Revolutionizing our Value Chain

Case Studies on this page:


Sourcing Smarter

From sourcing locally to right-sizing our raw materials, we look to our supply chain for greener alternatives.


Going Paperless in Foster City


Our Foster City, California site realized that more customers are going digital, and that printing manuals is both materials- and cost-intensive. They used this realization to create an Ion Torrent community website for customers to electronically access product manuals. This innovation has saved 53 trees and is resulting in $27,000 in costs avoided annually.


Challenging Existing Paradigms


Essential to our oligonucleotide business is the solvent acetonitrile (ACN). Due to its flammable nature, the regulated storage quantities of ACN are capped, which limits our ability to scale up the manufacturing processes. In our Pleasanton, California facility we procure thousands of ACN four-liter glass bottles each year. The hazardous nature of the solvent requires labor-intensive rinsing of the empty glass bottles for recycling.The team sourced several 205-liter reusable ACN bulk storage tanks and installed a distribution system to pump the solvent on demand. This sourcing change will eliminate seven tons of glass bottles and 5,600 cardboard delivery boxes annually, while allowing for business expansion across the site.


Smarter Computer Sourcing

We source more than 14,000 cartons of computer equipment annually. We noticed that, on many occasions, pallets were reconfigured and then shipped on to other sites. To address this, we optimized our ordering process in a configuration to match the way we use the items. Furthermore, we partnered with our supplier to implement a new way of shipping that enables direct shipment to more locations within the company. Instituting this process reduces the time it takes to unload a truck by 87%, increases freight density by 33%, and reduces CO2 emissions by 6 tons each year.  


Energy Reduction

More than 80% of our scope 1 and 2 CO2 emissions result from energy use; therefore, our focus on energy conservation correlates directly with our reduction in CO2 emissions.


Shifting to a Hybrid Fleet to Save Fuel and CO2 in Japan


Recognizing an opportunity to reduce gasoline consumption as well as CO2 emissions from their field services and sales fleet, our Japan team decided to begin upgrading the fleet leases from regular to hybrid vehicles. They projected that change would make a significant impact in cutting both their costs and carbon footprint. The team set out to replace 90% of the 85 fleet vehicles by year-end 2013. The results: as of year-end 2012, 68 of the regular vehicles have been replaced with hybrids, saving 457 gallons of fuel per car each year for a total of 31,076 gallons of gasoline annually. Beyond the reduction in fuel consumption, this initiative also has reduced CO2 emissions by 200 tons.


Breaking Ground in Cleaner Energy


Taking an industry-leading step toward grid independence, we installed our first major clean energy project: a one-megawatt Bloom Energy fuel cell system to self-generate power for our Carlsbad, California, manufacturing and distribution center. An uninterruptible power source, the technology is reducing our carbon footprint and operating costs while boosting energy reliability. It's been so successful that we recently installed another Bloom Energy system at our Pleasanton, California, facility.


Recovering Heat to Conserve Energy


Our freezers use a great deal of energy and much of it was being wasted through the condenser units. Our innovative team in Christchurch, New Zealand, saw an opportunity to recapture that energy. By installing plate heat exchangers, incoming cold plant water is now heated and piped into existing insulated hot water recovery tanks, and then used to feed the main hot water tanks. The result: less energy is required to heat water, reducing the site's energy use by 60%, and also reducing CO2 emissions by 68 tonnes.


LEEDing the Way


As we build new spaces or renovate our existing buildings, we have adopted the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) program from the U.S. Green Building Council as a standard. Currently we have three LEED certified facilities in our portfolio.

Current LEED Certified Sites:

  • Pleasanton, California, Building D - LEED-NC Silver, 2003
  • Carlsbad, California, 5791 Van Allen - LEED-CI Silver, 2010
  • Shanghai, China - LEED-CI Silver, 2010

Upgrading Facilities in Austin

The facilities team in Austin, Texas went to work fine-tuning lighting and equipment, and in just four months identified lighting retrofits, auto fume-hood closures, and more. Savings include a reduction of 1.8 million kWh of electricity and $200,000 annually.


Improving Efficiency in Inchinnan


Green from the ground up, the new Lister building in Inchinnan, Scotland, was designed and built with eco-efficient equipment resulting in 73% more energy efficiency compared to similar size buildings, and savings of $125,000 annually. A one-time credit resulted in $200,000 in tax relief.


