While moving a family or even an entire office can prove to be a stressful experience, relocating a company that has an extreme specialty can be challenging to say the least. There are desks, chairs, and other company property that must be moved on time and protected, along with the technology a company uses including computers, phones, and other important, expensive equipment. To maximize productivity and minimize downtime, it all needs to get to the new location on time and intact, ready for a new beginning.

Take a particular industry that is subject to specific laws, regulations and procedures, or special requirements. That certainly can complicate the moving process substantially. There is no better example than the relocation of a biotech firm. Take all the contents of a normal corporate office and then throw in laboratory equipment, samples, specimens, and research. Mix in some government regulations and investors watching your every move, and you have one of the most complicated relocation projects that exists.

Because of the complex nature of such a project, time is critical. The more time spent on planning, the better. Everyone on the company’s moving team needs to be involved in the planning stage and they all need to have a complete understanding of their plan. When dealing with potentially millions of dollars in specimens and equipment, there is no room for error. A major part of the plan is where certain equipment will be positioned in the new location. Surveying the new location, including electrical outlet configuration, will be essential to moving freezers containing specimens into the new building immediately and getting them hooked up to power without delay.

As with any large scale project, the best advice is to check references and make sure the company hired to manage the relocation has verifiable experience in this area. Many companies may say they cater to a certain industry and have a specialty with a particular type of business. Make absolutely sure the company involved in the lab move knows the ins and outs of this kind of project and that they have a proven track record. Of equal importance, ask the company about the training  the personnel assigned to this project have gone through. Are they simply trained to move boxes or do they have experience working in different environments such as clean rooms and laboratories?

A thorough understanding is crucial, as non-compliance with shipping and transportation guidelines of certain items will lead to fines and possible imprisonment. The company chosen to manage such a move should have complete comprehension of federal and state regulations and how they relate to the particular move. In most cases, permitting is required to move certain items and, in some cases, transporting chemicals requires authorization from the Department of Transportation. Who’s responsible? Both parties are. While the moving company should obtain the proper permits, the client should verify that’s the case. Contracts between a client and a moving company should be reviewed to ensure proper permitting is included in the language and  the moving company along with all personnel should have a complete understanding of what’s on board. Disclosure of moving contents to the motor carrier is essential and it is absolutely critical that these steps are followed. The public relations nightmare that could haunt both parties if proper procedures are not followed could be detrimental.

Involving third parties should be explored when preparing for the relocation of a lab. For example, moving highly sensitive lab equipment could not only damage those instruments, but could throw them completely out of calibration. Involving the company that manufactures such items such as centrifuges, synthesizers, scopes, and other delicate equipment that is used by the company should be considered. The manufacturer can help disassemble, pack, reassemble, and calibrate the equipment as part of the moving plan. This will minimize damage and ensure all equipment is set up and fine-tuned by a professional.

Packing and proper labeling should be the responsibility of the moving company. Again, trained professionals should be involved. While many items can be packed in traditional boxes or crates, there are certain items that need to remain extremely clean. In those cases, it may not be possible to use boxes or even wood crating because of possible contamination of equipment or testing rooms. Check with manufacturers of the lab equipment to make absolutely sure those types of instruments are packed properly, and offer the moving company guidance on the matter.

Mission Accomplished

Of the utmost importance is the way everything is actually transported. The moving company must have the products and equipment to store and preserve materials at ultra-low temperatures, such as freezers to store irreplaceable specimens and research. The company should also have access to vehicles designed and equipped to handle products that require a controlled climate including temperature and humidity.

In many cases, vans that are used for biotech moves are equipped with temperature-monitoring equipment. Probes are placed in each of the freezers and linked to a computer in the cab of the van. That way, the driver and their team can monitor conditions closely to ensure proper operation of all storage equipment and respond quickly to equipment malfunction. While some companies utilize dry ice to keep specimens frozen, the best method is using a temperature-controlled freezer.

That being said, it is vital to have redundancy equipment aboard the truck along with standby back-up freezers constantly set at the right temperature in case of failure. The freezer cannot just be sitting in the truck, unplugged. It has to be fixed at the same temperature as the freezers actually carrying specimens during the entire move. Companies have gone as far as storing liquid nitrogen on board in case of complete failure to keep research frozen.

The work of a biotech firm is, in many cases, irreplaceable. The specimens and research are the result of years of intense work and millions of dollars in investments. Without proper planning, back up plans, and expertise, a firm could see their business come to a screeching halt if a move goes badly. If one freezer loses power, it could set a firm back year. Take the time to plan, research, and evaluate moving vendors and proper procedures, and the result will be a successful relocation – not to mention the fact that you will experience a great reduction in stress.