How Can an IoT Solution Help Your Lab? A Case Study

Situated in Cambridge, Massachusetts, LabCentral is one of the country’s leading co-working laboratory launch-pad for life-science start-ups that demonstrate strong potential.

It can provide all the necessities required for new companies to start lab operations almost straight away after moving in, allowing them to accelerate their science forward more quickly and cost-effectively.

While the scientists based in the center are working on cutting edge technologies, LabCentral’s laboratory operations team takes care of all other necessities, from managing permits and lab maintenance, to administrative duties, such as purchasing lab supplies. LabCentral has been supported by their proud sponsor, Elemental Machines, since 2015.

Before the Elemental Machines Solution

The Elemental Machines Solution has shown itself to be a highly valued service for the laboratory operations team at LabCentral.

The solution is comprised of Elements, wireless sensor units that gather high-resolution environmental data from lab equipment, including refrigerators, freezers, incubators, ovens, etc. as well as localized zones within the facility.

The web-based Elemental Insights dashboard displays the aggregated Element data for monitoring and alerting at any time, day or night. Before they employed the Elemental Machines solution, LabCentral lacked a thorough and centralized system for monitoring and alerting.

The result of this was three key areas of difficulty for the laboratory operations team:

  1. Long, periodic walk-throughs of the 70,000-square-foot facility to make sure that its force of over 300 items of equipment was fully operational.
  2. Conveying information on equipment issues to residents of LabCentral.
  3. Insufficient transparency in relation to the operation of laboratory equipment.

Prior to the introduction of Elemental Machines solution, regular walk-throughs of the 70,000 sq foot LabCentral facility were the only ways to detect lab equipment issues Photo courtesy: LabCentral © Paul Avis Photography.

Figure 1. Prior to the introduction of Elemental Machines solution, regular walk-throughs of the 70,000 sq foot LabCentral facility were the only ways to detect lab equipment issues Photo courtesy: LabCentral © Paul Avis Photography.

After Elemental Machines Solution

With the help of the Elemental Machines solution, LabCentral was able to address the three key difficulties in the following ways:

  1. The establishment of personalized alert systems removed the requirement for periodic walk-throughs. The Elemental Machines solution offers LabCentral team members valuable freedom to make equipment monitoring a remote task. This process allows team members to take action to correct problems instantly, even when working remotely.

The eventual outcome of this is that the quantity of materials scrapped as a result of equipment failures and power outages - a common issue during winter in the region - is significantly reduced.

Many of our residents produce time- and cost-intensive samples whose loss can impede the scientific advancement that our organization fosters.”

Celina Chang, LabCentral Sr. Director, Laboratory Operations

Elemental Machines solution monitors the LabCentral facility during inclement weather. Photos courtesy: David Van Horn licensed via CC and LabCentral © Paul Avis Photography respectively.

Figures 2a(left) and 2b(right). Elemental Machines solution monitors the LabCentral facility during inclement weather. Photos courtesy: David Van Horn licensed via CC and LabCentral © Paul Avis Photography respectively.

2. This system enables greater communication in relation to equipment issues/failures via access to the Elemental Insights dashboard, shared with LabCentral residents.

The LabCentral laboratory operations team utilizes the Elemental Machines solution to manage the full array of equipment, while residents are given specific access to the dashboard, allowing them access to equipment and areas that are related to their particular company’s functions.

This gives resident scientists the ability to monitor and be sent alerts for any environmental factors that may have an impact on their studies.

Whether they are a resident scientist or a member of the LabCentral team, each user set up personalized alert thresholds tied to specific equipment varieties, locations, environmental parameters other significant categories.

Where equipment performance deviates from expected parameters with color-coded views on the Elemental Insights dashboard. The Elemental Machines solution enables numerous groups within a larger organization, each of which specific requirements, to attain a signification degree of personalization.

Elemental Insights Dashboard provides an overview of issues at the LabCentral facility based on user-defined parameters

Figure 3. Elemental Insights Dashboard provides an overview of issues at the LabCentral facility based on user-defined parameters.

3. Machine details found on the Elemental Insights dashboard have offered increased transparency and insight into the facility.