Smart Software


The existing central plant in Carlsbad, California was retrofitted with an upgraded control system utilizing patented algorithms that reduced energy consumption by 50%. Smart software applications were utilized to optimize temperature fluctuations during business hours without impacting the occupant comfort level and to reduce the temperature changes during off hours.


Fan Motor Upgrades


Biotechnology requires walk-in coolers and freezers for production and storage of temperature-sensitive products. More than 130 fan motors were replaced with higher-efficiency units and upgraded controls. These motors no longer work 24/7, but instead cycle on only when air circulation is required to maintain cold temperatures. This technology not only allows for a 55% energy savings, but also provides a tighter temperature control for our products.


Compressed Air Efficiency


Compressed air is used extensively throughout manufacturing and research laboratories. Leaky nozzles were replaced and compressed air storage tanks were installed. This allowed the demand for compressed air to be met by only one 30 HP compressor, instead of two 60 HP units, reducing by more than 50% the system's energy consumption.


Spotlight on Lighting


The year 2009 marked the dawn of the LED at our facilities, as we replaced our old incandescent light bulbs. We have replaced inefficient lighting with modern LED and fluorescent lighting, which lasts eight times longer and consumes one-fifth of the energy. We also use daylight harvesting to automatically reduce lighting when not needed on bright, sunny days.


Water Conservation

Whether mixing or diluting active ingredients, or cleaning and washing equipment used to manufacture them, all of our consumable products use water. We measure our water usage and evaluate ways to reduce and reuse water in our manufacturing, support utilities, landscaping and sanitation processes.


EnviroTowers in Carlsbad and Austin Yield Significant Savings


The installation of an emerging technology the EnviroTower to the existing cooling tower reduces scaling, corrosion, and microbial contamination, which in turn improves the heat-transfer efficiency of chillers. Installation of these towers at the Carlsbad and Austin sites resulted in estimated savings of more than 3 million gallons per year.


Carlsbad Projects Save 6 Million Gallons of Water Per Year


In Carlsbad, we installed autoclave trap cooling kits to prevent continuous discharging of condensed clean steam to waste. Two clean steam generators were reconfigured to use heated soft water recycled from another process on the line. Retrofits were made to the room that houses ultrapure water for all of the manufacturing and R&D lab use within one building. The reverse osmosis/deionized water systems were reconfigured. Additionally, the landscape irrigation system was converted from a conventional system to a gray water system that utilizes non-potable water. These projects combined resulted in total water savings of more than 6 million gallons per year.


Improving Irrigation Efficiency in Pleasanton


We updated the landscape irrigation system at our Pleasanton, California site with higher efficiency nozzles and converted the water supply to a gray water system. These improvements are estimated to result in water savings of 1,730,385 gallons per year.


Redesigned Auckland Manufacturing Process Boosts Production, Saves Water


Our facility in New Zealand has a longstanding record of environmental stewardship. In their water-intensive serum manufacturing business, water and energy efficiency are key drivers to cost reduction. The site redesigned the manufacturing process to streamline an outdated line and optimize water use. This has resulted in a 100% utilization rate for the serum produced on the line. Although the plant has since increased production, the site has achieved annual water savings of 8.7 million gallons.


Zero Waste

Modifying our manufacturing processes to eliminate waste streams and developing viable programs to recycle are part of our environmental agenda. Our goal is zero waste.


Certifying Our First Four Zero Waste Manufacturing Sites


Soon after our Pleasanton, California, facility became our first site to achieve Zero Waste status, it was quickly followed by our facilities in Kingsland Grange, UK; Bleiswijk, The Netherlands; and Regensburg, Germany. Comprehensive, external audits validated that more than 90% of the non-hazardous waste from these sites now finds a home somewhere other than a landfill. By engaging employees and aggressively implementing a variety of innovative recycling, composting, and waste reduction programs such as a glove recycling partnership with Kimberly-Clark, Pleasanton and the others charted a course to prove that zero waste is indeed achievable. In a nod to the Zero Waste Alliance standard, we define zero waste as 90% diversion of non-hazardous waste, with incineration-for-energy as a last resort. Two more sites--Lohne, Germany and Eugene, Oregon-- were certified in 2013.


Pleasanton Facility is First in Race to Zero Waste


Our Pleasanton, California facility became our first site to achieve Zero Waste status. A comprehensive, external audit by Synergis validated that the Pleasanton site is successfully diverting more than 95% (over 677 tons) of its waste from landfill, without any incineration. By aggressively implementing a variety of recycling, composting, and waste reduction programs, the determined team in Pleasanton improved the site’s landfill diversion rate from 30% to nearly 96% in just one year. One key program is the partnership with Kimberly-Clark and TerraCycle to recycle laboratory gloves and garments, described below.



