For many years, in many laboratory facilities, it has been common practice to manually log records when equipment, such as refrigerators and freezers, were last used or checked by the appropriate staff for calibration, maintenance, or overall proper functioning. These paper-based records are often tacked, or taped to the door. The “log sheet” is then updated manually by the most recent employee to access the equipment.
Cold Storage: The Dangers of Paper-based Record-keeping
Paper-based records are often difficult to interpret due to illegible handwriting, or an overabundance of records on the log sheet. Flimsy paper tacked or taped to a refrigerator or freezer door exacerbates the potential for the records to be misplaced, or accidentally destroyed. Also, manual, paper-based records only indicate information for specific points in time for equipment that is used frequently throughout the day.
Laboratory refrigerators and freezers are some of the most commonly used equipment in any life science facility, particularly in bio or blood banks. Research scientists may utilize a refrigerator or freezer to pull out samples, a laboratory technician may check on equipment functionality, other laboratory personnel may schedule cleaning or maintenance. When these activities are done, having handwritten notes logged onto a sheet of paper might mean this information is not recorded properly for the next staff to determine that the refrigerator or freezer is functioning optimally. A manual, paper-based system of records relies solely on each employee arbitrarily noticing whether equipment is working to specifications.
Manual record keeping risks
Laboratory researchers rely heavily on the proper functioning of both refrigerators and freezers, with many individuals using them multiple times a day. Freezers and refrigerators are some of the most important laboratory equipment due to the valuable samples and assets stored within. There are types of laboratory freezers that must operate within specific temperature parameters, such as -20C or -80C, with little to no deviations in order to maintain the necessary conditions for certain samples. Adhering to specific ambient parameters is critical for the preservation of biological and medical research samples and assets since ambient fluctuations can cause frozen or refrigerated samples to be seriously compromised or unstable. When temperatures fluctuate outside of set parameters, samples can be subjected to repetitious thawing and refreezing, which can result in degradation of biological molecules. Results from analysis and during experiments of compromised samples will not be accurate or reliable if this occurs. Any potential loss of samples due to equipment deviations or failures can result in a substantial loss of time and money spent on securing the samples.
There are other issues to keep in mind when working with laboratory refrigerators and freezers. Refrigerant may be leaking, which can pose a major health risk, especially if the refrigerant happens to be R744, a carbon dioxide based refrigerant. This type of refrigerant can be dangerous for employees if it rises to unsafe levels during an undetected leak. Another refrigerant, R177 (ammonia) also poses a threat and health risk if a leak occurs. Laboratory equipment technicians should continuously check and monitor for any harmful levels of carbon dioxide or ammonia if these sorts of refrigerants are used in equipment.
With manual record keeping and no real-time monitoring of equipment, if any laboratory staff, outside of laboratory technicians or engineers, observes an issue at the time they are pulling samples out of a refrigerator or freezer they would have to reach out to the appropriate personnel to report the issue, typically the facilities or operations manager. This contact information is often garnered from another piece of paper tacked or taped to the fridge or freezer, which can pose more problems since there are no guarantees that this person will be available to answer the call, because that individual may be busy or the problem might be noticed outside of normal working hours.
Another challenge is that small problems with equipment are not always detected in a timely manner, which can seriously compromise laboratory results. These irregularities may be minute, but over time can result in total failure of the freezer or refrigerator. A total failure can have catastrophic consequences for stored samples and overall laboratory research efforts. Such a failure can constitute considerable downtime while research scientists wait for samples to be replaced and equipment to be repaired.
Fortunately, for organizations that aim to operate state-of-art facilities and equipment, there are solutions that can be put in place to automatically and continuously monitor equipment parameters. Digital laboratory monitoring solutions and systems allow for real-time monitoring of equipment functionality. With such systems, laboratory personnel can monitor temperature, as well as duration of door openings and closings throughout the day. This real-time monitoring can be done in the laboratory, as well as from remote locations, through interconnected platforms, when no staff is physically present in the lab at the time. This is extremely advantageous for laboratory facilities when considering that issues or failures can occur at any moment. Some monitoring systems can even ensure backup generators are functioning properly in the event of a power outage.
Automated monitoring using digital methods is one of the most effective ways to decrease maintenance costs. Adopting proactive vs. reactive maintenance schedules by leveraging predictive analytics is important, because automated, 24-hour monitoring enables the rapid detection of minor problems with equipment that may lead to more serious problems in the future.
Many experts in industry note that there are major reductions in maintenance costs when organizations implement automated, real-time digital monitoring systems. Access to digital records provides increased visibility over all laboratory and equipment operations. As mentioned above, when small issues and problems are detected and repaired before they become major problems that lead to equipment failure, there are exponential savings in time and money spent.
Read more about Equipment Monitoring in our eBook: The Ultimate Guide to Lab Equipment Monitoring
The XiltriX Solution
XiltriX provides this exact type of monitoring solution and is the trusted partner relied on by many life science organizations around the world. The XiltriX solution delivers digital, real-time monitoring of laboratory equipment including freezers and refrigerators and provides 24/7 monitoring as a service on laboratory equipment and facility functionality. Digital records of temperature readouts, as well as door openings and closings can be accessed in real-time and automated reports can be generated in order to ensure that even the slightest deviation is detected. Effective, streamlined reporting of data enables rapid detection of any problems and allows for improved processes.
XiltriX collects data via wireless or wired architectures, and uses a variety of sensors to automatically record data for equipment functionality. The system pulses for data readouts every five seconds so any deviations are quickly recorded and can be properly addressed by the appropriate laboratory personnel.
The XiltriX system has pre-set alarms and notifications that include physical flashing lights on the equipment itself, as well as personalized notifications when a detrimental deviation is detected. These notifications can be sent to the appropriate personnel through phone calls, text messages, or emails and can be accessed on computers, tablets or mobile devices allowing the appropriate personnel to access the system in order to perform the necessary corrective actions.
The increased capabilities in being able to respond accordingly once informed that there is an issue is an incredible benefit to any life science organization. The XiltriX solution’s redundant architecture ensures that not only the laboratory staff in the vicinity of the equipment are alerted to a problem, but also other important individuals who may be out of the laboratory are also alerted.
The XiltriX solution’s cloud-based software and industrial grade hardware system is designed with multiple layers of security so customers have no concern for loss of data or failure of the monitoring system. The many layers of connectivity and ease of scalability for adding new sensors and additional data outputs provides any size life science organization complete peace of mind knowing that their science is protected. The XiltriX Safety Net team provides 24/7 monitoring as a service and manages the system to safeguard laboratory assets and equipment for another added layer of security.
With over 30 years of experience in the life science industry, XiltriX provides the most robust monitoring solution, compliant with international and US regulatory standards, able to securely monitor and log thousands of data points, with alarms quickly being generated when data falls outside of specified limits. XiltriX provides organizations with the best solution to the archaic practice of manual, paper-based records.
To learn more about the XiltriX solution, download our Product Overview White Paper by clicking the button below.