Automated Cleanroom Equipment Tracking – RFID Solution

Do you know what equipment has to go to Metrology for calibration? Do you know when it was removed from the cleanroom and whether it has gone to Metrology? Was it brought back to the Cleanroom and if so, when?

Equipment Management in Cleanroom

Cleanroom management in a biotech company poses several challenges, many of which, if not addressed effectively, can severely impact the company’s bottom line. One of the many challenges is facilitating the strict adherence of the calibration schedule for all test and measurement equipment.

This means not only ensuring that the equipment is removed from the Cleanroom and sent to Metrology, but also that the equipment is returned to the right location in the Cleanroom from Metrology. Cleanroom management has very little visibility into this process. Several times, equipment may leave the Cleanroom, but is not delivered to Metrology in a timely fashion. Often calibration is completed, but the Cleanroom is not aware of it and the equipment is sitting on some shelf waiting to be returned to the Cleanroom.

RFID Cleanroom

AssetPulse Solution for Lab Equipment Management in Cleanroom

A global medical device company faced similar challenges for several years. These problems were of course exacerbated by its explosive growth, thus exposing it to more severe consequences. Over the years, it tried to address them with process modifications and applying various technologies. With the AssetPulse lab equipment tracking solution – a combination of well-selected RFID tags, appropriate reader configurations and well-tuned software, they were able to finally address the problems effectively. Not only were they able to get complete visibility of how the equipment moved between the Cleanroom and Metrology, but they were proactively alerted when there was a break in the process – when equipment wasn’t delivered to Metrology in a timely manner or if calibrated equipment wasn’t returned to the Cleanroom when ready.

Automated Asset Tracking software

The AssetGather asset tracking solution automatically tracked the movement of equipment leaving the Cleanroom and entering and exiting the Metrology Lab. Automatic tracking alleviated the shortcomings of the manual process involved in keeping track of equipment moving between Cleanrooms and Metrology.

In order to realize the full potential of AssetPulse asset tracking solution it is very critical to choose optimal RFID tags. Not only do they have to be mounted on very small pieces of equipment including 6” rulers, but they also have to withstand the sterile environment of the Cleanroom. This means they have to withstand chemical wipe-downs and sometimes more rigorous cleansing. AssetPulse offers tried and tested RFID tags of different form factors and properties like the ability to withstand extreme environmental conditions and to sustain exposure to chemicals.

RFID Asset Tracking for Lab Relocation

Is your company growing? Or are you downsizing? Either way, there is likelihood that your labs are being relocated. Laboratory relocations present a unique set of challenges and are huge headaches for lab managers. First, lab managers need to have an accurate inventory of their current equipment. Not only what they have, but also where everything is. Inventory tracking and equipment location tracking is simplified by AssetPulse Lab equipment tracking solutions. Now that the lab managers have clear visibility of where each of the equipment is, they need to decide what equipment goes where, in the new location. Equipment has to be packaged and marked with care before they are moved.

Laboratory Relocation Services

Unfortunately, mistakes are bound to happen. Packages are mislabeled. Equipment is not delivered to the right lab. Well meaning personnel, will move packages out for legitimate reasons, without informing anyone. The lab manager is tearing his or her hair searching for misplaced equipment. These are not uncommon scenarios.

RFID Asset Tracking Solution in Relocation of Labs

One of our long term customers who has implemented our RFID based asset tracking solutions just went through a move. The complexity of lab instruments, regulatory requirements and the need to address lab workloads during a move demands exacting processes. With our RFID enabled lab equipment tracking system, they had an accurate inventory of all their equipment and more importantly, where each of the equipment was located. They were able to plan the move efficiently – which equipment goes to which destination. Equipment was packaged. Some labeling mistakes were made. Equipment did get misplaced.

However, because all the equipment had been RFID tagged, and the major exit and entrance doors had been instrumented with RFID readers, our RFID asset tracking system accurately tracked what equipment was moved when and through which doors when they entered in the destination buildings. Even if a piece of equipment was incorrectly delivered to a lab, our asset tracking solution alerted the lab manager of the error. So, they knew where exactly to go search for the equipment with a handheld RFID scanner. Since the RFID tags are able to be read through the packaging, they didn’t have to undergo the laborious processes of opening the packaging and trying to read the asset number of the equipment inside.

With our RFID system, the entire relocation process, from planning through execution to completion, was a much smoother, much quicker and more painless process for not only the lab management personnel, but also for the users of the labs. This had direct impact on the business, because it not only made efficient use of personnel’s time, but also got the labs back on its feet quicker, so the business suffered minimal disruption.

