Maintaining Instruments to Proactively Improve Productivity in the Laboratory

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  • Published: Mar 19, 2018
  • Author: Joris Noëth
  • Channels: Laboratory Informatics / Proteomics & Genomics / Sample Preparation / Gas Chromatography / HPLC / Detectors / Electrophoresis / Ion Chromatography / Infrared Spectroscopy / UV/Vis Spectroscopy / Chemometrics & Informatics / Proteomics / MRI Spectroscopy / X-ray Spectrometry / NMR Knowledge Base / Base Peak / Raman / Atomic

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Within a laboratory or facility, when deciding on a new instrument, productivity, reliability and uptime are likely to be high on a lab manager’s list of priorities. These factors are related not only to the instrument itself, but also to the maintenance provided throughout the instrument’s lifecycle, from the point of initial purchase right through to replacement. Fast response by maintenance engineers to an instrument problem can help to reduce downtime after breakdown. In general, such maintenance is included in the price of an instrument, thus resulting in a fairly cost-effective solution.

Typically maintenance can actually be referred to as repairs as it tends to happen in a reaction to instrument failures or breakdowns. Therefore labs end up with instrument downtime which can last for unspecified periods, aggravated by the need to purchase parts and gain administrative approvals.

Maintenance, when carried out properly, should be a proactive procedure, focusing on preventing problems and scheduling parts replacements to prolong the life span of an instrument.

The market is also evolving and equipment companies find it increasingly difficult to attract and retain experienced engineers. These are the people who are key to ensuring optimal instrument performance, productivity, reliability and uptime for the laboratory. There is a need for a new solution in the industry that will give access to the expertise in real time and then provide the on-site solution when it becomes necessary to physically fix a piece of equipment.

A New Philosophy

The industry has long known that a reactive approach is not the most effective approach to maintenance of highly technical equipment. Currently the preference is for a proactive approach which involves focusing more on identifying the root cause of issues that occur and providing planned proactive maintenance to reduce the frequency of repairs required. By taking this approach in the context of a maintenance agreement, continuity can be guaranteed.

Although not currently widely available, there is a third approach the predictive approach. This involves statistical analysis of instruments to monitor performance and predict failures. Remote monitoring is the first step in its development. Through this approach, it may eventually be possible to inform laboratories in advance of a part failing, giving the laboratory time to plan and budget for this maintenance. Although it is possible to monitor only a few parameters currently, the more this is expanded, the more accurately failures can be predicted in the future.

Figure 1. Service scenarios

Laboratories reap the rewards

The advantages of the predictive approach and the use of remote monitoring can be highlighted with an example from a laboratory in Russia. As liquid helium is required to maintain instruments’ magnetic field, and liquid helium evaporates over time, liquid helium needs to be refilled on a regular basis. If the liquid helium goes below a certain level, the magnetic field will be lost and the magnet will quench, meaning the system cannot be used until it is put back on field. This process, however, can take anywhere between a week and several months, in some cases.

Through remote monitoring, the laboratory in Russia was contacted to let them know that the liquid helium level was dropping too quickly, an indication that something was going wrong with the system. After the laboratory topped the helium back up, the helium level again dropped and a local maintenance team could intervene, visiting on-site and diagnosing and fixing the problem. This avoided the potentially significant downtime that would have resulted if the problem had gone unnoticed and unattended.

Investing in the future

Reliability of instrumentation in a lab is vital to ensure the continuation of work. For equipment companies this means investing in the future support of customers by retaining experienced engineers who provide high-quality servicing as well as hiring new staff globally who are able to continue improving customers’ experience of maintenance services by innovation.

By implementing a shift towards a more proactive approach to servicing, and developing and introducing a more predictive approach, instrumentation failures can be prevented, reducing downtime and inconvenience for the laboratory.

It is also important for lifecycle support to be local and accessible. By investing in dedicated service teams around the globe, experienced engineers can be available locally to laboratories around the world effecting rapid responses to downtime issues.

Summary

In an evolving market it is important to invest in in the future. By maintaining high standards of maintenance, the productivity and reliability of instruments can be ensured and improved. This gives laboratories peace of mind and has a positive effective on instrument sales.

Providing planned, proactive maintenance activities reduces the need for reactive repairs and improves laboratory efficiencies. However, such services require appropriate cost structures to be in place and changes to historical maintenance agreements to be made.

By providing a range of services levels within maintenance agreements, every laboratory can find a service to suit, delivering local experienced engineers rapidly to reduce downtime.

For more information about service and lifecycle support, please visit: www.bruker.com/LabScape.

About the Author

Joris Noëth is VP Global Sales - Services & Life Cycle Support at Bruker BioSpin. Joris has close to 20 years of experience in various aspects of instrumentation support and is responsible for ensuring a healthy service driven business environment that allows Bruker to provide long lasting service and lifecycle support with experienced teams for its customers.

About Bruker Corporation

For more than 55 years, Bruker has enabled scientists to make breakthrough discoveries and develop new applications that improve the quality of human life. Bruker’s high-performance scientific instruments and high-value analytical and diagnostic solutions enable scientists to explore life and materials at molecular, cellular and microscopic levels. In close cooperation with our customers, Bruker is enabling innovation, productivity and customer success in life science molecular research, in applied and pharma applications, and in microscopy, nano-analysis and industrial applications. In recent years, Bruker has also become a provider of high-performance systems for cell biology, preclinical imaging, clinical phenomics and proteomics research, clinical microbiology, and for molecular pathology research. For more information, please visit www.bruker.com.

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