Replacing an autoclave is never an easy task because they are a key component of any facility that cannot be down for an extended period of time. They are also expensive to replace. Besides the cost of buying a new unit, you also have cost to remove the old unit, and possibly have to upgrade the utilities to accept a modern piece of equipment. Despite these costs, one of my customers found it was worth it in a way they never expected!
I met with a leading scientific device company in the Chicago area that had a very reliable, yet very old autoclave (over 30 years old), that they knew had to be replaced. They used indicators to show the unit was properly sterilizing the load but over time the inside chamber was eroding. The challenge was replacing this unit would mean their production would be put on hold. After several meetings with the end-users, their maintenance department, and our local service company, it was decided to keep the old autoclave running and place the new autoclave in a new area. This way the old autoclave could still be used while the new autoclave could be installed and validated. Soon as the validation ended, the new autoclave was put in service and the old autoclave was removed.
The customer decided to buy an autoclave from Consolidated with the new X1 controller and on-site validation. The new autoclave was more efficient in the use of utilities (water & electricity), the pre & post vac cycles were more efficient because of a modern vacuum system, and the controller allowed them more flexibility in cycle parameters. The on-site validation proved the new autoclave was so much more efficient it allowed for shorter cycle times compared to the old autoclave. This meant that they could autoclave more product in a day. Along with faster cycle times, they saw a lower scrap rate in what they autoclaved. Below is a portion of an email the customer sent to me…
“I think you would be interested in the efficiency gains provided by the new machine. Our scrap rates have dropped significantly. On our larger selling product, the rates went from ~8% down to 4%. The result is actually even better than that as the new scrap rate actually dropped to ~2%. To mitigate the higher scrap rate, we had incorporated a cap on the forceps to prevent “rusting”. We decided to remove that cap and the scrap rates only rose to ~4% on the new machine, so this has saved us cost and time. On a smaller selling kit, the rate has dropped from 30% to that same ~4%. Remember we have indicators via both individual pouches and some mixed into the load. What I’m referring to scrap isn’t failed sterilization, but when the item appears to have been contaminated, aka “rusty”. That “rust” look would either appear on the metal product, or on the outside of the pouches. I believe a major contributor to that sort of failure before was the “rusty” dust that aggregated on the inside of the old chamber.”
In the end, the cost and time of replacing this autoclave were significant, but in the long run, the faster cycle times and less scrap made up for it.