For more than 60 years RAME-HART has been the preferred supplier of equipment to the vaccine industry.

We are proud of what we have achieved during the last 60 years and we have asked Ken Christiansen, who has been on board for over 44 years, to share some anecdotes from the foundation of RAME-HART up till today.

How did it all start?

 

RAME-HART was incorporated in New Jersey in June 1961 by Founder and President Ralph Nussbaum; Ralph knew that he wanted to have a couple of partners and asked two of his close friends to join the company and brought in John Hertz who he worked with at RCA in Newark and George Meyer a close personal friend. The company started out as a machine shop and their customer base was local businesses like Mennen, M&M Mars and Western Electric making replacement machine parts, fixturing and small assemblies for all kinds of machines with long lead times.   

As the company grew, Ralph started an engineering department to design special purpose machines for all types of industries; but the main area of concentration was in Telecommunications and Pharmaceuticals. The company developed production machines for many of Western Electrics inventions like Re-Flow Soldering machines, Under Water Communication Fixturing Equipment, Fiber Polishing Installation Machines and many other pieces of equipment used for Laser Communication. Western Electric later became Bell Laboratories and now is better known as AT&T.

As RAME-HART’s business continued to grow with local New Jersey customers, they developed a reputation for quality and robust machines.

The name RAME-HART was derived from the three partners names:

RA

For Ralph Nussbaum

ME

For George Meyer

HART

For John Hertz which in Germany was pronounced Hartz, John would always say that he was the Heart of the company.

New Management

Ken Christiansen & Herb Pohl

Ken Christiansen & Herb Pohl

 

I started working for RAME-HART in 1977 and was continuing my college education in the evenings at County College of Morris after being discharged from the US Navy in 1975. I was majoring in Business Administration and Ralph, John and George offered me a position as a Purchasing Agent; but little did I know that I would wear many hats in this small company. I gained a lot of hands-on experience in many areas, like engineering, machine shop, machine design, sales and customer support.

In 1989 the original owners of RAME-HART had decided they wanted to retire, and Ralph Nussbaum asked a group of employees to buy the company. The group included Herb Pohl, Ken Christiansen, Sam Rich, Don Carlin and Rolf Pfiel. We all agreed that we would work together and buy the assets of RAME-HART and the new management team was born. It took a few years to get everyone to work together and trust each other, because it was a large number of partners with different ideas on how the company should grow forward. Herb Pohl was the elder of the group and he decided he wanted to retire early and the partners collectively bought his shares of stock and I was voted in as the new president of RAME-HART in 1993.

Success on the Chinese market

During the 90’s, the economy was declining and our design engineering, machine building and job shop manufacturing had dropped off, due to our major customers were going off shore to have their products made. So, I recommended to my partners that we would have to focus on our own products, like our Egg Machines, Vacuum Stoppering Equipment and our Goniometer Instrument business instead of being dependent on other industries.

We invested in getting promotional brochures on all our product lines, converted the manufacturing area, and brought new CNC equipment for production of machined parts. Shortly thereafter, I was contacted by a Chinese man by the name of Bryan Zhou who lived in Maryland but was representing a company in China. He told me that our Egg Inoculating and Harvesting machines were needed in China and would it be possible for me to travel to China with him and meet his partner in Beijing. My partners were reluctant for me to go because China’s reputation of copying Western Technology was well known; I decided to contact the US Commerce Department in NYC and a representative came out to see me; he basically said to do business in China was possible, but you will need to find an agent you can trust. I made the arrangements with Bryan to go to Beijing and meet with his partner Mr. Gi Shuguang. Once in Beijing I had a good feeling that I found the right partners in China, mainly because I felt good about Bryan Zhou.

Once we signed an agent agreement with our Chinese agent, our Egg Machine business took off. We had record years for sales, and it was mostly Semi-Automatic machines for the first two years in China and then moved into Fully Automatic Machines.

Entering the Flu Vaccine Business

There was a story handed down to me by the founding fathers on how RAME-HART got into the Flu Vaccine Business. Let me share it with you:

 

It started when one of their local customers decided to move out of Morris County NJ  to Swiftwater Pennsylvania where he worked in the maintenance department at National Drug Corporation, which produced Seasonal Influenza Vaccine. The process back in the 70’s was all manual, where they would have 50 plus men and women manually Inoculating Embryonated Chicken Eggs with a virus seed and then, after an incubation period, manually de-capping and harvesting the Allotonic Fluids from each individual egg all by hand. This was a very tedious and time-consuming process.

Well, as the story goes, this old friend of RAME-HART was involved in trying to automate the manual production of seasonal influenza vaccine and thought of RAME-HART to design automatic machines for the upstream process and eliminate all the manual steps and, not to mention, all the bioburdens brought into the clean room production area by all the people.

I also want to mention that flu production was seasonal and only six months production time, so all the people would only be employed for six months and out of work for the remainder of the year. Every season they would try to bring back the experienced employees; but it was also very difficult as people found other employment in other industries that gave them better, secure jobs, so flu vaccine companies would have to retrain people every six-month season, which again is very time consuming and expensive. RAME-HART took on the project and delivered the first ever fully automatic Inoculating and Harvesting Machines to National Drug, which later became Connaught Laboratories and after that was acquired by Sanofi Pasteur.

When the news about fully automatic Inoculating and Harvesting equipment got out to the Influenza Industry, RAME-HART became a global name and started selling machines all around the world.

