Major Research University Upgrades Autoclaves to the Cloud
Project Name: Michigan State University
Project Location: East Lansing, Michigan
Type of Project: Cloud Upgrade Kit to Existing CSS Autoclave
The Department of Horticulture and Department of Plant, Soil and Microbial Sciences are two of the largest departments at Michigan State University, a well-known public research university with over 50,000 students. The two departments, which fall under the MSU College of Agriculture & Natural Resources, share similar missions — to study plant sciences, plant breeding, genomics and food safety, etc. They also share the same dedicated research-oriented facility on the sprawling East Lansing campus, as well as the associated gardens.
Inside the five-story facility are classrooms, conferences rooms, labs and more. And inside those research labs is a variety of laboratory equipment — including two steam sterilizers purchased from Consolidated Sterilizer Systems. The sterilizers are situated in dedicated autoclave rooms, one on the third floor and the other on the fifth floor.
As the Research Equipment and Instrument Technician for the Department of Horticulture, Stephen Brooks is in charge of monitoring and maintaining all of the equipment inside the research facility, among other responsibilities. Brooks has been working at MSU for the last 20 years.
The pair of autoclaves situated inside the research facility are commonly used by researchers to decontaminate waste items such as soils, genetically modified seeds, mold cultures and more. The autoclaves are also used to sterilizer glassware and growth media.
Purchased a few years ago, Brooks said the autoclaves have worked “very well” for the university. Simple to use, Brooks said the autoclaves proved ideal for the research being conducted — allowing users to run a sample and be on their way. While convenient, the autoclaves original control system did not allow for real-time alerts or monitoring, meaning users would leave their load and occasionally forget about it.
“People forget they have their runs going,” said Brooks. “They can end up sitting in (the autoclaves) for hours.”
Recently, while looking to upgrade the controllers on each of the CSS autoclaves, Brooks said he learned CSS was offering a Cloud Upgrade Kit that would allow him to enhance his autoclaves with cloud connectivity. And as it would turn out, Brooks said he was among the first customers to purchase the Cloud Upgrade Kit and install it in their autoclaves.
Consolidated’s Cloud Upgrade Kit gives users the ability to monitor their autoclave and store all cycle data — as well as electronically receive cycle alerts, cycle reports and preventative maintenance reminders. The cloud-based software platform that enables these features is provided by TetraScience, a company that helps researchers create a network of smart cloud-connected instruments to automate and digitize experimentation, data collection and analysis.
One of the immediate benefits of the cloud upgrade at MSU, according to Brooks, was the instant access it gave users to cycle data. The upgrade kits allow for all sterilizer cycle data and reports to be automatically transmitted and stored to a secure cloud platform. The data can then be accessed, downloaded and shared in PDF or CSV format from any device by logging into a secure website. For Brooks, as Research Equipment and Instrument Technician for the department, having access to the cycle data has proven invaluable in terms of solving any maintenance issues involving the autoclaves.
“The cloud software makes the PDF files available, which has been a wonderful troubleshooting tool,” Brooks said.
For example, before the Cloud Upgrade Kit, Brooks said he would have to stand and watch the autoclave’s performance during test cycles. “It’s now very easy to go to the cloud, check the PDF files for the last few runs and verify the (performance) results.”
Additionally, having access to the PDF files means future users who need to manage their data can do so without having to print and then physically store the data. Brooks said some grant recipients are required to maintain their data, and having digital PDF files would prove far more efficient than storing paper printouts.
“Users who get their cycles going and forget about them will soon hopefully set themselves up (on the cloud platform) to receive notifications and get reminders to come get their stuff, rather than have it sit there for hours and hours,” said Brooks. “Additionally, users who are attentive, but perhaps lose track of time, will have the ability to see their cycle and how far along it is.”
The MSU campus continues to grow, according to Brooks. One recently constructed research facility has the ability to accommodate cloud enabled equipment and Brooks said he has spoken with the person responsible for the building about the many benefits of using cloud-connected equipment — particularly a cloud-ready autoclave.
“I described to them what the cloud capabilities would give them, as well as explained the more advanced controls and they were physically excited about the prospect of having it,” Brooks said. “People in general seem pretty excited about it.”
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