RFID Asset Tracking for Pipette Management & Calibrations

If you are in charge of a bio lab where you need to manage calibrations of pipettes, we empathize with you. Pipettes are crucial to experiments conducted within labs. However, they also tend to move around a lot – yes, a lot! Not only is it trying to make sure pipettes are in the right lab a challenge, but it is harder and more imperative to find them when they are due for calibration.

RFID Based Pipette Tracking Software for Laboratory

Using RFID asset tracking to trace pipettes is a great solution to address these issues. AssetPulse has worked with world leading pharmaceutical companies to track their pipettes. We have an array of RFID tags depending on the use of the pipettes. Having affixed RFID tags on these pipettes, inventory audits using RFID scanners have become a lot easier and it also has become easier to locate the pipettes when they come up for calibration.

RFID Asset Tracking Helps In Calibration Process Itself In Addition To Inventorying

An RFID instrumented bin can be placed at optimal locations in or around the labs. We notify users/lab managers of upcoming pipette calibrations. They use a mobile RFID reader to locate these pipettes and then place them in the bin. Notifications are automatically sent to the pipette manufacturer or the third party calibration company, who can then schedule a pickup or send over personnel to perform the calibration. Not only do they know what types of pipettes are up for calibration, but also how many of each AND their individual serial numbers.

The calibrating entity can also leverage the RFID tags. Their personnel are notified as soon as the pipettes enter their facility, so appropriate resources can be allocated to service them. On completion, the customer can be notified that they will receive the pipettes shortly. The pipettes are deposited in the lab bins upon arrival from the calibrating entity and the lab manager is notified that they are now ready for us.

RFID can provide visibility into the ‘calibration supply chain’ process end-to-end!

RFID Based Asset Tracking aids in GLP/GMP Regulated Lab Management

Being responsible for the equipment in a GLP/GMP regulated lab is no easy task. Several compliance requirements have to be adhered to. AssetPulse’s RFID asset tracking solutions have greatly helped streamline the equipment management of such labs.

lab equipment tracking software

AssetPulse Real-time Asset Tracking Software

Our real-time asset tracking solutions provide an accurate inventory of all equipment across geographic locations. It can detect addition or removal of components in qualified systems like HPLCs. The Lab Manager can be alerted of such movements, thereby triggering a re-qualification process automatically. Failure to re-qualify can have serious technical and financial repercussions.

Before the use of RFID, the equipment databases were woefully out of sync with reality. This resulted in Finance and QA departments to initiate audits often, in order to update their databases. Small teams of scientists/researchers would need to be assembled, to scour the labs looking for equipment, severely impacting their overall productivity.

AssetPulse Asset Tracking Software Maintains Centralized Database of Asset Information

Maintaining accurate inventory of all the equipment and keeping their details up to date can be a full time job. Details include location, manufacturer, model, serial number, receive date, deployment date and all maintenance related information including calibration/maintenance schedules, non-routine repairs, performance verification and revalidation dates. The AssetPulse database allows all such detailed information to be maintained in one central database, accessible to all concerned players including R&D, Quality and Finance personnel.

Further, the database allows all relevant documents to be stored together with the equipment details. IQ/OQ/PQ documents, standard operating procedures, warranty certificates, calibration certificates can be made easily accessible through the database. This allows audits to go a lot quicker, instead of having to sift through a myriad of documents in order to locate the appropriate pieces of paper.

Thus, the use of RFID can effectively bridge any visibility gaps with respect to Asset Management in Analytical labs, hospitals and in pharmaceutical manufacturing supply chains.

Where Is This Piece Of Lab Equipment? I Need To Use It Now

Scientists and engineers move equipment around because there isn’t enough of each type of equipment. It may not be prudent for the lab to purchase too many of the same type, because the lab equipment manufacturer is regularly releasing new products with advanced features. Lab budgets have to be judiciously structured to allow for purchases of the new equipment. This, of course, results in a constant shortage of some type of equipment or another. So, it’s not uncommon for equipment to be moved between labs.

Lab Equipment Tracking Software

Scientists and engineers are focused on the task at hand. When they need to use a specific piece of equipment and if it is not readily available at their lab, they will not think twice about visiting the lab next door or in the next building, pick up the equipment and move it into their lab with the honorable intention of returning it when they are done. More often than not, the intent does not translate to actual action. Having solved the issue at hand with this ‘borrowed’ equipment, they move on to the next issue, forgetting to return the equipment.

