Freezers Always Fail on a Saturday Night


Nate Kraft, Vice President, Traceable
Note: See Thanksgiving results below.

Do freezers always fail on Saturday night? Traceable tests this old adage.

We spend a lot of time talking to our customers, with a particular focus on people who use our products daily.

Early on in my role as Vice President of Traceable, I was talking to a lab manager at a major academic research facility who shared the wisdom embedded in the title above. It was a funny one-liner that summed up the problem we solve with TraceableLIVE®, but it made me think. I went back to our analytics team and asked them to look at our data on alerts and alarms to find out if the old adage was true.

Let me start by saying that basic probability would suggest that refrigerator or freezer failures, or other impacts like power outages, should have an equal chance of happening on a Wednesday as a Saturday. So, it was something of a surprise to find the data showed that freezers do actually fail more often on a weekend.

Why freezers fail on weekends

So, why is that? There are a lot of reasons, but all are centered on the fact that people are home enjoying their weekends and not actually in their labs: freezer doors are left slightly ajar, cleaning crews unplug refrigerators to vacuum and forget to plug them back in, or an electrician forgets to turn the panel back on after a repair.

As I write this, this past weekend was Labor Day in the US, which meant many of us were out enjoying beaches, BBQs, or just gathering with friends and family. But for those of you who manage labs, long weekends sometimes have a dark cloud over them, no matter how sunny the days are. That cloud is the worry that the return to lab after the weekend might come with a realization that the refrigerator full of expensive vaccines went offline, a ULT melted all over the floor, or a Dewar didn’t have enough liquid nitrogen.

The results

During the long holiday weekends in the U.S., TraceableLIVE sent out over 51,508 total alarms in  three days (Saturday, Sunday and Monday) in 25 countries. We have TraceableLIVE notification on 6 out of 7 continents. We don’t have one in Antarctica….yet.

Some of these alerts were short lived (a minute or two where the temperature in a freezer or refrigerator were above the settings) and probably didn’t require a response, but many thousands of them triggered a response that helped save research, valuable pharmaceutical products, or kept a clinical trial on track. And while we don’t like that someone’s weekend was ruined by having to head into the lab to fix a problem, we also believe that the alternative of coming in on Tuesday morning and seeing decades of research or tens of thousands of dollars of pharmaceuticals ruined, is a far, far worse outcome.

Note: Traceable performed this test again during the long Thanksgiving weekend. TraceableLIVE set out over 61,314 over 4 days (Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday) in 25 countries. Once again, these alerts helped save research, valuable pharmaceutical products, or kept a clinical trial on track.

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