There are a lot of them around and they are still going strong – those robust and reliable units faithfully delivering test results for a wide range of feed samples. So why change an existing NIR analyser, and most importantly, what exactly does it involve? FOSS Global Product Manager, Bengt Nordlund offers some key considerations.
The changing NIR landscape
To take the rationale first, there is always an argument for staying put – ‘if it ain’t broke don’t fix it’.
However, there are many benefits to be found in improved functionalities such as easier sample handling, more intuitive software, instrument networking, remote support and reporting. “Older NIR solutions are based on technology platforms developed in the eighties or nineties and a lot of things have changed since then,” says Nordlund. He explains how performance too has improved with better repeatability of results over time due to more stable, factory standardised instrumentation that is less sensitive to the effects of temperature variations and such like.
Instrument standardization required with older technology is effectively avoided with newer instruments such as this NIRS DS 2500F
Advantages from instrument standardization
When there’s more than one instrument involved, the benefits of modern NIR become even more obvious.
With a network of old instruments, they all need to be individually standardised against a master. In contrast, new solutions such as the NIRS™ DS2500 F offer standardised performance so that no matter how many units are installed, they will always perform alike.
When replacing a number of old instruments, it is therefore a good idea to make the NIRS™ DS2500 F the network master as soon as possible because when more DS2500 F instruments are added, there will be no need to standardise against it. It will still be necessary to monitor instrument units, but as any feed lab manager with experience of NIR will know, the ability to avoid standardisation work makes things simpler and can save a lot of time.
Easier administration and access to online support and services
Networking software and associated digital services have developed considerably in recent years and are designed to work optimally with the latest instrument versions. Administration is now much simpler with many smart options available such as central access to data, updates of instrument settings and calibrations, readymade reports and better control of the implementation of standard operating procedures.
All this adds-up to consistent application of NIR analysis across the organisation while saving time and reducing the need for NIR specialist training at multiple sites.
On-line support has also improved significantly. As an example: The NIRS™ DS2500 F collects diagnostic data which can be used to ensure a higher uptime and performance of the entire solution, whether this is monitored by by instrument owners themselves or handled through FOSS’ digital service concepts for instrument and calibration monitoring and trouble shooting. The resulting increase in uptime and reliability quickly translates into efficiency gains for users.
The NIRSystems 5000/6500: Still going strong but with an aging technology platform
Calibration options for new analysers
When considering whether to move to a modern analyser, it is important to also consider whether to buy new calibrations or develop or re-use own calibration data.
Nordlund advises: “Since many feed producers are sourcing raw materials globally, there can be major benefits in having the instrument supplier also deliver global calibrations for these raw materials. This will help in covering the variability of the raw materials and help to reduce time and costs needed to develop calibrations. Another point is that these calibrations are often tailormade to the new instrument versions to ensure optimal performance of the total solution.”
Where a feed producer wants to re-use existing calibration data, this can also be done. First, a number of representative samples are scanned on both the new and the old instrument. Secondly, a calibration specialist can standardize the database and recalculate the calibration models. Finally, before being put into use, the calibration models should be validated using additional samples. Those interested in this option should ensure this process can be accomplished while the old unit is still operational.
Plan your replacement in due time
Instrument replacement is not only about improved performance and ease of use.
NIR users also need to consider the end-of-life availability of spare parts and services for their old units and are advised to start replacement in due time. According to FOSS’ End of life policy, FOSS guarantee to offer service of instrument seven years after sale has been discontinued. For some NIRSystems 5000/6500 units, this date may have already been reached and all units will reach it by the end of 2021.
Is it time to update to a more modern NIR solution?