Category Archives: Lab Management

Importance Of Electrical Safety Checks In Laboratory Settings

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   We should all know the hazards of electricity before we even begin to think about using it.  Unfortunately, while a lot of people understand the danger of this energy source, many do not know how in fact electricity energizes our electronics, vehicles and appliances. This in itself is a main cause of accidental electric shocks and deaths around the world.  So, to fully understand the dangers, it’s important to educate yourself on how electricity works.

 

    In a laboratory setting, the potential for electrical accidents is extremely high.  Due to the nature of chemicals involved, equipment that utilize power and other potential risks, electrical safety checks in laboratories are absolutely necessary.  Understanding that without this in demand source of energy, a laboratory would fail to function, is reason enough to learn how to use electricity safely.

 

   Without going into all the technical jargon that applies to electrical safety and applications, there are some critical things that can be performed prior to using electrical devices in a laboratory. One of the most common issues in any electrical setting is faulty wiring.  Before using, it’s highly recommended to check the wiring for cracks or breaks in the insulation.  If found, it’s important to replace these damaged wires. A quick fix with duct tape will not solve the problem! Additionally laboratories should not overload circuits and limit the use of extension cords.  Failure to do so is an electrical shock or fire waiting to happen!

Blog Electrical Safety Test

   Laboratory electrical safety checks should also be performed on electrical outlets.  Outlets should be checked annually and should have a proper grounding system.  A two prong outlet is not a grounded outlet.  Grounded outlets are required to have a third wire (green) that is grounded to the junction box and run back to the electrical panel.  Failure to have properly grounded outlets in laboratories is another fire or shock in the making.

 

   These are just a couple of reasons electrical safety checks are recommended for laboratories. The dangers associated with chemicals lists laboratories as a must for frequent  safety checks of electrical equipment as well as the electrical devices.  Without safety checks on the electrical system in a laboratory, the risk of fire, shock and explosions are much greater. Safety checks of laboratories should be completed on a regular basis by an electrical inspector designated for the area and laboratory assigned.

For additional information on the importance of performing electrical safety checks in laboratories, please see this link.

http://safety.1800inet.com/program_highlights.php/name/about_electrical_safety_in_the_laboratory/toc_id/2-1/s/4?twss=dbeae47b7faa11eb06f9e323fc640e31

Distilled or Deionized Water? What’s the Difference?

Regular water from the tap, though not unhealthy to consume, can cause a great deal of problems when used with highly sensitive lab equipment.  It is important to remove ionic impurities and minerals from water to achieve precise results in any testing, formulations, calibrations or cleaning.

 

Impurities found in water include suspended particles, colloidal particles, dissolved organic and inorganic solids, dissolved gases, microorganisms, viruses and DNA.

 

Two of the most common processes used to remove ionic impurities from water are distillation and deionization (DI).

 

steam-distillationDistillation

 

Distillation purifies liquid by boiling it, capturing the steam and then condensing the vapors. The condensed vapors are then returned to their liquid state finishing the distillation process.  Solids and other contaminants, salt being the most important, remain in the original container with just pure water being reduced to vapor. It takes approximately five gallons of water to create one gallon of distilled water.

 

 

Membrane_Capacitive_Deionization_in_workDeionization

 

Deionization removes minerals and ions, both cations (positively charged ions) and anions (negatively charged ions), through a chemical process. DI uses specially manufactured ion-exchange resins which exchange hydrogen ions and hydroxide ions for dissolved minerals, which are then recombined to form water (this leaves DI in an unbalanced condition and with an electrical charge.)  DI does not significantly remove uncharged organic molecules, viruses or bacteria. Because deionized water is unbalanced, it goes after any dissolvable or absorbable ions on contact trying to return to a balanced state.

 

So how do you know whether you should use distilled or deionized water in an application?

 

Lab Uses

 

Because distilled water is pure, it’s valuable in research since it is a constant and does not interfere with any chemical processes. Distilled water is used primarily as a solvent for reagent preparation, as a calibration standard or analytical blank, for cleaning testing equipment and rinsing an analyte. Distilled water is used when making High Purity Water. It should be used in all equipment sterilization.

