By Kelly Spors
Life science and biomedical companies have to worry about spoilage – the deterioration of perishable goods, whether medication, cell lines, bacteria or other research and development materials, often due to an unexpected change in temperature. Many different factors can cause such temperature change, including the mechanical failure of a compressor used for refrigeration, a power outage, or even human error, such as a janitor unplugging a refrigerator while cleaning.
Financial losses associated with spoilage can be large: Even small quantities of spoiled materials can have significant monetary value based on their biochemical complexity and difficulty to reproduce. Companies that don’t take proactive steps to prevent spoilage can see reduced profitability among other consequences.
Here are five ways that life science and biomedical companies can avoid spoilage:
- Conduct routine maintenance of storage equipment. Appropriate temperature control is one of the key ways companies can prevent spoilage. The mechanical breakdown of a refrigerator, for example, can cause everything within the unit to go bad. Performing routine maintenance of storage equipment by a qualified technician and checking the key temperature control mechanisms regularly can help avoid costly mechanical failures.
- Install temperature alarms. Automated alarm systems can be installed that alert employees when temperatures within a storage unit go below or above their optimal range. For example, if a refrigerator needs to stay between 34 and 40 degrees Fahrenheit, an alarm can be set to go off if it veers outside that range. Alarms can also be installed that go off if a refrigeration unit’s door is left open for more than a pre-specified amount of time, preventing an unnecessary and potentially hazardous increase in internal temperature.
- Train staff appropriately. Employees who work with products at risk of deterioration or work around the storage equipment need to be trained on to how to avoid spoilage. The facility’s janitorial staff, for example, should be instructed to not unplug or tamper with the refrigeration equipment. Signs should be placed outside refrigerators that remind staff to ensure doors remain firmly shut and close properly upon use to prevent temperature change inside the refrigerator. Employees should also have the numbers of key mechanical repair workers who can be called in case of an equipment failure.
- Manage inventory carefully. Storing unnecessary amounts of goods for too long can increase the risks of spoilage. Companies should be careful to not store an excess of perishable goods, because if an unexpected event such as a power outage occurs – or normal deterioration over an extended period due to a product’s shelf life – that product could be damaged and unsalvageable.
- Install a backup generator. A power outage can quickly cause refrigerators, freezers and other temperature-controlled units to stop working. Companies that rely on temperature control to store important materials and products should consider investing in a generator that automatically comes on when the local power grid fails, and has adequate fuel supply for 48 to 72 hours.
Beyond taking preventative steps, life sciences and biomedical companies should also ensure that their property insurance covers losses due to spoilage and change in temperature or humidity. A Hartford insurance agent can review your company's current policy and evaluate whether it includes the right amount of protection in the event of a spoilage or temperature change event.