Go Green and Maximize Lab Productivity with AI

There’s a common misconception that going green is expensive and a distracting obligation for large organizations. Few realize that it’s possible to create a greener lab space while actually reducing costs!  Artificial intelligence tools can offer significant insight to any organization on reducing energy consumption and thus saving money while simultaneously increasing lab productivity and protecting precious lab samples. Let's examine this technology in further detail.

Laboratory equipment is often a big contributor to increased operational costs. After all, common equipment such as cold storage, incubators, and mass specs can range in price from tens to hundreds of thousands of dollars, not to mention upkeep costs for the equipment such as power consumption, lab real estate, and service/maintenance. Expenditure on power and increased real estate footprint are certainly not green solutions, especially if the equipment is not utilized enough to justify the cost. The good news is that there are tools, such as the Elemental Machines Platform, that can help you track equipment utilization in your lab. The Platform is an add-on solution that is compatible with existing and new lab equipment. Even better, it works in the background without affecting any of your lab operations.  The Elemental Machines Platform offers both secure, yet configurable user access to the insights gathered by the Platform. Role-based permissions, from Admin to User, offer the appropriate levels of actionable insight to different departments and team members within an organization.

So how does the Elemental Machines Platform help you track utilization in an effort to establish a greener lab while saving money?  Usage data is collected 24/7 from your lab instruments including freezers, refrigerators, incubators, centrifuges, etc. See Figure 1. A cloud-based dashboard uses AI to identify potentially redundant equipment in your lab (eg. cold storage or incubator units where the door hardly ever opens), thus identifying potential opportunities for downsizing or repurposing. It helps you gather data to show your team that certain equipment is just not frequently used and may not be worth hanging on to. Alternatively, the platform can also identify equipment that is frequently used and perhaps a second unit may be a worthwhile investment to reduce operational bottlenecks.utilization_iPad_portrait-1Figure 1:  The Elemental Machines platform equipment utilization overview page. Equipment utilization determined through open door events.  The platform also tracks open door duration and provides open door statistics.

Our team recently examined equipment utilization over a six month period (excluding weekends and holidays) for over 1400 lab assets comprised of incubators, -80C freezers, -20C freezers, and +4C refrigerators. The breakdown of the equipment was as follows:

Equipment Type Count
Incubators 263
-80°C Freezers 339
-20°C Freezers 429
+4°C Refrigerators 418
Total 1449

Table 1:  Breakdown of all laboratory assets for utilization study

We uncovered that the average use for over 70% of the assets was fewer than five times per working day, as measured through open door events! In fact, 4-18% of assets across each equipment category showed zero open door events for three of the six month period!

 

Underutilization1

Figure 2: Underutilized lab assets over a six month period

We also tracked the number of door events across equipment categories as a function of the of the study duration. Figure 3 shows there were zero door open events recorded across all equipment categories for about 45% of the duration of the study. That’s over 60 working days of zero use!  This further emphasizes the extent of underutilization of laboratory equipment. Of course, there are several valid reasons as to why equipment is underutilized: a shift in company scientific objectives, project timelines, equipment down due to maintenance or repair, among others.  

On the flip side, on some days, equipment utilization was so severe the number of door open events exceeded 55 times/day. In an eight hour shift, that’s one door open event less than every ten minutes! In such instances, thermal regulation of cold storage units and incubators becomes especially challenging as the actual temperatures inside may not get a chance to reach their setpoints.  This could compromise material or protocol integrity and create lab waste.  


Equipment utilization - graph from CaseyFigure 3: Highly uneven equipment utilization as characterized by door open events across four equipment categories: incubators, -80C freezers, -20C freezers, and +4C refrigerators.  

Ultimately, lab equipment utilization tools help you make informed decisions on how to maximize research productivity, minimize lab waste, and downsize your energy and lab footprint.  These efforts unequivocally align with creating a greener lab space and reducing operational costs. Thus, it is possible to achieve both objectives simultaneously!

If you would like additional information about how the Elemental Machines Utilization Platform can help you increase cost savings and build a green lab space, please reach out to us here

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