 

Deionized water is used when an application requires a soft solvent.  DI water works best in cooling applications because of its lack of mineral deposits. Deionized water is also used in reagent preparation, transferring an analyte within a test procedure, as a calibration standard or analytical blank, and for cleaning lab equipment. DI water is best for washing glassware because of the absence of minerals and ions.  DI is corrosive and should not be used when there will be extensive contact with certain metals.

 

As Drinking Water

 

Deionized water should never be consumed as drinking water since the deionized process does not remove bacteria or viruses (compared to municipally filtered drinking water.) The jury is still out about the benefits of drinking distilled water.

 

Can They Be Substituted?

 

Not always – distilled water can be substituted for deionized water, but deionized water should never be exchanged when distilled waster is called for in any application. Always check with the manufacturer’s instructions before speculating about whether distilled water or deionized water should be used. Your Biotechnical Services technician can always help you determine which one to use.

5 Practical Reasons to Furnish Your Lab with Pre-Owned Lab Equipment

Investing in new lab equipment can stretch the boundaries of your budget. And with funding cuts and other economic issues, now is the time to make prudent budget decisions. One of the easiest ways to save on instrument costs is to buy pre-owned and re-certified equipment and parts. Here are 5 reasons to buy pre-owned/re-certified over new:

  1. Same product at a reduced price
  2. Discontinued stock
  3. Finding the ‘hard-to-find’ part
  4. Sustainability
  5. Increasing your return on assets

 

Same Equipment at a Reduced Price

Pre-owned lab instruments can come from a variety of sources:

  • labs upgrading equipment
  • closing or consolidation of labs
  • inventory overstock
  • damaged equipment
  • cancelled orders

If a lab is upgrading their equipment, it doesn’t necessarily mean their old equipment in not in proper working order. It just means that you can get a great bargain. Closing or consolidating of labs is an everyday occurrence. Again, this doesn’t mean the pre-owned appliance isn’t in perfect working order – just that it can be had for a great price. Overstocks and cancelled orders are the best value just like any other piece of electronic gear. Buying damaged equipment is a little trickier.

First, you want to be familiar with the seller. Check out their reputation and any online reviews. Second, find out what the extent of the damage was. Small dings can be easily fixed without a great deal of expense. With a larger problem, ask for test results to see if it is working properly. Some damaged items may be sold ‘as is’. Check to see if there is a warranty. And make sure the engineers are factory-trained technicians. Pre-owned units should be repaired to meet factory/manufacturers’ specifications.

 

Discontinued Equipment

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It’s discontinued?

Manufacturers choose to discontinue products when a new (better, faster, etc.) one reaches the market. Along with the instrument, they may also discontinue creating parts made specifically for that model. When that occurs, finding a pre-owned piece or part is your best, and probably only, bet.

Sometimes the manufacturer or their dealers may still have the unit or a part you need in stock – even if the equipment has been discontinued. Places like eBay and Craigslist are good places to check.  Contacting a local parts or third party equipment dealer may also help you find exactly what you need. And if not in stock, they can usually locate the part or apparatus.

Remember too, that just because the manufacturer has decided to stop producing a certain piece of equipment, that the equipment is not obsolete. You may not need all the new bells and whistles. Buying a discontinued piece of equipment could mean years of production without increasing your overhead.

 

Finding that ‘Hard-to-find’ Part

It can be very frustrating to try to find that part you need that you know must be out there somewhere. The manufacturer doesn’t have it in stock and neither does the local retailer.  A company that sells used lab equipment may have that part on hand. Lab equipment normally has a long life-span, so if your equipment is still running, there’s a good possibility parts are available.

 

Sustainability

recycleRecycling, or buying used, lab equipment is a way of maintaining sustainability for several different reasons: the item is not taking up place in a landfill, there’s no worry about hazardous waste, and upholding your corporate social responsibility program.

