Anyone who has had a professional career in the imaging industry since the ’80s, ’90s, and early 2000s knows that helium consumption is just a fact of life when it comes to MRI magnets.
Liquid helium was cheap and readily available 30 years ago. If you lost 500 liters over a weekend due to loss of power or a chiller failure, you simply picked up the phone and called your service provider while sipping your Monday morning coffee. It would probably cost $2-3k for a helium refill and any mechanical issues would be fixed within the course of a few days when the provider could send a technician to your site.
When helium loss was expected and the cost of a fill was negligible, this reactive service model could work. Today, that is no longer the case.
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Since the early 2000s there have been two major developments that should have retired this reactive service model:
1. Magnet technology advanced to zero helium boil off
2. Liquid helium faced a shortage and prices increased by 525%
Advanced Technology and a Stagnate Service Model: A Costly Combination
GE came out with the Zero Boil Off Magnet in the early 2000s. With this technology the MRI actually reliquifies the helium and reuses it. It wasn’t long before the market was saturated with this advanced technology and other OEMs came out with their own versions of Zero Boil Off.
Every MRI built before that point would always lose helium; you could never stop it, just slow it down. The service models of the past were designed to take that natural boil off into consideration. The service models of today… still aren’t built to support zero helium loss technology. And this stagnation in service is costing you money.
Why Are You Spending 30% of Your Profit Margin on An Avoidable Cost?
The zero boil off technology has been on the market for over two decades, but service models didn’t evolve for one simple reason: They didn’t have to.
The low cost and availability of liquid helium didn’t necessitate an advancement in how MRs were serviced, even though the technology made it possible to completely eliminate helium loss.
All of that changed in 2018.
Now we are facing a liquid helium shortage and a global crisis that has no resolution in sight. This means helium now costs $25/liter, rather than $4/liter. This means your routine or weekend loss of helium now costs $25-30k for a fill, rather than $2-3k. This means your full service contract that probably brings in $70k yearly revenue is taking a 30% hit on a completely avoidable cost.
Retire the Reactive Model. Adopt a Proactive Approach.