7 Tips for Selecting the Right Fume Hood Manufacturer
Select the Right Fume Hood Manufacturer for your laboratory
A fume hood is the most critical component of the strategy to keep the airborne chemical contaminants in the lab under control. Also, it is enabling equipment, helping the scientists conduct their experiments efficiently and comfortably. A fume hood project is about safety, efficiency and ergonomics. The fume hood manufacturer is a critical resource for this project.
While modern fume hoods bring in newer features and conveniences, the complexities related to selection, procurement, installation and operations might pose unique challenges. Designs, types, and systems offered by prospective vendors could look confusingly similar on paper. They could be meeting the specifications on paper. The cost versus value equation isn’t easy to decipher. The selection of the right manufacturer, therefore, becomes a daunting task.
Here are some useful tips to help with fume hood manufacturer selection:
1. Expertise in Global Standards
A fume hood doesn’t work in isolation but is a part of the complex laboratory ecosystem. The right fume hood manufacturer is not merely a manufacturer/ supplier of the equipment but is a domain expert. The manufacturer must be a specialist in laboratory ventilation, HVAC, energy-saving and also the lab ecosystem as a whole.
Containment and safe disposal of the airborne chemical contaminants is the primary function of a fume hood. This is a critical safety function directly affecting the health of scientists. The containment efficiency of fume hoods is governed by international standards such as ASHRAE 110: 2016, ANSI Z 9.5, EN 14175 etc. Modern large research centers, that support global research are regularly audited for adherence to stringent global standards. This translates into higher expectations of conformity of fume hoods to the latest international standards such as ASHRAE 110-2016
- The right manufacturer must be an expert in understanding and implementing these global standards. All fume hoods in a lab must conform to these stringent standards, throughout their life cycle. A fume hood needs to be calibrated and tested as per these standards and the manufacturer must have the his own fume hood performance test lab to test fume hoods as manufactured, as installed and over their life cycle.
- As standards are subject to revision at intervals, a good fume hood manufacturer must be updated about the changes. The manufacturers’ team that calibrates, tests and certifies the hoods must be well trained on standards, and calibration procedures and must be well equipped.
- Modern fume hoods and lab ventilation systems rely on VAV (variable air volume) systems for energy (cost) savings without compromising safety. The design and integration of these systems must be included in the expertise offered by the manufacturer. He must be equally adept at global standards related to HVAC, lab furniture systems and the safety standards for laboratories. His expertise must help the buyer in adhering to standards and demonstrating system safety at any time.
2. Understanding User Pain Points:
A scientist is the user of the fume hood and the most valuable asset for the research organization. Her safety is of paramount importance. A well-designed and built fume hood that adheres to international standards does ensure safety. However, a good fume hood must offer functional ease and efficiency as well.
As the scientists have varying degrees of requirements regarding the functionality of hoods, a good manufacturer must be able to understand the ergonomic needs. Pain points of users might span over a wide range of issues. Those could be related to sash movements, obstructive vision lines, limitation of maneuvering space, condensation, access to valves and electricals, and fume hood accessories. These pain points may also be specific to the type of experimentation, size of the equipment and larger setups.
Problems related to inadequate suction, VAV/HVAC system balancing etc. are beyond the scientists. The manufacturer team must be competent enough to resolve those issues. The service organization must be agile and respond in time. Availability of parts is the backbone of service and so is the trained manpower.
At times user scientists might experience issues which could be mitigated with proper operations training imparted by the manufacturer. A good manufacturer imparts proper user training and hand holds the scientist after successful installation. A reliable manufacturer is expected to offer such support throughout the life cycle.
A good manufacturer understands user pain points and ensures that his design and the finished products address them adequately. He regularly invests in research and development to offer updated fume hoods in line with the changing needs of the scientific community.
3. Design Customization
As the research scenario in India is rapidly changing with the advent of multinational CROs (contract research organizations) setting up large facilities with several fume hoods, there is a greater emphasis on design customization.
A large research center would have different expectations from fume hoods compared to a standard quality control laboratory. Within a large research center itself, a varying degree of customization may be called upon. The customization requirements may not be limited to the fume hood(s) but also related to ventilation systems, scrubbers and effluent discharge. Often fume hood manufacturer needs to chip in in the design, selection and installation of this equipment.
Organizations differ in their approach and requirements. Some have their standard practices to be adhered to, throughout the world. The manufacturer must have the necessary flexibility to accommodate specific design modifications, ductwork, alternative MOCs, ergonomics and enhanced safety features. If needed, he must be able to offer suitable and complimenting furniture systems and ergonomic layouts, with reconfigurability and mobility.
