Secrets to Making a More Efficient Lab Environment

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Pharmaceutical laboratoryLaboratories are undergoing major transformations in response to the growing healthcare industry and advances in other scientific fields.

  • Leaders within laboratories are working to maximize efficiency in an increasingly prudent fiscal environment.
  • Managers are performing critical analysis of laboratory operations, scrutinizing layout and equipment in hopes of improving efficiency and increasing the inherent value of the research results.

There is no global solution to making a more efficient lab environment – it is up to each laboratory owner or manager to improve efficiency and return on investment.
 
Labs rely on a well-trained, efficiently allocated staff to deliver accurate analytical results in a timely fashion. The lab environment is playing an increasingly important role in efficiency, especially when it comes to saving energy, maximizing throughput and reducing waste. An efficient lab environment also helps workers adhere to quality and regulatory standards.
 
Energy Audit and Measure
Utilities play a critical role in successful, efficient lab research. Measurement and analysis of energy usage provide a snapshot of a lab’s efficiency. Reviewing utility meter and billing data are useful in identifying standing load and idle time consumption. Structured audits of existing facilities and review of past utility usages are essential when constructing or moving to a new facility.
 
Fix the Basics
Low cost, high yield fixes can address blatant energy waste issues found during the audit. One of the quickest, most effective solutions is to replace outdated technology with equipment featuring high efficiency motors, low energy lighting or low loss transformers.
 
Motors typically consume a large percentage of the electric usage in labs, with much of the electricity serving HVAC systems. Fixing the basics often involves upgrading HVAC systems with high efficiency motors.
 
Optimize Through Automation and Regulation
Use modern, high- efficiency technologies in everyday processes to optimize energy use. Join the army of labs moving away from central vacuum supply. Facilities housing these older central building utility systems are not adaptable to changes in science and corresponding fluctuations in program budgets. The inability to adapt to changing needs can hamper efficiency and limit the economic advantages of the lab environment.
 
The newest generation in lab vacuums provides optimal control and automation of the lab vacuum process, offering efficiency-boosting features such as automatically responding to demand for vacuum and automated evaporative processes that saves time, reduces wear, decreases energy demands and protects samples.
 
Water-jet aspirators waste tens of thousands of liters of water each year. Installing a small vacuum pump could pay for itself within a year or two. The new generation in lab equipment also frees scientists up so that they can act as researchers rather than equipment operators.
 
Newer water purification systems are more efficient than ever before. These water purification systems allow multiple users to dispense water simultaneously, which is essential in the cramped spaces of today’s shared labs.
 
Smaller, quieter, more powerful vacuum technologies allow labs to coexist with other businesses in multi-use facilities. Today’s pumps are more versatile and, therefore, more efficient than older pumps. The new breed of pumps have a deeper end vacuum, greater chemical compatibility, can handle liquids and gasses over a broad temperature range, and allow the user to tailor pump performance for use in multiple applications. Pumps are also quieter than ever before.
 
Monitor, Maintain and Improve
Continue monitoring, analyzing and seeking out ways to improve efficiency in the lab environment to ensure sustained savings. Scientists in academia and research are ditching the old dedicated labs for multidisciplinary science buildings. Each of the various scientific disciplines has differing needs, making the one-size-fits-all vacuum and old technology less efficient for contemporary researchers. The move to multifunction spaces makes other modular utilities, such as ultrapure water systems and ductless fume hoods, increasingly attractive.
 

  • Make the move towards environmentally friendly oil-free vacuum pumps that require no water or oil for operation. These pumps do not create contaminated waste and maintenance problems associated with older technology.
  • Move away from old water aspirators and oil-sealed rotary vane pumps. Maintenance problems and negative environmental impacts cost money and down time.

Making a more efficient lab environment takes planning and persistence but energy savings and increased throughput make improving lab efficiency a worthwhile investment. Lab owners cannot afford to compromise their research efforts by ignoring key features of an efficient lab environment, such as sustainability, comfort and safety.