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Benefits of preventative maintenance for your chromatography equipment

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Posted by: Violet Bootman
Posted on: 14/07/2022

Over time, chromatography equipment and its instruments will wear, causing it not to run as smoothly or report results as accurately. While regular cleaning is important, preventive maintenance is a regularly scheduled maintenance that helps prevent unexpected breakdowns. It can ensure that instruments which make up chromatography equipment, such as pump seals and auto-samplers, are maintained, cleaned, and replaced if they’re deteriorating. 

If you’re unsure what the importance or the benefits of preventive maintenance, we’ve broken them down below. 

What is preventative maintenance in chromatography equipment? 

Preventative maintenance, also called PM, is the routine and regular maintenance that keeps equipment and instruments running as they should. Within this, instruments can be replaced with new or used parts, preventing downtime, and keeping your equipment working effectively and your laboratory safe. 

Why is preventive maintenance necessary? 

One of the main benefits of having scheduled preventative maintenance in your lab is to have your equipment and instruments inspected, ensuring safety, and assessing to ensure it’s not at risk of breaking down. A PM can also highlight and rectify potential problems before they become too costly, replacing them with refurbished parts, and helping to improve the lifespan of equipment and laboratory instruments. Ensuring your equipment is in good working health, so your analytical results don’t suffer. 

For example, high performance liquid chromatography (HPLC) system pump seals usually begin to show wear around 6-12 months of normal use. When this happens, leaks can appear, causing pressure dips. Having a PM scheduled can ensure compliance before they affect the analytical results. 

What are the benefits of preventive maintenance for your equipment? 

When using gas chromatography, liquid chromatography or high performance liquid chromatography, understanding results is easy when your equipment is working. But your results can suffer when things begin not working as they should. 

Preventative maintenance helps keep your equipment in the best working order, with several benefits such as: 

  •       Ensuring equipment continues to remain efficient and effective
  •       Lubricate rotating parts, preventing early wear
  •       Less unplanned downtime due to breakdown or equipment failure
  •       Be able to detect problems before they arise
  •       Aid longer lifespan of equipment
  •       Reduce the risk of injury
  •       Fewer expensive repairs due to equipment failure

Implementing a preventive maintenance schedule can limit, if not prevent, all significant equipment failures before they occur. Saving you time, reducing costs, and enabling your laboratory to run smoothly. 

How often should I be performing preventive maintenance? 

It’s recommended that preventive maintenance for chromatography equipment happens at least annually. However, this is dependent on how often the equipment is used. 

For some labs, the chromatography equipment may only require bi-annual PM’s, while others may require it twice a year.  

The difference between preventive maintenance and reactive maintenance 

Preventative maintenance is usually regular and planned, with a PM able to pick up on small problems and resolve them before they cause downtime or injury. Whereas, reactive maintenance is only done when minor problems have become, or are becoming, large problems. It can cause significant downtime and poses safety risks. 

What does preventative maintenance include? 

A preventive maintenance step-by-step programme covers cleaning, lubricating, and replacing or maintaining instruments within your chromatography equipment. During this replacement or repairing, parts such as needles and seal pack seals can be replaced, if needed.   

In high performance liquid chromatography, which runs continuously in commercial testing labs, a PM technician will inspect various parts to ensure compliance. Such as: 

Flow cell inspection 

In a PM for HPLC, the flow cell is inspected for contamination or leaks, it can also be changed or replaced to avoid any further breakdown. 

Mobile phase maintenance 

Lots of issues can be traced back to mobile phase problems, such as leaks or contamination. During the mobile phase portion of the preventive maintenance, the technician will ensure there are no blockages or leaks, changing the filter (if needed). The degasser lines will also be flushed while testing that buffer salts in the pump are flushed when changing mobile phases. 

Checking the pumps 

A technician will inspect the binary and quaternary pumps for wear. They’ll also check the pistons and valves to see whether they require replacement. 

Autosampler 

During preventive maintenance, the autosampler will be checked for leaks, clogs, and carryover, inspecting the stators, needles, and needle seats regularly. These should be replaced as and when needed, ensuring autosampler valve components are also checked over. 

Do I need special preventative maintenance products for chromatography equipment? 

Yes, there are specific preventive maintenance kits for each individual system and instrument. A PM technician will be able to best answer any questions you may have about these on their visit, advising you what works best for your lab and chromatography equipment. 

How to support preventative maintenance 

The best way to maintain your equipment and instruments between preventive maintenance is by adhering to a daily schedule of cleaning. Understanding the basic mechanisms of your equipment will also help, as this will highlight to you if parts need replacing.    

Best practise would be to ensure the system is pumped through regularly with a low volume of chemicals, such as methanol, acetone or acetonitrile mixed with a high volume of water. This will ensure the flow path in your chromatography equipment remains free and clean, helping to lower downtime or equipment failure between PMs. 

How do I implement preventive maintenance? 

If you’re unsure how to implement preventative maintenance in your laboratory, we offer training. Our Analytic Machine and Hardware training covers basic operations of analytical instrumentation and practice of faults and minor problems. You’ll also learn how to perform regular maintenance and good housekeeping, usually attended by 2-3 users for a more personal training experience. 

From this, you’ll have a good basis on how to include a preventive maintenance schedule in your laboratory. 

Can I add an operational qualification to my PM? 

If you are concerned your chromatography equipment isn’t working as well as it should, or has recently been replaced, you may find an Operational Qualification (also called OQ) beneficial. These can be added onto a preventive maintenance. 

Our Operational Qualifications are in line with Good Laboratory Practice (GLP) and Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP). Both of these require instruments to be inspected, cleaned, and maintained. During an OQ, various tests and analytical methods are used so our technicians can evaluate and verify that equipment and instruments are working within acceptable limits. Once completed, you’ll receive a certificate on-site with it signed. 

Why hire us to perform a preventative maintenance service? 

Knowledgeable and professional, our servicing technicians are fully qualified to perform full preventive maintenance service. We know having a service has a knock-on effect on the day-to-day running of a lab, but to save time, our technicians can replace parts if needed. We also stock a range of refurbished parts, saving you cost and have them be implemented by our team there. 

About LC Services plans 

If you’re interested in adding a PM to your list of services, we do offer a range of service plans, which include preventative maintenance. All our service contracts do vary and are dependent on you, your chromatography equipment, and instruments, as well as the volume of business you have. We consider all of this and any specific customer requirements before giving you a fair quote. 

If you prefer to book a preventative maintenance service 

Knowing your preventive maintenance has been performed by expert technicians can give you complete peace of mind about your lab equipment. At LC Services, we offer several service plans which include preventative maintenance. All our technicians can cover all laboratory equipment, with the plans also including 48-hour on-site response and phone support as standard. 

If you’d like to learn more about our preventive maintenance services or discuss creating a bespoke package, get in touch with our team here. 

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