No matter what type of lab you run, efficiency and safety are core goals for everyone. Efficiency keeps your lab functioning at its best, while lab safety keeps your facility relatively free of risk and error – ultimately protecting your staff from hazards. To help you make the most of your laboratory, here are four ways to improve a lab:

Ways to Improve Your Lab #1: Work Spaces

Perhaps one of the simplest – but often overlooked – ways to improve a lab’s efficiency and safety is to evaluate your work areas. 

  • Are they cluttered? 

  • Are they properly sanitized? 

  • Are the tools easily accessible, organized, and intuitive to find? 

If you think any of these questions highlight a weakness in your lab, let’s think about what that might be costing you. An unorganized work space leads to increased hazards, risk of contamination, and slowed production. 

Encourage regular ‘tidy-up’ days and make it easy for workers to access cleaning supplies. Keep the main workspace clear of tools, supplies, and working solutions when not being used. Instead, organize the spaces with racks and shelving setups that keep everything you need within reach, but not in the way.

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Ways to Improve Your Lab #2: Flow (if your lab makes products)

If your lab manufactures any type of products, visualizing your workflow is the best way to find problematic areas in productions. Sketch a to-scale floor plan of your entire laboratory facility. (Ideally, this should be photocopied or converted into a digital format so it can be updated and re-evaluated regularly.) 

Next, map out the flow of the two most important moving things in your lab: products and people. The flow of both of these should always be unidirectional and not overlapping. Find regions in your sketch where lines overlap or go back and forth and think about how you could change your layout to reduce these overlaps. Maybe there’s a piece of equipment that should be moved closer to the product that it is used on. Perhaps a stir plate or scale that is used at multiple steps seems to be a bottleneck and your lab might benefit from another. Possibly your lab’s work areas should be rethought to keep production going in one direction. 

Whatever it is that you find could be hampering flow in your lab, brainstorm ways to optimize it, make changes, and then re-map the flow. This is arguably one of the best ways to improve a lab’s efficiency and production. Additionally, work will become easier and more intuitive for employees and safety will be improved by reducing back-and-forth movements between areas.

Ways to Improve Your Lab #3: Waste Reduction

Take a minute and think about excess in your lab. Think about what tools, products, or supplies you stock up the most and ask why. 

  • Do you always keep extra supplies on hand to circumvent problems related to an unreliable supplier? The problem in this case is the supplier; you can keep less overstock by finding a more reliable supplier.

  • Do you make extra products because variability or error rate is too high, but need to meet production requirements? Find the root cause of variability and change that, instead of setting yourself up to continuously adjust or re-make products.

  • Do you produce a large amount of by-products with a reaction, machine, or cleaning process? Evaluate this process and brainstorm ways to reduce waste with your team.

Wherever possible, take steps to address problems and reduce waste and excess in your lab. Not only should this free up your storage areas, but also will make processes more efficient and save you on disposal costs and product re-work.

Ways to Improve Your Lab #4: Feedback

Another simple way to improve a lab’s efficiency is simply taking to the one’s who know it best – your staff. By asking a few simple questions, you can think of actionable solutions to their concerns. Ask questions like:

  • What do you think most often keeps you from being more productive?

  • What machine/equipment/area do you least like using? Why?

  • How do you think your daily tasks could be made easier?

Depending on the type of lab you run, you will get very different answers to these questions. However, your staff is your best resources for finding flaws in your setup. They know all the nitty-gritty details of protocols, processes, equipment, and cleaning procedures. Make the changes that they suggest, where possible, and ask for feedback on them after. 

Summary

Each of these points features multiple ways to improve a lab’s efficiency and safety. If you try one of these approaches and see results, we hope you’ll try the rest as well! When it comes down to it, they all aim for the same overarching goals: make tasks simple and intuitive, keep areas clean, and provide your staff with the necessary products. The right products are critical to keeping your lab functioning at its peak – and a reliable supplier can help you achieve this. 

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