Our Pleasanton, California site was the first to partner with Kimberly-Clark Professional, our largest vendor of difficult-to-recycle nitrile gloves, and national recycler TerraCycle, to create a program that will ultimately divert 5 tons of gloves from the landfill each year. The gloves are being up-cycled into new plastic products, and plans are on track to expand glove recycling nationally in the U.S. All told, with this partnership we can divert up to 100 tons of gloves from the landfill.


2011 WRAP Award


Our Pleasanton, Foster City, and Carlsbad, California, locations were recognized by the California Department of Resources Recycling with a 2011 WRAP (Waste Reduction Awards Program) Award. WRAP evaluates the waste reduction, procurement, and education activities in the internal business practices of California companies, recognizing those that go above and beyond in reducing waste in operations and waste sent landfills.

  Learn More:


Reducing Waste in Inchinnan


In pursuit of zero waste status, the Waste Improvement Team in Inchinnan, Scotland, identified a market for waste plastic created during the manufacture of media. What once went to the landfill is now reused in injection molding, diverting 21% of waste from the landfill, avoiding $14,000 in annual landfill costs, and generating $12,500 annually.


Achieving Acetonitrile Efficiency in Frederick, Maryland


There are several benefits of hazardous waste reduction: we reduce waste volume, transport and incineration are minimized, and carbon emissions from incineration decrease. Engineers at our Frederick site achieved significant waste reduction as they faced a global shortage of acetonitrile, a solvent used in oligonucleotide manufacturing that normally represents 50-75% of the solvents consumed by DNA manufacturing. In a systematic analysis of the protocols used for the high-throughput DNA synthesis, every step that used acetonitrile was tested to see if a lower amount could be used without affecting product quality. The project resulted in a reduction of acetonitrile usage for most syntheses by over 20%, substantially reducing the hazardous waste generation for the site.


Wastewater Treatment Diversion in Bedford, Massachusetts


Our Bedford facility used to generate substantial wastewater during solvent washes and water rinses. The site generated 100,000 gallons of aqueous hazardous waste one year. The following year, the team set a goal of reducing aqueous hazardous waste by 25%. The team analyzed the waste to determine if more water could be diverted from the aqueous waste tank to the wastewater treatment system. The results revealed that 32% of the waste sent to the aqueous waste tank was clean enough to be sent to the wastewater treatment system. The findings are saving an estimated $50,000 annually and result in less frequent hazardous waste shipments, reduced fuel consumption, and fewer CO2 emissions.


Sustainable Packaging

Reducing Customer Waste with Biodegradable Packaging


The engineers at the Inchinnan, Scotland facility designed a biodegradable packaging solution for primers that eliminated 3.8 tons of customer waste and reduced customer packaging complaints.


Product Redesign Reduces Packaging and Increases Freight Density


StepOne® and StepOnePlus® Real-Time PCR Systems uses less packaging material than their preceding packaging design. By changing our inner packaging design we have been able to reduce the cube dimension of our packaging by nearly 20% and the total material weight by 31%. These changes result in an increased freight density -- allowing our carriers to put more on their planes and trucks which could lead to less greenhouse gas emissions in transporting the product around the world. Furthermore, less packaging waste is generated at end-of-life.


Hunting for Air


Hunting for air and 'right-sizing' packaging removes unnecessary space, resulting in smaller shipping boxes and less refrigerant use. We introduced 25 new boxes used in more than 100,000 product kits sold annually. These smaller boxes require less product storage space. Made of 100% recycled paper, 50% post-consumer waste, and totally recyclable at end-of-life, these boxes also help avoid nearly 12 tons of CO2 emissions and save 125,000 gallons of water annually.


Customer Feedback Inspires Packaging Reduction for Vector NTI Express


Vector NTI® Express now uses less packaging material than the preceding packaging design for Vetor NTI® Advance. In fact, Vector NTI® Express v1.0 software, user's manual, quick start guide, install guide, and release notes are no longer being shipped because they are now available in downloadable formats, thanks to feedback from our customers. Thanks to customers' help, we have eliminated the shipment of CD/DVD, packaging, and associated documentation, consisting of over 800 pages and weighing more than four pounds. The environmental benefits of doing this include elimination of packaging material and waste, including associated decrease in greenhouse gas emissions from transport.


