Lab Efficiencies: Time-Savers that Also Boost Your Budget

August 11, 2011

In the laboratory, time is money. Yet, to keep processes running and research and production moving, some labs have lapsed into a familiar rhythm without questioning it. Their highly educated professionals spend time washing glassware or monitoring multiple bioreactor components or cutting tubing.

More efficient options are available, including automating these tasks or outsourcing them. Instead of diverting scientists’ time from critical procedures or analyses, recapture it. Here’s how in part one of a two-part series:

Saver Suggestion #1: Use an automatic glassware washer rather than hand-washing

According to Labconco Product Manager Jenny Sprung, labs can realize multiple savings by using an automatic glassware washer. While the upfront costs of purchasing an automatic glassware washer will likely run several thousand dollars, the ROI is significant.

“For labs that are washing more than 25 flasks per day, the automatic glassware washer will pay for itself within two to two-and-a-half years,” said Sprung.

Labconco® FlaskScrubber® Laboratory Glassware Washers

Labconco® FlaskScrubber® Laboratory Glassware Washers

At the same time, the water and energy conservation also adds up. “While the hand-washer expends 20 gallons of water―a conservative estimate―to wash 30 items of glassware, machine washing requires only 13.6 gallons to wash these same items. This amounts to saving 1,664 gallons of water per year,” she said.

Because less water is heated throughout the cycle, the machine washer is also more energy-efficient. “The scientist has the option to not use the drying cycle at all,” said Sprung. “If the delayed start option is activated, he or she can set the machine washer to run eight hours later, during off-peak hours.”

Automatic glassware washers clean all types of lab soil, from light to heavy. To remove waxes, agar, and other media, a high-heat washer works best; to scrub general solvent soil, high heat is not needed. To protect flasks, graduated cylinders, and other narrow-neck glassware, a spindle rack in the washer holds the glassware.

In comparative studies, machine washing eliminated far more total surface counts (TSC) of contaminants when compared to hand washing. “Our studies indicate machine washing removed more surface residue. When residue is left on glassware, it can impair or prevent the growth of bacteria and cell cultures. It has the potential to cross contaminate. Traces of residue can catalyze or make chemical syntheses impossible. And, glassware can become etched or corroded from residue alkaline,” said Sprung.

Of course, the immediate savings is the time that the scientist no longer spends scrubbing glassware at the sink.


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