Cold Storage Solutions
One of the most critical aspects of designing a medical institute is the laboratories' design and set-up. While many hospital areas are temperature-controlled, and the entire premises must meet sanitization standards, none of them are as dense as the storage areas. The staff needs to take care that the various items are not contaminated. Some even have to isolate the samples from each other, while others need to have access control.
What is shared among these situations is that they need proper space optimization and temperature control. It could be challenging to balance the two factors in any storage solution, but it is crucial in labs. In pathology and forensic labs, the items would be in high rotation, increasing contamination risk. In pharmacies, medicines or medical devices might need further cooling.
Many innovations in this space help you maintain the appropriate storage conditions within the given barriers of space and time. Let us take a closer look at these factors and how to operate under the given conditions.
Who Needs Cold Storage?
Cold storage helps store anything from vegetables to perfumes. Candles, film, artwork, plants, lipsticks, and other beauty products occupy most commercial cold storage. Cold storage for labs mostly consists of storing pharmaceuticals, medical equipment, and pathology samples.
The pharmaceutical industry has only recently entered cold chain logistics, as most drugs did not need temperature-controlled environments. However, several new drugs that have rapidly gained popularity have entered the mass-market and need storage at lower temperatures. One new class of drugs that requires refrigeration is called biologics.
A biologic, or biopharmaceutical, is a drug made from biological sources. It might be manufactured in, extracted from, or synthesized from humans, animals, or microorganisms by using biotechnology. These drugs are sensitive to heat and may decay under high temperatures.
Along with biologics, blood samples or even specimens at fertility clinics such as embryos or semen need refrigerated storage. Let us understand what it means.
What is Cold Storage?
Cold storage refers to the commercial storage of perishable items under controlled conditions. Storage at a lower temperature can elongate the lifespan of a product. Particularly for products such as medicines, where the chemical compounds might break down under heat, cold storage can help. But it is not limited to that. Laboratories store samples, evidence, and specimens under cold storage. Cold storage shelving may be used for varying terms at various temperatures, usually lying in the following ranges:
- 0~8°C for storing vaccines, reagents, etc.
- 2~8°C for medicines, biological products, etc.
- 5±1°C for blood (whole blood), drugs, biological products, etc.
- -20°C to -30°C for plasma, biological materials, vaccines, reagents, etc.
- -30°C to -80°C for embryos, semen, stem cells, plasma, bone marrow, etc.
For storing drugs, temperature-controlled storage at cold storage (2–10°C), cool storage (below 20°C), or standard temperature storage (0–30°C) needs regulation. Along with that, we also need to maintain a relative humidity of 45% -75%. Overall, the storage temperature is generally -5°C~+8°C.
It is possible to keep some drugs under normal temperature conditions; otherwise, we need refrigeration as prescribed. Besides refrigeration and proper cold storage, we use materials such as a polyurethane panel for insulation.
High-Density Cold Storage
Cold storage has many of the same problems as standard storage, such as space optimization. However, because the entire volume needs cooling, the practicalities such as operations cost increase significantly. Thus, needs like space optimization become even more urgent.
You can reduce the space requirement or increase the number of stored items using high-density storage. High-density storage uses mobile carriages compatible with cold-storage shelving. It cuts costs by optimizing for space and power consumption.
High-density storage refers to solutions that store more items within a given space. A simple example is that of mobile racks. When you have static storage, you need to have several aisles between them where the practitioner can walk and collect the items as and when required. Mobile racks move to create aisle spaces so that fewer aisles are there to access the rack you need. You can even control the rack positions using a motor or by rotating a handle so that the aisle you need to access the desired rack opens up.
Apart from this primary mechanism, there are several other high-density cold storage solutions available.
The Essential Elements of Cold Storage
The basics of cold storage are similar to high-density storage. The idea is to store more items in limited space and keep them organized and accessible through simple mechanisms. Many of these technologies help us better organize the items by combining with RFID and other access technologies. The one difference to note here is that the shelving and rack material must be resistant to extremely low temperatures and operate smoothly even in cold rooms.
The two simple mechanisms that we use for high-density cold storage are:
Cold Storage Shelving
Cold rooms typically rely on static shelving units for storing the inventory. Typically, this cannot be adjusted and poses difficulties while organizing. Inevitably, companies will have to invest in more space to keep their inventory. A simple solution is mobile shelving that can save floor space and facilitate stock rotation.
Freezer Pallet Racks
Mobilized pallet racks maximize freezer and cooler storage space and reduce overhead costs. They free up an additional 50% space while maintaining 100% accessibility. They are easy to operate and can go miles in keeping the inventory organized when combined with a proper indexing system.
Other Cold Storage Solutions
Besides high-density storage, we have several innovative ideas personalized to cold-storage, particularly in laboratories for medical samples, drugs, etc. Some prominent examples are featured below:
Adjustable Antimicrobial Medical Racks
Adjustable antimicrobial medical racks serve as rust-resistant and infection control storage solutions resistant to bacteria, mold, etc. The powder quote paint provides two decades of corrosion-free storage. It has antimicrobial properties that last long.
Automated Glide Racks
Automated glide racks are high-density storage solutions that eliminate the need for a forklift by using moving pallet shelves for mobile storage. This system can recover over 50% of your pallet storage space.
Mobile Biotech Specimen Cooler Shelves
Mobile biotech specimen cooler shelves store biotech specimens at -20ºF in high-density. You can store more than 4,600 boxes of tissue samples in 20 feet by 20 feet walk-in freezer operating at -20 degrees Celsius.
Large Fanning Systems
You can repurpose the large fanning systems used for keeping workers and equipment cool and dry and use them for refrigerated warehouses. Commercial cold storage fans reduce energy consumption in refrigerated warehouses and support the staff cozy by operating to cool and heat with reverse operation.
Ventilators are medical devices that are crucial for cases that are not able to breathe sufficiently naturally. Ventilator storage solutions need to maintain accessibility, temperature control, and sanitation. High-density storage of ventilators is possible and necessary for dealing with situations like the 2019 pandemic.
Choosing the Correct Cold storage
We are far from developing a versatile storage solution for labs. It is apparent from the above discussion that different classes of samples/drugs need unique storage solutions. While we can leave the specifications on an expert, there are a few things that you must look out for when choosing a cold storage unit. These are:
It may seem obvious that any storage device needs to be robust. It'll be in use frequently over the years and has to withstand the usage. However, other factors make it robust such as rapid temperature recovery. Make sure you discuss it with your vendor.
Most laboratory refrigerators undergo tests to ensure stable performance. They maintain the desired temperature with a few unwanted fluctuations, including temperature recovery after door openings or when someone adds new items.
Safety, in this case, comes in two forms. One is oversight and control that you gain by human monitoring from time to time. While the idea is for the refrigerator to operate without manual supervision, it should inform you about the temperature inside and any fluctuations due to unwanted circumstances.
The second is through alarms. The refrigerator may sound an alarm when the air temperature is too low or too high. It will also sound during any other unwanted situation, such as the door being left open or power cuts.
Get Assistance in Selecting Cold Storage
Cold storage is a crucial element of the design of a laboratory. However, it must not be more complicated than is due. More than the individual pieces, everything put together correctly will lead to a reliable cold storage system that you need. Working with a seasoned storage solution provider will help you develop a seamless operation in cold storage areas by deploying the correct cold storage solution from the vast number of available solutions.
Southwest Solutions Group® provides design and installation services for high-density storage systems in refrigerators, freezers, and cold storage applications. Our experts will help you find the right high-density system depending on your unique storage requirements. For more information or to speak with a specialist, call us at 1-866-447-9409 or contact us today.