After gaining the ability to monitor the laboratory environment across the entire system, the LabCentral team were able to detect problems with the HVAC system that had affected several areas of the facility.

The ability to monitor the temperature and relative humidity of the zones which suffered the effects was vital in defining precisely the impact the HVAC failure had had on the everyday operations of resident companies.

LabCentral was able to identify the impacts of substandard operating conditions and avoid further harm by monitoring both the equipment and its environment.

Prior to this insight from Elemental Machines, we had challenges tracking the laboratory atmosphere in real-time. This new data drove us to invest in temporary solutions while our HVAC system was repaired.”

Lyndsey York, Senior Lab Manager, LabCentral

As well as assisting with these three main points of difficulty experienced by LabCentral, the Elemental Machines solution also delivered unexpected advantages:

  • Scalability:

In order to support their dynamic and quickly growing organization, Elemental Machines was able to provide LabCentral with a scalable combined monitoring/alerting solution.

Since LabCentral has increased in size from the time of its launch, Elemental Machines has also offered smooth integration of new equipment and laboratory space onto its Elemental Insights dashboard as an additional part of its scalable solution.

Both the number and types of Elements at LabCentral as grown with time. As LabCentral expanded, Elemental Machines equipped new facilities with additional Elements. Additionally, LabCentral has welcomed new Elemental Machines technology over the years. Clockwise from top left: Element-T (temperature), Element-A (ambient environment), Element-D (data capture from incubators, balances, etc.)

Figure 4. Both the number and types of Elements at LabCentral has grown with time. As LabCentral expanded, Elemental Machines equipped new facilities with additional Elements. Additionally, LabCentral has welcomed new Elemental Machines technology over the years. Clockwise from top left: Element-T (temperature), Element-A (ambient environment), Element-D (data capture from incubators, balances, etc.)

  • Facilitate repair or remediation decisions:

Examination of data from a specific freezer showed a cyclic pattern which, based on knowledge of earlier incidents, suggested an impending compressor failure. With this information, the LabCentral team was able to take action prior to the freezer’s failure, saving time and money on identification of the problem.

With the usual rush and panic of an emergency avoided, the freezer’s contents were safely transported to another freezer and no materials were lost.

  • Data for GLP:

A company resident at LabCentral was creating formal Good Laboratory Practices. As a part of this program, the company created procedures for storage of thermally sensitive materials. Being scientists, they required data to rationalize choices for material storage location, equipment maintenance plans, etc.

Thanks to the Elemental Insights dashboard, this data was easily accessible for the team. The resident company now has further plans to make use of this data for internal audits and to set up further laboratory processes.

Conclusions

The Elemental Machines solution, which allows users to focus on their fundamental missions, is seen as a vital tool by both the LabCentral team and their residents.

With the help of personalized and scalable features, Elemental Machines has enabled the LabCentral laboratory operations team to maintain an increasing quantity of vital lab equipment, while also offering their residents peace of mind and the ability to capture real-time data that holds implications for their important research.

Elemental Machines is proud to provide support for both small and large organizations that are catalyzing radical scientific developments.

About Elemental Machines

Elemental Machines is helping scientists improve experimental reproducibility and accelerate scientific discovery.

From early research and discovery to manufacturing, everyone in biology and chemistry-based industries knows that the physical environment can affect the entire product lifecycle. What they don’t know is exactly how, or the cumulative cost of not knowing -- higher R&D expenses, slower time to market for innovative products and life-saving therapies, yield loss during manufacturing, and more.

With a deep understanding of these issues, Elemental Machines is delivering unprecedented insight into complex processes, helping customers refine and accelerate their work across all phases of product innovation.

By gathering and synthesizing environmental data into actionable information, Elemental Machines provides critical insights that improve transparency, repeatability and outcomes, and save customers time and money.

Track contextual variables (temperature, humidity, air pressure and light) in the research lab or monitor critical equipment performance (freezers, refrigerators, ovens, and incubators) for easy access to performance data, as well as alerts if readings are out of range.


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Last updated: Mar 1, 2019 at 6:53 AM

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