Solving solvent safety, one cap at a time

Scientific analytical laboratories use a range of chemicals and solvents that require appropriate storage and use. Safe solvent storage and handling are especially important in analytical laboratories using high-performance liquid chromatography (HPLC)

HPLC is an analytical technique used to separate, identify, quantify and purify individual components of a mixture. This technique is used in manufacturing, such as during the production process of pharmaceutical products. In research applications, HPLC can separate the components of a complex biological sample and can also be used to detect performance enhancing drugs, for example.

Organic solvents, such as acetonitrile, methanol, methylene chloride, chloroform and ethyl acetate are commonly used in HPLC. As these solvents are flammable, toxic and carcinogenic, they must be stored, used, removed and disposed of safely. Solvents are typically transferred into HPLC solvent reservoir bottles from the original larger solvent bottle. These empty bottles are then reused in analytical laboratories to collect solvent waste.

In analytical laboratories, it is common practice to either “seal” bottles of HPLC solvents with aluminium foil or film, or to leave them completely open. This practice results in analytical lab workers being exposed to hazardous solvent vapours, endangering people and the environment. Hazardous waste regulations require that containers are kept closed and sealed except when adding or removing waste.

Taking solvents seriously

Inadequate safety caps pose serious risks and can lead to

  • hazards — as harmful vapour can be emitted
  • dangerous leaks — valuable substances are lost
  • risk of contamination of sensitive fluids
  • loose tubes — interrupted processes
  • air and environmental pollution
  • dangerous processes — changing containers becomes a risky procedure
  • loss of mobile phase from evaporation.

Acetonitrile and methanol are just two of the many toxic compounds users may be exposed to every day. Fortunately, solvent safety caps can prevent solvents from leaching into the air, protecting everyone who may be exposed. In addition, safety caps also promote mobile phase consistency. With time, solvent density can change, affecting chromatographic results. Storing solvents with airtight safety caps prevents this problem, ensuring the long-term consistency of the mobile phase and the integrity of chromatographic results.

Many safety and environmental directives are regulated by law, and solvent safety caps help operators to use these toxic or flammable organic substances safely. In addition, environmental protection is often a core part of production cycles, with considerations being given to energy conservation and savings, and the reduction of disposal and waste.

Solvent safety caps are ideal for safely collecting and storing liquid laboratory waste, protecting employees and the work environment by reducing solvent emissions by as much as 70%. They can also help companies to save money by preventing the leakage and evaporation of expensive solvents. Many safety caps are engineered to help users maintain a solvent-free lab with a special time strip on the venting valve. This shows operators when to replace the venting valve.

Solvents in use: analytical laboratory

A leading chemical company required a solution for its solvent bottle caps. Their area of specialisation is in the development and manufacture of reagents and chemicals for the electronics and fine chemicals industry. This company needed to ensure the professional handling of harmful liquids for optimum safety while generating a return on investment on any product bought.

The company was looking for a more intimate supplier relationship. A tailored, custom private label solution would offer more benefits than buying branded safety caps, such as enhancing the company’s own brand presence and product portfolio. The company required a private label partner to quickly supply solvent safety caps and set specific requirements as part of the specification process. This included set lead times, volumes and customisation options.

Client challenge: health, safety and the environment

With a stringent management system in place, the company needed to be sure that any private label product would meet its customers’ expectations of highly reliable, quality products. Chemical product manufacturers are conscious of their impact on the environment. They have an important responsibility to ensure the health and safety of workers who come into contact with hazardous products. The company closely examines all manufacturing processes — from design, development, production, distribution and sales up to onsite use and disposal throughout the product lifecycle. This scrutiny means that all processes are managed with safety features in place. As such, the company needed to ensure that any solvent safety cap would meet the same stringent criteria placed on the company’s products.

With no research and development resource to produce safety caps in volume, the company also required a solution that would help with better planning of stock. They required the flexibility to pre-order and spread shipping during a 12-month period to reduce risk and enhance the company’s yield and supply chain.

Safety efficiencies via private label

The chemical company was looking for a partner that would be flexible, help to meet the company’s requirements for safety, and the needs of analytical laboratory professionals. The company engaged a manufacturer (Agilent Technologies) to provide a private label custom portfolio of solvent safety caps. The private-label version of solvent safety caps complements the company’s strategy and satisfies its customers’ growing needs for a safe solution for the analytical laboratory. Private labelling has given the company more control of its pricing, marketing, sales, storage, inventory management and distribution. The safety caps can be confidentially ordered and manufactured specifically for the client.

Private branding has enabled the company to create its own safety cap product range and identity, helping to promote stronger customer recognition and loyalty. The ability to generate revenue from this new product line is important and an unanticipated benefit of the partnership. The company had underestimated the volume of uptake and required more products to meet customer demand. The option to quickly redesign the supply agreement was vital in this instance.

The result was a substantial return on investment for the private label company, which would have been unachievable without a partnership solution. The solvent safety caps have enabled the client to service its customer-base better, solving their problems in the analytical laboratory and enhancing its standing as a solutions-driven partner.

The packaging and labels are tailored to meet the private label owner’s specifications. This includes product name, description, company logo and contact information. It is their brand name that is identified with the product. The private label approach makes it harder for competitors to match and price check similar products.

Private label partnerships

Customised initiatives often include incentives that enable private label partners to perform better. Many advantages can be realised by using private label products, including accelerating time to market, optimising demand-to-delivery and building brand loyalty. Private label partnerships also help with inventory planning and monitoring across the entire supply chain. Solvent safety caps are one example wherein manufacturers such as Agilent Technologies can provide high value solutions efficiently.

The most crucial part of any private label deal is to ensure that the product is of high quality. Companies invest time and effort in building a brand. The ability to augment current offerings with more high quality, proven products is crucial. When a new product is not justifiable or practical, a private label product from a known, global manufacturer could be the solution. The strict quality standards that Agilent adheres to result in the manufacture of high-quality products for private label customers.

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