What are the best ways to optimize your laboratory?

Written by Guest Contributor

Every workspace needs to be designed and organized effectively, whether you’re talking about a small desktop or an entire laboratory. Cluttered, cramped, or just poorly laid out rooms and spaces can create operational bottlenecks that end up hindering efforts rather than providing a free space to work.

When you’re talking about laboratories or research centers, lab optimization is a key element. Thinking about how space is utilized, where amenities and workstations are, and how to optimize traffic flows all ties into a well-planned layout.

But what are some other things you need to think about? What are the best ways to optimize your laboratory and create a more productive environment?

Create dedicated workspaces

Communal and open workspaces are excellent, and they’re inherently meant for collaborative and social tasks. But sometimes, they are distracting and slow down solo work processes. It’s important to remember that certain projects require a dedicated space, and they must include the appropriate equipment, tools, and work surfaces.

There should also be relevant supplies handy so staff members aren’t leaving the space constantly to replenish, gear up, or even seek out items.

This does several things. First, it provides a highly productive and capable space for those doing the work. Second, it removes some of the personnel who would otherwise be spending time in communal spaces, so it frees up the area a little.

Alternate schedules

Even the biggest laboratories and research teams with a large budget are going to have equipment and tools that are shared. Sometimes, there just aren’t enough resources to go around, and crowded work schedules can exacerbate this problem.

The trick is to optimize work schedules so that people are coming in and diving into their work at different times. It doesn’t necessarily require a schedule with odd hours, either. Even having part of the team come into the lab during the morning, and others come in a few hours later, can have a huge impact on productivity. The morning folks get a few hours to themselves, and then when they go home, the late crew gets a few hours of their own.

Create a calibration initiative

Some equipment in the lab needs to be calibrated before it can be used. Other equipment must be cleaned or serviced, some may need fluids and fuel, and others still may need to be repaired or serviced. Electric calibration, for example, is necessary to ensure that certain pieces of equipment are providing accurate digital readings.

Although necessary, these practices can slow down various lab processes and may even take up a significant portion of the workday.

Dedicating personnel to this task, by creating a calibration and service initiative, ensures the equipment is always ready when someone needs it for an important task. An excellent way to do this is to cycle through team members, assigning different people to the initiative on a weekly or monthly basis. Before they move on to other tasks, each day, the dedicated workers must calibrate equipment and get it ready for normal operation, as a service to their colleagues and peers.

Establish cleaning standards

Everyone should be responsible for cleaning the equipment they use, the stations where they spend time, and the surfaces they come into contact with. But rather than expecting everyone to clean to the same standards, establish guidelines.

That way, each and every person, even if they’re a visitor to the lab, understands their responsibilities. It may be necessary to create more nuanced instructions for the various pieces of equipment, in which case a mobile app or point of reference can help. Imagine being able to check your mobile device for instructions before you begin.

Lean into industry 4.0

Industry 4.0, or bioprocessing 4.0, in the bio-research and medical field, involves utilizing smart technologies to collect data and develop more informed and contextually driven operations. As a result, many tasks are automated, freeing up human workers to do more complex work.

Tools and equipment may be able to auto-diagnose problems. Advanced robotics can help carry out various movements or duties, without human input. Research and discovery can be achieved through data analysis using machine learning and neural networks.

These are just a few examples, but the possibilities are limitless. Modern technologies can help empower the lab of the future, to complete tasks faster, become more effective, and create safer working conditions for researchers and scientists.

Deploy smart booking technologies

RFID tags, IoT devices, and smart asset tracking solutions can make it easier to keep track of, organize, and reserve certain tools or machines in the lab. More importantly, when paired with mobile and remote access, they can help teams plan out their day.

For example, if you can see someone has reserved the centrifuge for a few hours, you know to either reserve it later by picking an open slot or plan out your work accordingly so you can continue working without it.

It allows for more efficient workflows and prevents personnel from fighting over equipment and other supplies. It also encourages everyone to think about how they’re structuring their timelines. Maybe there’s even a way to think outside the box, and complete the work without the unavailable gear?

This can even be done with other components in the lab, such as using smart labels on chemical and compound inventories.

Lab optimization is critical

At the end of the day, a proper flow of work, employees, and equipment is a critical factor in successful operations. Poorly designed spaces, unorganized inventories, missing equipment, and similar problems can create huge obstacles even during the most basic tasks. Lab optimization must be sustained throughout the scope of a project and beyond. Luckily, there are ways to make it easier.

About the Author:
Emily Newton is the Editor-in-Chief of Revolutionized, an online magazine showing how technology is innovating different industries.

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Guest Contributor