Laboratory workers and researchers must be cognizant that laboratory equipment can malfunction without adequate monitoring and regularly scheduled maintenance. Equipment typically does not undergo catastrophic failures without earlier indications or signs of underlying issues. The important factor is having the capability to detect any anomalies or deviations before the situation worsens to the point of total equipment failure.
Preventive Maintenance for Laboratory Equipment
Laboratory equipment failure. It’s a cross-industry concern. Biotech, pharma, IVF: no matter what space you’re in, your work can be immediately impacted by an often easily avoidable issue.
In truth, it’s not really a lab thing but a people thing. How often have any of us heard a noise in the car, or had a home appliance get wonky, and say, “Meh. I’ll take care of that later.” But as any clinical lab manager knows, a different set of rules apply when your equipment stores, analyzes, or processes the materials — and fuels the projects — that drive scientific research and product development.
The issue for the lab manager in preventative maintenance of equipment is often cost. Repairs are costly. Replacements even more so. There are also costs in the form of productivity losses (when lab professionals cannot use “down” equipment), and the costs that can come if research assets are disturbed or damaged while equipment is repaired or replaced.
This is not an issue for clinical lab managers alone to solve. Technicians and researchers must be trained and have the tools to recognize the signs, as equipment typically does not undergo catastrophic failures without earlier indications of the issues at hand.
Read further for a few proactive, practical approaches to caring for and maintaining equipment, learn when to clean, when to repair, and when to replace, and discover how you can move from reactive... to proactive... to preventive... to predictive maintenance of laboratory equipment.
Read more about Equipment Monitoring in our eBook: The Ultimate Guide to Lab Equipment Monitoring
Proactive vs. Reactive Maintenance: "If it ain't broke..."
Believe it or not, many modern labs still take a reactive approach to ensuring the full functionality of their equipment (this is known as the “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” approach).
And while reactive maintenance has obvious negative consequences (such as downtime following an equipment failure), the sad fact is that these laboratories have avoided a more proactive approach as it requires a bit of time and money to avoid something that may not happen. Typically, all it takes is one catastrophic failure to turn to a more proactive approach.
Getting started moving from reactive to proactive doesn’t have to be a massive spend, either. Laboratory managers can start simply by ensuring that proper standard operating procedures (SOPs) and maintenance schedules are in place for monitoring the functionality of laboratory devices and equipment.
It’s crucial for equipment to be properly installed, maintained, and calibrated to protect the integrity of the results that are obtained during research, as well as to avoid potential risks or injuries involving laboratory personnel. This can all be codified in a series of SOPs: no infrastructure changes or equipment required!
Moving into preventive maintenance includes routine cleaning, monitoring and repairs, and timely replacement of any component that shows signs of failure. It’s a fairly basic approach that often gets overlooked. Put another way: ensuring that the equipment used for rocket science is clean is not in itself rocket science.
Want to Transform Preventive Maintenance Into Predictive Maintenance? It’s All About the Data.
The proactive and preventive steps outlined above beat reactive maintenance by a country mile, but the goal is predictive maintenance: knowing how to target future issues or failures before they happen, enabled by the careful monitoring of equipment, collection of historical data, and development of predictive algorithms. In essence, seeing and responding to the future.
With the ability to predict potential problems, plans can be made for moving samples to properly functioning equipment, optimizing maintenance schedules (e.g. equipment calibrations), and ensuring a lab can pivot when critical equipment is being repaired or replaced.
Are there up-front costs? Some. But the back-end rewards more than make-up for them. In fact, the McKinsey Global Institute suggests that predictive maintenance will decrease costs between 10% and 40%, saving organizations in the long term. Downtime from equipment maintenance scheduling will also be cut in half.
Additionally, the US Department of Energy indicated that predictive maintenance is cost-effective and leads to roughly 25% to 30% reduction in maintenance costs and a 70% to 75% decrease in equipment breakdowns.
On the flip side, reactive maintenance (i.e., fixing equipment after it breaks; the aforementioned “if it ain’t broke…” approach) can lead to total equipment failures which can result in endless and uncountable costs each year for facilities and operations teams, and even the commercial success of an enterprise.
Infographic: What Can Go Wrong in a Lab
By adhering to predictive maintenance (or, at the very least, proactive) best practices — improved SOPs, detailed documentation with clear guidelines on monitoring, collecting data from devices used in the lab and researchers in the field — organizations can transform lab operations in weeks, or even a day. But transformation always begins with the data.
A Data Collection and Analysis Best Practice
Data analysis in the lab drives everything about an effective laboratory equipment monitoring program.
The challenge is typically less in the analyzing than in the collecting. Laboratory equipment is purchased from original equipment manufacturers (OEMs), through third-party sellers and resellers, and sometimes even built or modified by your own technicians.
Rather than trying to solve for each piece of equipment, the most cost-effective approach is an overall monitoring platform that is essentially “device-agnostic.” Here is where XiltriX can make a huge difference in jump-starting a predictive maintenance program.
With a 24/7, autonomous, OEM-agnostic, laboratory monitoring solution that collects data in real-time, XiltriX connects to a wide variety of laboratory equipment such as refrigerators, freezers, incubators, bioreactors, cryotanks, as well as backup generators, HVAC, and BMS systems.
The XiltriX solution acquires and analyzes data outputs from equipment to detect problems and provide insightful analytics well before any laboratory equipment may fail. In the event of trouble, remote reporting functionality alerts clinical lab managers to potential problems the moment they arise.
XiltriX has more than 30 years of experience and is the leading laboratory monitoring solutions expert, helping modern laboratories create a custom, preventative maintenance approach for their equipment and facilities.
Learn more about best practices for laboratory equipment monitoring, in our eBook: