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Accuracy is the number one quality in the lab, and efficiency is the second most important quality. Having an efficient laboratory will ensure your results are accurate and timely, while managing your budget and improving profits. It is no secret that laboratories are an integral part of any scientific research or development process. As such, it should come as no surprise that lab improvement is a frequent topic of discussion among scientists and engineers alike. Fortunately,
there are some simple and awesome methods for improving labs that can help them become safer, more efficient, and all-around better. Here are the top 7 lab improvements to increase the quality of your lab.
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LABORATORY PRODUCTIVITY IMPROVEMENT
Time is money, and time wasted in the lab usually comes at the expense of accuracy. Lab productivity is all about getting your results faster while still maintaining high-quality data. The main goal of any laboratory manager should be to achieve efficient workflow, so they can get their results on time with less waste. There are two ways to increase your productivity in the lab, one is to hire more people, and the other is to automate monotonous tasks. Automation
does not always mean robots; it could simply be an electronic file system or inventory management software. Here are some ideas for improving your lab’s productivity:
Promote efficiency with technology
- Use barcode systems to track samples, reagents or equipment.
- Use electronic forms for ordering supplies and samples, then track the samples through the barcode system.
Promote efficiency with employees
- Train employees to work more efficiently so they can complete their tasks more quickly.
- Have one manager per shift instead of multiple managers doing overlapping shifts. Implementing checklists for all procedures will also increase lab productivity.
- Structure your workflow to minimize errors and wasted time, while ensuring everything gets done on time.
- Increase return on investment (ROI) by reducing wasteful spending
- Use historical data to identify where money is being lost in the lab.
- Reevaluate laboratory equipment every two years, which will reduce waste and save you money.
- Implement a lab management plan so you know exactly how much inventory is coming in and going out of your lab.
INVENTORY MANAGEMENT IMPROVEMENT
Inventory management is the practice of tracking everything from samples to reagents, from consumables to chemicals, from equipment to glassware, etc. Having a well-managed inventory allows all laboratory employees to easily find what they need, when they needed it. Inventory management is especially important in labs with many lab workers because everyone has different standards for what constitutes “enough”, but if your standards are too high you might be wasting
supplies. The main goals of proper inventory management are to reduce waste and increase ROI by minimizing expenses and maximizing savings. Here are some ideas:
Use The Correct Amount Of Supplies
- Buy reagents in bulk, but keep them in smaller containers so they don’t go bad.
- Use pre-printed labels to write down the date and name of the person using the reagent or equipment for quality control purposes, then get rid of the label after use.
- Buy supplies in larger containers if they’re needed for one time only, but return them to the original container for storage.
- Reduce “thief” waste
- Make sure no one is stealing reagents or supplies by implementing inventory audits.
- Adjust your ordering methods and delivery times to reduce the amount of time spent restocking the lab.
- Implement a simple reagent management system where reagents are checked out at the beginning of the day and returned to storage at their end of the day.
LABORATORY SOFTWARE IMPROVEMENT
The right laboratory software will make your lab more efficient, while also saving you money. Lab software generally falls into two categories: laboratory information management systems (LIMS) and laboratory informatics platforms (LIP). LIMS is mostly used for data management whereas LIP can also be used to automate lab processes. Before you start buying any kind of software, however, it’s important to map out your workflow before you start using new technology in the lab.
HOW TO IMPROVE LAB EFFICIENCY?
Here Are Seven Ways Your Lab Can Improve Efficiency With Little Cost Involved
- Automate procedures with LIMS to minimize the amount of time spent on data management.
- Pick up supplies at their source instead of wasting time looking for items that are out of stock.
- Streamline your workflow by mapping everything out first.
- Implement inventory audits or reagent management systems to reduce “thief” waste.
- Use the right amount of supplies by minimizing waste and making sure no one is stealing reagents or supplies.
- Don’t spend large amounts of money on LIMS/LIPs until you’ve mapped out your workflow.
- Use laboratory software to make your lab more efficient, keep track of inventory, and prevent theft. With these simple and awesome ideas you can cut costs and improve efficiency.
Software For Efficient Workflow
- LIMS will provide efficient data management, but can also be used to automate lab tasks like sample tracking and inventory management.
- LIPs are similar to LIMS in that they’re usually web based (cloud computing) and designed to make the laboratory more efficient.
Promote Efficiency With Consumers
- Reduce the amount of time it takes to login and give users access to their own data so they can instantly view the results.
- Create an intuitive interface for employees and consumers by making things like reagent lookup, material transfers, inventory requests, etc., fast and easy.
HOW TO IMPROVE LAB WORKFLOW?