Becoming part of the SANOVO group of companies

The new owners visiting RAME-HART for the first time. On the photo from the left; Sam Rich, Darren D’Onofrio, Butch Rich, Don Carlin, Thor Stadil, Søren Ring and Ken Christiansen.

The new owners visiting RAME-HART for the first time. On the photo from the left; Sam Rich, Darren D’Onofrio, Butch Rich, Don Carlin, Thor Stadil, Søren Ring and Ken Christiansen.

 

In 2005 I was contacted by one of our Egg Machine Competitors Embrex; the vice president of Embrex was a guy named David Baines, an Englishman and very professional type of guy. He had been talking with a good friend of mine in the Egg Industry of a possible acquisition or joint venture with RAME-HART. Embrex had an Automatic Inoculator marketed in the Broiler Chicken Industry and was moving into the Vaccine Manufacturing Industry. They were becoming a fierce competitor of ours. David thought there was a good fit for the two companies to join forces, because they didn’t have any other equipment other than an inoculator, whereas RAME-HART had the Fully Automatic Harvester and Semi-Automatic Machines and a good reputation in the market. My partners and I decided to move forward and do a feasibility review with our attorney and signed a confidentiality agreement with Embrex. It took a few months and David Baines flew over from the UK to have dinner with me. He was a little disappointed that he could not convince the Embrex Board of Directors to invest in a deal with us. He said the timing was not right for Embrex and that they were building a poultry vaccine facility in North Carolina, so they were not in position to do anything with RAME-HART at that time.

David Baines then asked me if I’d be interested in discussing a business opportunity with a company called SANOVO TECHNOLOGY GROUP in Odense Denmark. I told David that I was not actively looking to sell the company, but I was interested in taking the business to the next level. He then made arrangements to have Soren Ring, the CEO of SANOVO TECHNOLOGY GROUP, at that time, contact me. Some weeks later, I was invited to come to Denmark and meet with him and Thor Stadil. We all know now what happened after that meeting. In 2006 RAME-HART became a member of SANOVO TECHNOLOGY GROUP.

RAME-HART Fully Automatic Tray Washer

RAME-HART Fully Automatic Tray Washer

Now that we became part of SANOVO TECHNOLOGY GROUP, it gave RAME-HART more resources with engineering support, sales and marketing and financial support. SANOVO to expand our product line saying that once we saturate the market with our Inoculators and Harvesters what else can we sell? So, I suggested that we look into Automatic Tray Washing, which SANOVO already had experience with. In 2008 we built our first Fully Automatic Tray Washer for the Vaccine Industry and sold it to ADImmune in Taiwan. Another piece of equipment that we added to our product line was Automatic Trolley Un-Loader and Re-Loaders.

In the first six years after joining SANOVO TECHNOLOGY GROUP we were able to grow the business by approximately 30% each year. 

Will COVID-19 Vaccines be processed at RAME-HART equipment?

Moving forward to the present era of COVID-19 that started in February 2020.

I had some visitors from Mexico and Russia visiting us in New Jersey where we were performing an FAT on some Automatic Inoculators and Harvesters. They both arrived at Newark Airport and when we were driving to RAME-HART, I asked if they were going to be making a COVID-19 Vaccine in Embryonated Chicken Eggs. They came back with an answer of “No, it’s been scientifically proven that the COVID-19 virus will not grow in Eggs”. This answer really surprised me and I just could not accept that answer!

A couple days later, I called my long-time friend and guru in the development of egg-based vaccines, Dr. Richard Hjorth. When I raised the question to Richard of, why can’t COVID-19 be made in Embryonic Chicken Eggs? He explained that he had seen a report from the CDC where the COVID-19 virus didn’t grow well in eggs and that’s why companies ventured into cells for COVID-19 vaccines. Richard then thought about it for a few seconds and said that he didn’t understand why the researchers couldn’t come up with another approach. He then said “You can grow anything in eggs. All you need is a good virologist to do the work" That’s when I said, “LET’S DO IT”.

From that point, Richard said that he would contact a Medical Center in NYC and that he might be able to convince them to take on this project. They agreed, and within a week they made a chicken virus that displayed a spike protein on it’s surface. This virus grew well in eggs and was completely adaptable to the influenza vaccine manufacturing process. This enabled low and middle income countries to use their existing influenza virus vaccine plants to make their own COVID-19 vaccines.

The vaccine is now in phase 1 clinical trials in Vietnam and Thailand and soon in Brazil. It was recently described in the New York Times [April 5]. Some of the countries are now expanding their egg-handling plants and other manufacturers are joining the effort. The beauty of this technology is that NDV can be used to express the proteins of many different viruses and bacteria to make future vaccines that grow in eggs.

So, while the vaccine egg technology is old, it is very efficient, cost-effective and safe because of automated equipment like the equipment made by RAME-HART.

 

 

The product range of RAME-HART

Automatic Inoculation

30,000 - 33,000 eggs/hour

Fast, precise and reliable egg inoculation expedite vaccines to market.

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Automatic Harvesting

10,000 - 20,000 eggs/hour

Advanced egg harvesting technologies boost yields.

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Trolley Loader & Unloader

The Trolley Unloader uses a spatula design to automatically transfer trays from the trolley to a conveyor.

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Automatic Tray Washing System

Up to 1,000 trays/hour

The Automatic Tray Washer washes, sanitizes, final rinses, and dries trays at a rapid pace

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Semi Automatic Egg Harvester

This system is a section of the Automatic Harvester machine and works with smaller production facilities. For small- to medium-size production environments.

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