Many labs now have Sustainability programs that require the concerted effort to reduce costs and waste. Harvard Labs have instituted a Harvard Labs Reuse List to find new homes for their unused lab equipment. Purchasing pre-owned instruments, is an easy way to uphold your labs sustainability program.

 

Increasing Your Return on Assets

The biotech industry is very competitive. Whether it’s finding new treatments or manufacturing new medications, first to market can mean millions of dollars for your lab. Buying used will save you a lot of time and money – which goes a long way towards improving your ROI. The most obvious way to increase your return on assets ratio is to spend less to acquire the assets necessary to run your business. Reducing your inventory costs helps to increase your revenues. Additionally, you will save time on training your employees if most are already familiar with how to operate the device. Taking time away from work won’t be necessary for your researchers to learn new systems, software or procedures.

 

Five Practical Reasons Why

So there are five great reasons to furnish your lab with pre-owned lab equipment. Finding a reputable dealer in used equipment is your next step. Research the companies out there, look at eBay or Craigslist, and then decide on the best deal. Don’t think “used” means “non-operational” or “unreliable”.  It means saving time, money and the environment.

How to Use Biotechnical Services Lab Equipment Locator

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Lab Equipment Locator

Finding the part or piece of lab equipment you want, can sometimes be harder than it should be. Manufacturers and dealers may stop stocking a part if there is a “new and improved” part on the market. When this happens, make it easy on yourself.

Biotechnical Services has been helping customers find lab equipment since 1989. Just log on to our website and navigate to the right hand side. There you will find the link to our Lab Equipment Locator. Just click on the link and fill out the information. After that, we will track down the piece of equipment or part for you right away.

Don’t waste your resources trying to find a part or piece of lab equipment. Let Biotechnical Services do it for you. We’ll do that while you help make the world a better place.

How to Improve your Lab’s Asset Utilization Ratio

The last thing you want to do today is to waste resources. With funding sources plummeting, every penny counts in the biotech industry. A major loss of revenue can come from an unexpected and calamitous equipment breakdown. For every second the equipment is offline, production and income are lost due to the instrument’s and the employee’s downtime.

What is Asset Utilization?

12711647579wa7j7Asset utilization, or fixed asset turnover, is an important ratio for every lab manager to know. Asset utilization indicates if your lab instrument is being used to its full potential and efficiency. Asset utilization monitors your equipment’s performance to help increase sales revenue and/or improve productivity. Simply stated, the higher the ratio, the more efficient the management of the lab instruments and the greater the sales and output potential   – though there are circumstances when a high ratio can be deceiving.

Depreciated Value

Lab equipment, unless rented or leased, is considered one of your organization’s fixed assets, along with property and buildings. Over time lab equipment depreciates in value. In the eyes of the IRS, the expected life for lab equipment is 10 years.  So determining the realistic expected life time of your lab equipment is needed to figure out the asset utilization ratio.

Asset Utilization Ratio AKA Fixed Asset Turnover Ratio

The fixed asset turnover ratio is expressed as:

Fixed-asset turnover = net sales / average net fixed assets

Your net sales could also be your net production levels or net funding accrued.  The average net fixed assets are the cost of the fixed asset less their depreciated value.

What you are determining is: for every dollar spent on fixed assets, how much revenue am I earning OR how productive am I?

A high ratio tells you that your fixed assets are working efficiently.  As mentioned above, a ratio that is too high may also indicate that your equipment is too old and past its depreciated value life span.

How to Improve Your Asset Utilization Ratio

Improving your asset utilization ratio can be achieved with a number of different ways:

  • Replace equipment past its useful life — Know the expected life of each unit
  • Maintain your instruments in proper working order — Take care of small problems so they don’t become big ones
  • Schedule regular maintenance — Preventative maintenance ensures fewer breakdowns
  • Know the piece of equipment’s efficiency level — What should be the output?
  • Regularly test for efficiencies — Schedule your testing on the calendar
  • Record all testing results – Keep good records
  • Compare testing results over set time periods — Can alert you to any issues with a change in efficiencies

Maintaining the highest efficiencies of your lab through the close monitoring of your asset utilization ratio will contribute to both your bottom line and production levels.