- Promote Efficiency with Lab Consumers
- Optimize Inventory Management and Reduce Waste
- Use the correct amount of supplies, reduce “thief” waste, and pick up supplies at their source.
- Improve workflow by mapping everything out first, making it intuitive for employees and consumers, and implementing inventory audits or reagent management systems.
- Using lab software will make your lab more efficient, keep track of inventory, and prevent theft. With these simple and awesome ideas you can cut costs and improve efficiency.
- Simplify workflow for employees with intuitive interfaces by creating things like reagent lookup, sample handling, etc., fast and easy.
- Reduce the amount of time it takes to login and give employees access to their own data so they can instantly view the results.
- Reduce waste by implementing an inventory management system or using reagent management systems, where items are checked out at the beginning of the day and returned to storage at their end of the day.
- Pick up supplies at their source, instead of wasting time looking for items that are out of stock.
- Implement inventory audits to reduce “thief” waste and use the correct amount of supplies by minimizing waste and making sure no one is stealing reagents or supplies.
- Streamline workflow by mapping everything out first before you buy lab software.
- Use LIMS/LIPs to automatically perform tasks like inventory management and sample tracking.
- Automate procedures with LIMS, minimizing the amount of time spent on data management and improving workflow by keeping track of multiple platforms (paper, LIMS, etc.).
TOP 7 LAB IMPROVEMENT IDEAS
When you start off as a beginner you try to look out into the world, from your peers, look for signs to find out what kind of steps to follow to start of your contributions to the world of science here are the top 7 lab improvement ideas to live by to start of your journey.
In any work environment, it’s best to have the right person in the right role. Consider each employee’s qualifications: Are they in a role that is equitable to their talents? You don’t want your most analytic scientist to be the one performing mundane research tasks, they could be best served in a role where they compile and analyze the data from studies and experiments. The most skilled and highly educated member of your team should be the one performing the
research. While interns are a great resource, utilizing them in a capacity that is beyond their skill level could result in critical errors being made. The most mechanically savvy partner should be the one tending to equipment issues and failures. If you have someone on your team who is gifted in spoken or written word, they should be the one composing and publishing any results and study summaries. Leadership in a lab environment is critical to its sustained survival. Management should make sure that
the staff have all of the equipment they need to carry out their tasks. This equipment isn’t just tangible items such as pipettes, but it also encompasses emotional tools. One great way to identify what emotional support one may need is with a personality test. These tests can be purchased in book form and converted to digital copies, or you can simply Xerox them and hand them out. Once staff completes the personality test, you’ll be able to identify which employees may require encouragement through positive affirmations (telling them they’re doing a great job and are essential to the team) and which of your employees would rather see the fruits of their labor tangibly through awards and monetary bonuses.
Probably the most important of the top 7 lab improvement ideas list is the equipment that you have, your experiment is only as good as the equipment used to perform it. It could seem like a cost-effective option to purchase the least expensive equipment available, but you get what you pay for. Less expensive equipment will break down faster, and it can even affect your study’s results. Equipment of a higher caliber often leads to more accurate results. Things as
small as thermometers can have varying levels of accuracy depending on the quality of the product. Having temperature readings off by a few degrees could lead to your research being invalidated. Malfunctioning equipment can lead to critical errors in research. You should keep equipment in good, working order. A huge component of this is cleaning the equipment in a manner that aligns with the manufacturer’s suggestions. If you’re using stock that could be hazardous, and you need highly caustic chemicals to clean the area afterward, do your research to ensure the chemicals used
for sanitation will not harm the equipment. This should be completed before the experiment even begins. Equipment should be properly maintained as suggested by the manufacturer. The most effective way to complete this maintenance is to contact the manufacturer and inquire whether they offer service and maintenance is to contact the manufacturer and inquire whether they offer service and maintenance for the parts, or if they contract with a third party for these tasks. They may even offer a program where they can teach one of your staff how to properly execute even offer a program where they can teach one of your staff how to properly execute maintenance on a particular piece of equipment.
3. Go Paperless
As the rest of the world moves toward a digital era, it seems like some labs are stuck in their ways. They insist on taking notes and recording data on paper. While it’s nice to pay homage to the roots of scientific advancement, now is the time to go paperless. Keeping paper out of your lab will reduce waste, lessen the need for storage of used and unused paper, and it will allow for more collaboration between members of your staff. This doesn’t mean that you need to invest in bulky desktop computers. You can purchase tablets
or iPads for each person on your research team and spend far less than if you had opted to purchase desktops or laptops for them. Supplying the tablet instead of letting partners use their own increases security of any data stored on the tablet, and you can ensure that everyone is synced up to the same cloud drive. If the lab owns the tablets, you can ensure the tablet’s hard drive is wiped clean remotely in the event of theft. Having research digitized makes it more accessible for future scientists. If the next group of researchers want to look at the notes of the last
study performed, they’re already in the palm of your hand. No more rifling through filing cabinets and locked closets to find previous data.
4. Consult Your Peers
As the rest of the world moves toward a digital era, it seems like some labs are stuck in their ways. They insist on taking notes and recording data on paper. While it’s nice to pay homage to the roots of scientific advancement, If you’re looking for lab improvement methods, you should reach out to your peers. Contrary to popular belief, you do not look weak when you reach out to someone for help. In fact, the other person will think you’re courageous for being able to admit you don’t know something,
and you’ll be seen as someone who is open to collaboration. With innumerable labs across the country, you’re not the first person to manage a lab. Consult with someone who has managed or operated a lab for several years on their practices. They may suggest ideas you’ve never heard of, and they could learn something from you as well.
To make the lab run efficiently, you’ll want to have it organized efficiently. Proper storage and categorization of items is crucial, especially if you plan to find what you need with ease. Any time you’re storing an item, you have to have it labelled. This will ensure that whomever is selecting the item has chosen the correct one, and it makes locating things incredibly easy. Bins or storage shelves with an edge leave space for labels to be
attached to their face. Easy to read labels make finding what you need easy. Workspaces should be organized as well, and the organization of these spaces may need to change with each experiment. Frequently used items such as scalpels or tweezers should be within reach and on the side of the scientist’s dominant hand. For example, if someone is right handed, keep the pipettes on the right. If someone is left handed, their most commonly used equipment should be on the left. Keep the laboratory running efficiently by having it arranged in a manner that makes sense. If you often perform experiments that require cold stock or substrate, the refrigerator
should be positioned close to a workbench. If research requires biological agents, a biohazard disposal system should labelled. This will ensure that whomever is selecting the item has chosen the correct one, and it makes locating things incredibly easy. Bins or storage shelves with an edge leave space for labels to be attached to their face. Easy to read labels make finding what you need easy. Workspaces should be organized as well, and the organization of these spaces may need to change with each experiment. Frequently used items such as scalpels or tweezers should be within reach and on the side of the scientist’s dominant hand. For example, if
someone is right handed, keep the pipettes on the right. If someone is left handed, their most commonly used equipment should be on the left. Keep the laboratory running efficiently by having it arranged in a manner that makes sense. If you often perform experiments that require cold stock or substrate, the refrigerator should be positioned close to a workbench. If research requires biological agents, a biohazard disposal system should be kept close by. Having to cross the room to dispose of the biological material will increase the risk of exposure for everyone in the lab.
6. Stock Control
Inventory management is tricky, and it is often the most frustrating part of operating a laboratory. In a perfect world, you’d produce no waste from your inventory, you’d have a constant supply of what you need, and all items would be easy to store or require little storage. Unfortunately, this is not a perfect world. To find out what system works best for your lab, you’ll need to complete a bit of trial and error. For perishable items, you’ll want to keep them in stock only when necessary. Otherwise,
they will expire and be wasted. Items going to waste will not only rob you of the money you spent on that stock, but this will contribute to the growing problem of unnecessary waste in the science industry. One way that you can solve your inventory problem is through collaboration. Consult fellow lab managers about how they manage their inventory. You could even combine your inventory with another lab. In many instances, labs are housed in the same building and are often positioned near each other because these spaces require the same plumbing and gas lines construction.
7. Document Everything
Proper documentation isn’t critical only during experiments, it is important at every moment. Record all protocols down to the detail, and store this record in your shared digital drive. This will ensure that in the event there are gaps event there are gaps in staffing due to unforeseen circumstances, someone else can pick up that person’s duties and carry on with their tasks. This will reduce delays in data collection and results. You should also record the lab. Keeping a record of when equipment breaks down or inventory
runs low can help you identify patterns. Once these patterns are known, you can prepare for these happenings and any expenses that may occur. These top 7 lab improvement ideas are a definitive way to increase the productivity and efficiency of your lab. You don’t need to overhaul the way you do things over night. You should try implementing each one of these methods one at a time. This will allow you to focus solely on that transition and will help maintain cohesiveness in the lab environment.
With that, if you are a beginner starting out or a veteran whos been doing this for year these top 7 lab improvement ideas are tips to live by if you plan on becoming a full time scientist, chemist biologist or any career in the scientific field. These should help you to improve the quality of your classroom, lab or workstation