Tips from the experts on moving your laboratory

Moving is always difficult, especially when you have valuable assets to move safely. Just as you would take care to bubble wrap and carefully pack your fragile dishes and china in your home, you need to take even more care when moving your laboratory or manufacturing facilities. With life science incubators springing up all over the country and the rapid growth in life sciences and pharma, many companies are adding new facilities and moving to larger work spaces. This can be a very challenging undertaking and pretty much everybody can benefit from using professionals to help ensure everything goes as smoothly as possible. 

Recently our own Dan Petkanas, Account Executive, participated in a webinar hosted by Triumvirate Environmental “Key Aspects of Starting, Relocating, or Closing Your Life Sciences Facility”

Other participants included Jeremy Hood, Senior Principal, T3 Advisors; Ryan McAuliffe, General Manager, Surplus Solutions, LLC; Ian Lanza, Director of Onsite Support Services, Triumvirate Environmental; and the session was hosted by Greg Rosinski, Strategic Sales Manager, Triumvirate Environmental. Here are some highlights from the session:

The first area of discussion had to do with regional differences. 

If you are moving your facility from the West Coast to Boston, what are some of the things you should be aware of? 

  • Ryan McAuliffe said to be aware of how equipment functions in one environment versus the other. Is your equipment set up to only work in aElements A and T warm temperature environment? What challenges might you encounter when moving to an area that has much lower or higher humidity, for instance? 
  • Dan Petkanas said that monitoring the environment for unknowns that can affect machine performance is critical for any laboratory. An HVAC system could be blowing cold air on analytical equipment like an HPLC and affecting the results. Low humidity during the winter months is known to affect liquid handling systems. Continuously monitoring your environment with an Element-A IoT sensor can help you debug these situations more quickly and easily. 

 

What about moving from a market that is accustomed to housing life science tenants vs. a market that isn’t accustomed to these types of tenants? 

  • In many cases the landlords in more sophisticated markets like Cambridge will bear much of the burden in making sure you meet a lot of the environmental requirements that might otherwise fall to the tenant if they are renting a space on their own. Places like Smart Lab or Alexandria LaunchLabs have experts on staff to deal with these regulations, so it might end up being less expensive to rent space from them and let them handle the environmental regulations.
  • Do new facilities have adequate cooling capability for all the equipment that will be running? Dan Petkanas noted that many customers try to jam as many freezers as possible into a freezer farm room and the facility may not have the capability to handle all the heat generated by the compressors on the freezers. 

Things to consider when moving from one facility to another

  • Jeremy Hood said that ideally for a big move they will start to work with the client more than a year ahead of time to plan not only the size of the facility, but also to do things like mapping out the commutes of the employees to see which location works best for everybody involved. Oftentimes being in a hot area like Kendall Square in Cambridge is not the best choice if your employees will all have horrible commutes and if there is a high likelihood that you will need additional space if one or more of your drugs gets approval.
  • Ian Lanza warned that leaving EHS considerations to the last minute can really end up costing you if you’re not able to properly clean up and decontaminate your existing facility. In other words, you can’t expect to work up until the moving date and then hope the EHS work can be completed in no time. 
  • Ryan McAuliffe warned about leaving enough time to move equipment out of your current facility and into the new one. In many cases that access that allowed the move in of the equipment no longer exists as new walls are built around existing equipment. Have you left enough time to remove those walls so you can get equipment out and then rebuild the walls for the next tenant? Do you have access to a loading dock at the new facility? Will you need a crane to move overly large items like bioreactors? 
  • Dan Petkanas suggests that wireless equipment monitoring solutions offer the best alternative for outfitting a new facility. If you need to run alab freezer lot of power wires and network cabling in the new facility that costs a lot of money and takes a lot of time. Oftentimes the layout of the new facility will change which requires rerouting a lot of the wiring. Wireless sensors eliminate the need for doing all this work. They can easily move with the equipment being monitored. 
  • Dan also highlighted the importance of monitoring equipment like cold storage as it is moving to ensure the contents have been kept at the right temperature throughout the move. One advantage of a wireless system is that it is easy to implement and also easy to move. Elemental Machines can provide customers with a pilot kit they can use as they shut down their old facility and they can easily bring the pilot equipment to the new facility and set it up there without any additional infrastructure. 

Mitigating challenges and risk

  • Dan said you never know what environmental challenges you are going to find in a new facility, whether it is brand new construction or retrofitted space so it’s best to continuously monitor the environment so you have a record of what is going on. You can’t understand what effect the environment might be having on your science or your personnel if you don’t measure it. 
  • Planning ahead and meeting as a team were a couple of key items that were highlighted by the panel for ensuring you have a successful move. In many cases you need to get special permits from city and state authorities for bio or chem labs. These can take several months to get. There was a lot of talk about unknown unknowns and how nobody can know everything that might happen, but assembling a team of experts with different areas of expertise, can mitigate the risk in your move. 

 

Are you planning to move or expand your facilities? We are happy to put in touch with our team of experts like the ones on this panel discussion. We can also ensure your valuable assets are protected from harm during a move. Call us today to discuss.

Are you a moving professional who specializes in life science moves? We’d love to talk with you about partnering to help our mutual customers.