinary care, training in animal manipulative techniques, anesthesia and post-anesthesia support, mouse production and genetic line management, and consultation in animal modeling and protocol design. These services involve over 100 CCM employees and ~85,000 NSF of animal housing and use space supporting a wide variety of vertebrate species and hundreds of protocols.
A new CCM leadership team arrived at MGH in 2002 and established two fundamental management principles from the start. First, the department would be run as a business. This provides CCM staff clearer performance expectations and proven tools to achieve them, as well as highlight an appreciation for customer service. Second, CCM would aim for where we believe lab animal care is headed, rather than merely adopt and hone current lab animal care practices. This approach is intended to show our staff and our colleagues at other institutions how management innovations may benefit animals, workers, and science alike. Thus, all CCM personnel receive training in lean management tools and techniques, and are expected to identify opportunities to continuously improve everything we do.
Notable CCM achievements in lab animal care management include:
- An English language literacy/fluency standard in lab animal terminology established for front-line staff. Extensive ESL tutoring was provided for foreign-born employees in advance of a mandatory examination required to retain their positions;
- Replacing hand-captured census data with barcodes and scanners, eliminating 5 FTE (~$160K in annual savings) and reducing our billing cycle from 2 months to 2 days;
- Assigning responsibility to front-line staff for animal health monitoring and notification of illness or injury, in combination with specific training and enhanced digital tools. This saved ~$150K/year by eliminating 3 vet tech FTE and reduced average response times by 80%;
- Converting all rodent caging to autoclaved microisolator units, permitting a switch to cold water cage wash prior to sterilization. This reduced energy and water consumption 66% in those facilities and provided a more comfortable workplace;
- Instituting a centralized and standardized RFP process for selecting vendors for purchasing supplies, resulting in ~$50K in savings/year;
- Instituting an automated animal procurement system that yielded ~$15K annual savings in labor costs due to more accurate orders and elimination of bottlenecks.