A competent manufacturer must bring the latest technical developments to the table. He should know about modern elements like reconfigurable and mobile systems, modern gas distribution systems, scrubbers and the MEP aspects. While proposing any new system/modifications the pros and cons with cost implications should be tabled clearly. The technical integrity of the manufacturer in such matters is important.
Energy savings are attained through different approaches. The manufacturer should be able to understand and seamlessly integrate the fume hoods with the overall ventilation system. The manufacturer must have proven capabilities for any special needs, such as manufacturing hoods for Perchloric Acid, Atomic Absorption Spectroscopy, PCR booths, Ductless Hoods etc. He should be able to adapt to the changes and development of special components if needed.
A good fume hood manufacturer should be capable of suggesting the use of LEVs (localized ventilation systems) and propose, design, and build bespoke ventilation cabinets for non-standard equipment. Manufacturers’ role often grows to the level of technical consultants and hence these capabilities are important.
Lastly, the manufacturer must have an eye for good aesthetics such that the fume hoods are enhancing the features of a beautiful research facility.
4. Manufacturing capabilities
A visit to the manufacturer’s manufacturing facility is highly recommended. It is imperative to check the design, manufacturing, and quality control processes used by the manufacturer. The manufacturing facility must be modern and assuring. Is the facility regularly audited for standards like ISO 9001, ISO14001, ISO 45001 etc.? Is supply chain management acceptable? Is the commitment to the environment and safety up to the mark? What quality control measures are in place? Can the manufacturing rate be stepped up as per need? Many such parameters could be checked during the visit. The visit should help the buyer team in getting rid of any doubts or prejudices.
Testing, calibration and certification of fume hoods to international standards are very important. The manufacturer should have a well-equipped testing lab with adequate infrastructure. A good manufacturer must be able to demonstrate the type testing of fume hoods with ASHRAE110-2016 standards. This aspect mustn’t be overlooked while selecting the manufacturer.
Research and development infrastructure, prototype building facilities, design capabilities, stocks of critical raw materials, and commitment to GMP (Good Manufacturing Practices) are some other aspects to check.
5. Project Capabilities
This is one parameter that would prove costly if neglected. Many manufacturers might have similar product offerings but may fall short of delivering the whole project efficiently. A divergent set of stakeholders, such as lab planners, architects, project managers, material manufacturers, civil contractors, and MEP contractors are at work simultaneously and the manufacturer must work with them efficiently.
The manufacturers’ team at the project site should be qualified and empowered to make routine decisions. The organogram, escalation matrix and project progress must be displayed at the site office. Professional project management practices must be followed by the manufacturer. A well-defined PMO (project management organization) must be nurtured by the manufacturer. A fume hood project may need to incorporate quick changes on the go, and hence flexibility is another important attribute of a good manufacturer.
Moreover, the manufacturer must commit to safety, trained and sufficient manpower for deployment, a robust supply chain and access to varying needs of working capital. The manufacturer must be able to step up its resources as per the need and the deadlines.
Assessing project capabilities is an involved and tricky evaluation, but often necessary.
6. Life Cycle Management
Fume hoods are envisaged to last longer. The budgets are always tight and constraints pose challenges to the buyer as well as the manufacturer. On the paper, a manufacturer might offer an attractive price. However, the cost of buying and the cost of ownership is different. The manufacturer must be evaluated over the life cycle of the project including the warranties and service/maintenance contracts. The response time of the manufacturer in resolving complaints, availability of spare parts, and trained manpower needs to be assessed.
The manufacturer must be capable of helping with periodic audits, testing, calibration and certification of the fume hoods. He should be able to propose and implement changes to accommodate newer requirements.
Manufacturers’ capabilities to support the project throughout its life cycle and not just at the time of installation must be checked. The costs must be reviewed in this light and the manufacturer evaluated accordingly.
7. Customer List and Installation Visits
Prospective manufacturers usually submit their customer list. It would be a good idea to contact peer professionals from the list and obtain their impressions.
One could get a fair judgment of the manufacturer’s capabilities by visiting exhibitions/trade shows and demo labs. Better still is visiting a few installations and checking out the facts. Many attributes beyond paper and presentation often emerge during such visits, which could help the selection.
With these tips and suggestions, your fume hood manufacturer selection task should become simpler. A good fume hood manufacturer not only gets your project executed in time, but he can save a lot of resources and prove to be a reliable partner for future projects.
In case you need to discuss further and collaborate for your next fume hoods project, we are just a call away.