High-quality temperature monitoring is critical to life science organizations due to the strong influence that temperature can have on environmental conditions. These environmental conditions can make or break the quality of an organization’s research, development, and production if they do not remain stable. An often overlooked aspect of temperature monitoring is a process known as temperature mapping, in which a device or room is tested for fluctuations in temperature depending on the location of stored materials. It requires that temperature sensors be placed in a wide range of locations within the same device to ensure that the entire space is experiencing the same conditions. Consider your refrigerator at home; it is likely that you prefer to put your milk carton at the back of the refrigerator, instead of on the door shelf, to make sure that the milk does not absorb heat each time the door is opened. Likewise, anything that is stored in a warehouse, cold storage unit, incubator, or similar temperature-controlled device is susceptible to these types of temperature fluctuations. For this reason, many organizations internally require that their facilities undergo the process of temperature mapping. It is a process that should not take valuable time away from organizations; however, many are unaware of the solutions that are available to them, resulting in a headache for everyone involved.
The Importance of Real-Time Data Collection
Often, life science organizations are required to, or opt to, perform temperature mapping at several points during the course of their endeavors. When a piece of equipment is initially installed, it must receive Operation Qualification; if this piece of equipment ever needs to be replaced, it must receive it again. This piece of equipment may then be routinely mapped to receive Performance Qualification to ensure that this quality has been maintained successfully. These parameters for temperature mapping emphasize a particular road block of traditional temperature mapping techniques. If a device fails a Performance Qualification, what should the organization do? Has everything stored or manufactured in this space been compromised, requiring a recall or destruction? It is unlikely that lab employees will be able to identify exactly when deviations began to occur, and therefore the accuracy and quality of these scientific assets will be called into question. A lab that utilizes real-time monitoring, however, does not have to handle this misfortune because they receive consistent temperature information and can immediately diagnose deviations. Furthermore, these organizations can be certain that they are creating reproducible science, complying with regulations, and saving money.
Reproducibility of Scientific Results
In the aforementioned anecdote about your refrigerator, a carton of milk is the item at hand that can be easily ruined if not in the proper temperature conditions. In life science labs, it is the scientific assets that an organization relies on for progress and profit. It is exponentially important that stored samples are well-maintained, particularly in terms of environmental conditions. Temperature mapping aids in this because it ensures that all areas of the storage vessel are subject to the same temperature. This provides an invaluable level of security to your organization because it allows you to accurately reproduce findings and samples. If samples are stored in an incubator with various “hot spots”, for example, it will be impossible to guarantee that each experiment can be reproduced accurately. However, an incubator that uses real-time monitoring and allows users to temperature map their devices on a regular basis can prevent this situation. Real-time monitoring for temperature mapping allows organizations to be proactive, rather than reactive, when it comes to controlling equipment functionality and environmental conditions.
Making sure that your organization is meeting all FDA requirements can be a frustrating process; this is because traditional methods of monitoring make it difficult to prove during audits. Additionally, organizations may worry that there was a misstep in the lab that went unnoticed, which would ultimately compromise their organization’s credibility. Much of this difficulty is created by reliance on a single, outdated temperature mapping; many organizations fail to realize that the only way to prevent an outdated temperature mapping is by consistently monitoring it. Real time-mapping provides constant reassurance and objective data to prove compliance both internally and externally. It cannot be guaranteed that the outside temperature the next day will not be significantly hotter than the day before, or that the building’s HVAC system will continue to operate properly and maintain optimal conditions. Furthermore, a particular day in which there are several door openings—which can dramatically impact the dispersal of heat in an environment—might go unnoticed, even though standardized lab processes are critical to achieving regulatory compliance. Fortunately, it is entirely possible to set your organization ahead of these issues by relying on real-time lab monitoring that will not only help standardize operations, but alert you before critical parameters are breached. Most importantly, the pain of compliance is negated by the regular environmental stability gained that helps you sleep at night.
Creating environmental stability grants organizations the ability to focus budgets on scientific advancement. In an industry that develops life changing medicines and therapies, it is essential to recognize the monetary value of all samples stored in a facility. Unfortunately, valuable intellectual property may become compromised if lab space is not being utilized properly. Many scientists rely on their equipment’s “sweet spots,” in which outcomes always seem to be favorable. Consistent temperature mapping helps you understand the variability between areas and thus ensures that the most sensitive—and therefore valuable—samples are stored in the most stable area. Mapping can also help regulate HVAC cycles which will reduce your lab facility’s overall electrical cost. HVAC systems typically rely on a small number of sensors placed in stationary locations, which significantly lowers their efficiency. This is because there is an inherent flaw in trying to base the amount of heating or cooling that needs to take place on one sensor in a given area. Areas closer to windows may be warmer, while corners of the building immediately adjacent to vents may be significantly cooler. Take a look at the graph below, which demonstrates how different areas of an incubator can vary in temperature; the same can happen in any temperature-controlled environment, whether it be a large warehouse or a -80 freezer. If your lab is able to consistently monitor these temperatures in every aspect of your facility, you are guaranteed to improve HVAC functions and save money as a result.
Even if only by less than one degree celsius, life science samples are vulnerable to even the slightest deviations. It is important to review objective data that relays information about variations in temperature.
Real-time temperature mapping is guaranteed to give you more valuable information on how your warehouses, cold storage units, incubators, or other spaces vary day-by-day and season-to-season so that your organization can standardize conditions and optimize workflows.
Curious about how temperature mapping can improve your facility? Ask a question or leave a comment below!