The next time another engineer/scientist needs the use of the equipment, they go look for it in its original location. Having not been able to locate it, they consult the lab manager responsible for it. After doing an extensive search, the frustrated lab manager expands the search to nearby labs and may ultimately locate it. If unluckily, the borrower had moved it out to a lab in another building, the search can be arduous and expensive. It could involve multiple people’s time across several teams. There is of course, the actual impact to the projects involved, which can easily translate to product release delays which is directly relevant to the company’s bottom line.

Passive Fixed RFID Reader

With lab equipment tagged with RFID tags, they can be tracked as they exit or enter labs. Lab managers can be notified when some equipment is detected leaving a lab, but not entering within a specified time period. Expensive equipment can be watched even more closely. With AssetPulse’s RFID solution for lab equipment tracking, customers have been able to reduce their missing asset occurrence by over 90%, which has appealed to the Directors and VPs of the organizations!

How AssetPulse assists in Lab Equipment Calibration Management

Timely calibration of critical equipment is essential in the pharmaceutical industry

Why is calibration important?

Given the enormous impact of the pharmaceutical sector on the lives of billions of people, the industry takes every measure to ensure it conducts its research with accurately calibrated equipment.  Labs have to adhere to numerous regulatory compliances to ensure their product integrity, which include proper instrument calibration in a timely manner.

Calibration certificate is issued against equipment after validation. This certificate contains key information such as reference standard, last calibration date, next calibration due, normal operating range of instrument etc. Calibration certificate is a mandatory document that is referred prior to producing pharmaceutical products. Should a problem arise in the manufactured product, information contained in the calibration certificate is key to determining when, where, and how an error was introduced.

As with any manual process, keeping track of calibration certificates and calibration-due-dates is subject to human error no matter how organized or careful lab personnel may be.

AssetPulse’s RFID-Enabled Asset Tracking solutions address this problem.

AssetPulse software facilitates the entire calibration process – from determining which assets need calibration to physically locating them and to processing the post-calibration paperwork .

AssetPulse software proactively alerts users of upcoming calibration-due-dates – both via email as well as via software alerts. Users are also able to query the system for a list of assets that need calibration in the short term. They can download asset lists to mobile RFID readers, which enable them to quickly and efficiently locate equipment on the lab floor. The AssetPulse Geiger Proximity Search Feature on the RFID reader makes this search possible.

Lab Equipment Tracking Solution

 

Lab Equipment Tracking Software

Once equipment calibration is complete, users can easily update the system with calibration dates and calibration certificates for the equipment. The AssetPulse System helps in calibration certificate traceability as it digitally stores calibration certificates, which means they are readily available in case of an audit. This alleviates the time-consuming manual process of searching through numerous paper folders in hopes of locating calibration certificates.

Using the AssetPulse RFID-Enabled Asset Tracking software, our biotech and biomed customers have streamlined their calibration processes, whether they perform calibration in-house or they contract it out to third parties.

How AssetPulse Lab Equipment Tracking Solution Came to be?

We don’t envy lab managers of high tech companies. They are in charge of the inventory of labs chock-full of test and measurement equipment – probes, analyzers, meters, signal generators, prototype boards, computers and the list goes on. Often their labs are spread across floors, buildings, campuses, cities and even countries!

lab equipment tracking solution

Equipment is moved from one lab to another on a regular basis – engineers and scientists just want to get their job done – they move equipment and prototypes around to conduct their experiments and development projects. Inventory managers need to keep abreast of the whereabouts of every asset, and track which team is using which asset and if it was indeed still being used. Further, the current whereabouts and status of these assets needs to be gathered without impeding the activities of the scientists and technicians.

Just when the inventory managers think they have a handle on where all their equipment is, a scientist or technician will complain to them that they are not able to do their job because he or she can’t find a specific probe or analyzer. And so the search begins once again.  In certain critical cases they even end up buying new equipment to not jeopardize the project at hand. This unfortunately, is not a unique problem confined to one company – we hear the same refrain from every lab inventory manager we have spoken to.

Having worked with several such lab managers across several companies, we have now honed our lab equipment tracking solution to satisfy these users. This use case lends itself to the employment of various auto-ID technologies including active RFID and/or passive RFID. The solution can include just mobile scanners or can be enhanced with stationary readers.

It is always rewarding, at the end of a deployment, to see the lab manager get excited to locate a hard-to-find probe in just a few minutes, when they previously spent hours or days looking for them!

Tired of searching lab equipment? We have the solution. Click here for a free demo!