Reason One: Equipment and Instruments are Going Down… Even More Often.

I have heard it. You have heard it. We have said it ourselves. It echoes in every lab, in every major language, on every continent.

“Oh, we changed that.” 

“…Really? Again?”

All workplaces know these words, but no one knows them quite like lab staff. Why do lab processes change so often, and do these changes add real value over time? Join us in assessing four major reasons why lab processes change, which changes add value, and how your lab can avoid excess process change.

“The HPLC was fine last week, but it just went down for the second time today!”
Nothing is more stressful or wasteful than re-prioritizing batches for short gaps between equipment and instrumentation breakdowns. Emergency process changes may save batches during repairs but without conscious commitment to the lab’s long-term goals, inefficient contingency protocols can become standard operating procedures.

Process Changes that Add Value

Adoption of new or recommended manufacturer standards.
Manufacturers regularly update software and best practices following user feedback. Labs that adopt these updates are likely to run more smoothly and weather fewer repair calls.

Transition to consumables that cause fewer issues.
Supply chain disruptions continue to force lab staff to trial alternative consumables. Does that new centrifuge tube brand work better than your favorite out-of-stock brand? Update the inventory list to reflect the new vendor – your equipment and your most gracious teammate will thank you!

Adjustment to new functionality of repaired or replaced equipment and instrumentation.
A process assessment following the repair or replacement of aging equipment often reveals multiple workarounds which no longer add value once proper function is restored. Labs can recalibrate by occasionally inviting process outsiders to audit the process for redundancies which have accumulated over time.

Signs a Process Change Subtracts Value

Regulatory compliance is violated or threatened.
Unapproved or improper equipment use are among the fastest ways to fall out of compliance – deviate from established standards with due caution… or not at all!

The manufacturer’s warranty is voided.
Manufacturer operations manuals and warranties range from simple to extraordinarily complex, especially if a manual is not available in a user’s native language. This complexity can mean both confusion and thousands of dollars in repairs which are not eligible for coverage under warranty. If operating instructions are unclear or directions for a desired use are not specifically outlined, ask the manufacturer for a written response to keep on file. A written response informs you now, helps your teammate later, and ensures proper documentation in case of a future warranty claim.

Safety is compromised by introducing or not preventing a hazard.
Although most laboratory equipment and instrumentation have native safety features, equipment can only function as safely as the process and environment around it. Join us in discussing the impact of Universal Design on lab safety in Reason 2: An accident, near miss, or hazard was found.

Process changes are seasonal and correspond with the outdoor environment.
Good news: we are almost finished discussing process changes caused by lab equipment malfunctions! I will be honest; I am unsure why you are so interested in reading about one of the worst parts of your job… but I am happy to be here together. I can finish my job today because my electronic equipment is functioning, but that was not always the case. Laboratory equipment and instrumentation are especially sensitive to changes in temperature and humidity and when a laboratory environment is constructed within an academic, office, or warehouse-style building, proper controls in insulation and HVAC are often overlooked, resulting in seasonal failures closely followed by process changes.

Seasonal equipment and instrumentation breakdowns can be disastrous to productivity, lab staff morale, and to the lifespan of a lab’s most expensive capital assets. When quantified, the cost of accepting these issues often outweighs the cost of resolving them with laboratory and cleanroom experts like Progressive AE.

We want to hear from you!

What processes have changed in your lab following equipment or instrumentation malfunctions? Tell us about your current or future lab or cleanroom and all its interesting challenges. Let’s keep the conversation going and your lab could even be featured in a future article!