Dry Ice Optimization


The use of dry ice is standard in transporting biological materials - the "consumables" that our customers use in their laboratories. We have done a great deal of work to convert frozen consumables to the point where they can be shipped at ambient temperatures, but we are continuing to decrease our use of coolers and dry ice.

While you might consider dry ice to be carbon neutral, the process of making it involves taking CO2 from the air, which then sublimates back. Creating dry ice requires a very large amount of energy. From that perspective, dry ice has a significant negative environmental impact. Since it is heavier than the products we ship, dry ice also has a higher negative impact on freight emissions. Reducing our dry ice usage is good for our business and good for the environment. This is driving a huge effort to use only the dry ice we need.


Big Blue for Bulk Shipping


Affectionately dubbed "big blue" a bulk shipping container was adopted to consolidate large intercompany shipments. The blue container holds the equivalent of 5-8 single-use jumbo pallets and requires less dry ice to maintain the required temperature. Through increases in freight density and reductions in shipping weight, we have eliminated 5,000 tons of CO2 emissions from our intercompany shipments. These actions saved the company more than $200,000 its first year.


Eliminating EPS for Cushioning


We recently investigated the feasibility of shipping our NuPAGE gel products without the insulating and protective properties of an EPS cooler. We have found that by adding minimal paper cushioning to a corrugate container, the NuPAGE gels can be shipped without impact on product quality and lifespan. Annually, this eliminates more than 7 tons of EPS coolers from our distribution network.


Eliminating the Need for Cold Shipment


Where feasible, we design new products that can withstand the rigors of ambient shipping conditions. In addition, we systematically evaluate potential product candidates to convert from cold chain to ambient shipment. We also look at alternative manufacturing methods such as lyophilization and vitrification, which preserve biological material by removing water. These methods make the product less susceptible to temperature variations and more convenient for transport.


  • Trypsin - We learned that a portion of our trypsin product line can ship under ambient conditions; our competitors continue to ship this frozen in EPS coolers.
  • TaqMan® Assays - We tested four classes of assays (TaqMan® Genotyping Assays, TaqMan® Gene Expression Assays, TaqMan® miRNA Assays, and the Megaplex PreAmp and RT primer pools) in simulated ambient summer shipment conditions. We found they still met the same quality-controlled stability and performance specifications throughout their stated shelf life as assays shipped on dry ice. Shipping at ambient conditions eliminates 70,000 cubic feet of Styrofoam (equivalent to filling 694 standard dumpsters) and 250,000 kg of dry ice annually.
  • Influenza detection kits - One of the company's best-performing influenza detection kits is our newest lyophilized product. Our lyophilized reagents are being designed with an eye towards stability, both in transport and on customer shelves.

Right-Sizing Our Coolers


By decreasing the wall thickness, material density, and size of our coolers, we have reduced the usage of polystyrene by 30% -- the equivalent of 52 truckloads per year.

We also stock a range of box sizes to optimize the weight and cooling requirements of the order. An extremely small cooler, the mini-mini, has been designed to ship our smallest products. This cooler uses 17% less EPS than the next larger size.


Reusable Packaging Delivery Methods


For some customers, we are utilizing bulk reusable coolers in place of EPS coolers. Due to the improved thermal efficiencies of these units, we can reduce our dry ice consumption by 37,000 pounds and eliminate 9,000 pounds of one-way packaging material. We are looking to expand this program.


Alternative Shipping Materials


We are continually researching alternative packaging materials to EPS. We have tested felt, wax-insulated cardboard, insulated padded envelopes, air-filled plastic liner coolers, chiller bags, reusable thermal boxes, and more.

Although none of these alternatives meets the thermal requirements necessary to maintain our product quality standards, we continue to search for innovative alternatives.


Product Take-back

Recycling Semiconductor Chips


The Ion Chip Recycling Program provides customers with a free and convenient way to recycle used Ion chips. We have partnered with Metech Recycling, an industry leader in electronic waste recycling for our U.S. customers.


Instrument Take-back Program Earns Recognition and Savings


In a move that turns our customers into our suppliers, the Genetics Systems Sequencing team in Foster City, California implemented an instrument take-back program to harvest high-value parts and to refurbish and resell postconsumer instruments, including the SOLiD 4 system. This enterprising team diverted 40,000 pounds of e-waste from landfills.


Sustainability highlights: