RND Biotech Case Study:
Implementing Predictive Maintenance for Ultra-Low Temperature Freezers
Regina Gracia E. Sandoval
RND Biotech Case Study:
Implementing Predictive Maintenance for Ultra-Low Temperature Freezers October 2008
* RND Biotech operates 300 ultra-low freezers (-80°C) that frequently fail, even though maintenance activities are performed on a quarterly basis. * RND Biotech is currently replacing freezers as they fail, rather than trying to repair them, to keep up with the required freezer capacity. * When freezers fail, RND Biotech potentially loses product development samples that represent months of research. * RND Biotech would like to implement a predictive maintenance strategy and continuously monitor freezer function, which they believe will improve uptime, and free up skilled labor for other tasks. * However, they have not found a comprehensive method that is cost-efficient and non-invasive to implement a predictive maintenance strategy. Most alternatives only monitor freezer temperature which is not enough for predictive monitoring. SOLUTION:
RND Biotech installed a new automation technology which did not incur any disruption to ongoing processes and required minimal installation cost. The solution, a non-invasive wireless sensor system, allowed RND Biotech to monitor multiple freezer data points, including chamber temperature and compressor amperage. RESULTS:
* RND Biotech immediately found distressed freezers and were able to prevent failures. The freezers were able to be repaired, as opposed to replaced, saving approximately $7,000 per freezer. * RND Biotech is now able to implement a predictive maintenance strategy for their freezers.
RND Biotech is a biotechnology research and development company. The company has 300 ultra-low freezers (-80°C), used to store research samples. These freezers are critical to RND Biotech because the samples stored in them represent ongoing research that comprises the company’s product pipeline. Failures of these freezers could potentially result in a loss of years’ worth of research for new products that could be worth billions of dollars in revenue. The facilities group reports that it spends a significant amount of time addressing freezer failures. Records show that approximately twenty work orders per month are freezer related. Additionally, researchers complain that frequent freezer failures impact their ability to focus on their research. When a freezer fails, researchers have to scramble to find space in other freezers to store samples. If the failure occurs during non-working hours, both facilities and research personnel have to come to the facility in order to address the failure. If the failure is not addressed in time, the freezer contents - critical research samples or products - are lost. The empty freezers have to be defrosted and decontaminated before they can be moved to the maintenance area for troubleshooting and repairs. This process alone can take up to a week. Failures have occurred frequently enough that it is now more convenient for RND Biotech to simply replace the freezers as opposed to repairing them, even though it is not a cost efficient solution. The primary failure mode on ultra-low freezers is at the compressors. The ultra-low freezers each have two compressors. Failure of either compressor directly impacts the freezer’s ability to maintain temperature. Simply monitoring the temperature of the freezer is not enough to preventatively catch failures. By the time the temperature rises, everyone has to react to the impending failure as opposed to preventing it. The primary function of the preventative maintenance procedures is to ensure that the compressors are functioning efficiently. To accomplish this, specific maintenance activities...