Horizon Technology, Inc.

Solutions - Covering analytical methods and practices


Courtesy of Horizon Technology, Inc.

A smarter way to take a temperature
A Northern California lab automates data- gathering and hands the tracking responsibility over to a computer François Rodigari and Kenneth E. Osborn

One of many things that environmental laboratories must do is to track and document the temperatures of the laboratory's incubators and refrigerators. This means that the thermometers used to monitor these appliances must be read once or twice a day

The East Bay Municipal Utility District (EBMUD) in Oakland, Calif., operates a full-service environmental laboratory with a staff of 37. The laboratory is made of a biology, inorganic chemistry, and organic chemistry section.

The lab has 28 appliances that must be checked on a daily basis. This is a lot of work, and it's not always something staffers can put on a chart recorder and forget about. Previously at EBMUD, a lab worker from each section would record temperatures onto a chart for each thermometer. Then, twice a year, the charts would be collected and analyzed to ensure they were up-to-date, which they rarely were. There were always gaps in data.

If a temperature reading was outside limits, the assigned lab worker who recorded the temperature was supposed to notify the supervisor or quality assurance (QA) officer. Of course, if the person in charge wasn't available at the time, or if the lab worker became occupied with a more pressing matter, the discrepancy was likely to be forgotten.

A few years ago, EBMUD's organic chemistry supervisor devised a method that would eliminate a lot of the manual 'handholding' in ensuring temperature readings were within acceptable ranges. Instead of recording temperatures on a piece of paper, they would be recorded onto a personal digital assistant (PDA) and then uploaded into a laboratory information management system (LIMS).

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