The advantages of modular benching verses fixed cabinetry in today’s pharmaceutical, pathology, education and quality assurance laboratories

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Not all laboratories are the same. In fact, there are several laboratory types, and each has their unique purpose, advantages and constraints. However, one of the commonalities across all laboratory types is the need for practical and durable cabinetry. Likely, the days of building a fixed laboratory system from cabinetry are quickly becoming a thing of the past. With exponential advancements in technology, robotics and automation are rapidly changing the dynamics in the laboratory space, especially affecting workflows and benching requirements calling for flexibility, modularity and strength.

In this article we seek to highlight some of the advantages of modular laboratory benching and to help you make the right decision to maximize the return on your investment.

 

Identifying Laboratory Types

It is important to identify your laboratory type so you understand the core purpose of your laboratory space. The main three laboratory types are: throughput laboratories, educational laboratory and research laboratory.

Throughput laboratories are also known as production laboratories. They are easy to identify a clear workflow due to the step by step repetitive nature of the process, where a sample is receipted in the entry of the laboratory and the result is documented at the end of the process. Pathology, Pharmaceutical and Quality Assurance laboratories are all considered as throughput or process laboratories. Throughput type laboratories are adopting better workflow methodologies and investing in automation as it is made available to maintain a competitive edge and increase speed and accuracy triggering the need of elastic process requirements in terms of benching.  Benching capacity is also important in throughput laboratories as automation can be heavy and expensive and often require minimal vibrations.

The core purpose of most educational laboratories is academic outcome of the students. Adaptable spaces that are conducive to growth can have a direct impact on the student learning outcomes. Work flow between back of house and front of house can also effect the speed of preparation allowing maximum up-time for student learning in practice laboratory space. Flexible spaces that can facilitate multiple subjects such as STEM, chemistry, physics and biology are important to be able to adapt to the vast applications of hands on science.

Research laboratories are a flexible space that need to facilitate research and development. The purpose of a research laboratory is to allow researchers and scientists to find a space that is suitable to the research they are conducting at the time. Space requirements can change dramatically and is directly dependent on the nature of the research.  Often they include microbiology spaces, open research spaces, PC2 spaces etc. The number of researches can vary in these spaces dramatically and flexible cabinetry comes on hand when increasing and decreasing workstations.

 

Bench Framing

Bench framing can vary from company to company dramatically. Some of the more common bench frames include C-Frame, H-Frame and Timber Caucus.  At Westlab, we have identified the H-Frame with a service allowance cavity as the most practical for flexibility and strength. C-Frame can look great but lacks strength in the front area of the bench making this unsuitable for heavy equipment and robotics. Cabinetry frames can be cost effective but almost always result in a reduced life due to incompetence and lack of a resistance against the harsh environment of today’s laboratory. Cabinetry timber frame is also inflexible and awkward to move and adapt to changing requirements.

The traditional H-Frame style has stayed around for a reason. The simplicity and strength are undeniable as it distributes the weight evenly. Modulab’s Connect System adds a new layer in modularity, flexibility and functionality.

 

Interchangeable Cabinetry

Interchangeable cabinetry is unique to the Modulab Connect System. This innovation is an answer to the market’s needs of a changing and progressive space that can not only increase and decrease with demands but also interchange from cabinets to trolleys and back again to maximize the investment of user space. Workstations can be added and moved to facilitate compression and workflow requirements.  The unique 100mm service cavity allows for services to be preconfigured along walls prior to an installation reducing installation down time.

 

Cost of Modular vs Custom Cabinetry

A true modular laboratory benching system can be produced in volume allowing manufacturers to reduce costs through mass manufacturer. Saving of mass production can be passed on to end users through distributors of the system. The cost savings is one of the many advantages of a true modular system and provide substantial gain on larger projects.

Depending on the specified materials and professionalism of companies used, the cost of a custom cabinetry system can be substantially higher due the customization from drafting through to production and assembly. A highly economical and low quality cabinetry frame system can have a direct impact life space and substantially decrease the return on investment leading to false and unsubstantiated savings, in other words, if a long term feasibility is performed, there may be no savings on a low quality framework at all.

 

Fast turnaround. The same high quality

In correlation with the Westlab core drivers: Speed, Hassle-free and Creativity, we offer a new dimension to innovative and functional laboratory cabinetry. High stock levels of standard and popular system components along with a preconfigured online design program allows us to hold stock for 95% of componentry. The system itself is precision and foolproof allowing the team to deliver a project 25-30% faster. The Modulab Connect System itself is made to assure high quality, manufacturing speed and the best support.


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