Guest Blog|Why resource visibility is essential for efficient lab management
“You can’t improve what you can’t measure” – Management Guru Peter Drucker.
Research labs are no strangers to measurement – indeed, they are designed to measure inputs, outcomes and results, using some of the most advanced instruments in the world. But are today’s labs missing out on efficiency gains through lack of visibility of resource utilisation within the lab itself?
A laboratory booking system monitors and manages a lab’s resources including booking instruments, analysing data and planning experiments. It is an important tool that not only improves a lab’s efficiency and reduces costs but also provides useful information when applying for and planning future investment. Many labs are already realising the benefits of a lab management system and the global Laboratory Information Management System (LIMS) market is growing quickly, valued at $530 million in 2018 and expected to reach $750 million by the end of 2024.1 Bookkit from Clustermarket is a lab booking system which facilitates this process and could increase your organisation’s productivity and performance.
Efficiently manage your labs
Labs contain a wide range of expensive instruments which are often in high demand, resulting in bottlenecks while researchers wait for access to a piece of equipment essential to the next stage of their experiment. A system which manages the booking of these instruments can significantly reduce waiting time, enabling researchers to check availability and schedule experiments more efficiently. It also reduces the dead time of an instrument, identifying under-utilised resources which can then be opened up for use by other departments, and allowing maintenance and cleaning to be scheduled during quiet periods. This increases the cost effectiveness of individual instruments and improves inter-departmental collaboration, thus increasing the efficiency of an organisation as a whole.
Access to shared resources is key to the success of many laboratories, providing advanced technologies and scientific, technical expertise as a shared resource to improve access and increase efficiency. Many organisations, including the National Institute of Health (NIH), invest significant sums to provide combined core facilities for their researchers, and this consolidation has been shown to enhance efficiency and increase the quality of research infrastructure.2 Efficient management of these combined facilities and laboratory equipment and instruments they contain is essential, and an effective lab booking system can help to achieve this.
Reduce administration, improve access
As well as saving time by optimising the use of equipment, a lab booking system also reduces the time spent managing access to this equipment. Scheduling bookings, ensuring people have the correct levels of access and have received sufficient training can all be automated using laboratory booking software, reducing the time scientists spend organising this. If you add up the time taken for a series of small administration tasks, repeated multiple times a day, this quickly accumulates. For example: if the average lab manager spent 15 minutes setting up access for each user across an organisation of even just 100 employees, cutting this to five minutes would save two working days of useful time. This time saving can be extrapolated across all equipment, introducing a significant saving throughout the organisation.
The saved time could be spent undertaking important research so any way to reduce administration is an obvious way to increase output. Alison McDonald of Edinburgh University BioImaging agreed: “I never realised how much time I’ve been spending on taking care of the admin work myself before I started using Bookkit. The system saved me a lot of time.” In organisations where resources are shared across multiple departments, using a lab booking system is also a straightforward way of tracking use and ensuring each department is accurately charged for their usage. Collating this information manually would require several hours a month and could easily lead to errors, whereas a booking platform provides up-to-date information which can be downloaded immediately.
Provide evidence to support investment
Having access to the latest technology is essential to drive innovation, however it often comes with at a significant cost. Restricted budgets mean that demand for investment from multiple areas of an organisation must be prioritised. A laboratory management system accumulates evidence of demand for different instruments, helping lab managers decide the most necessary and effective areas to allocate funds.
This data also provides important evidence to justify grant funding, demonstrating how the money has been spent and how this has advanced the research. This is essential evidence for securing future funding and can support new funding applications by demonstrating how additional investment could help improve efficiency and research outputs.
It’s clear that a booking system can increase the efficiency of any lab and optimise its use of resources but to achieve this it must be straight-forward and logical to use. Any system which lacks a user-friendly interface but doesn’t provide the necessary functionality in an easy to access, useful format will only increase inefficiency. Bookkit is intuitive to use and can be set up in under 1 hour, making it easy to incorporate into a functioning lab. Why not arrange a demo to see how Bookkit could reduce your admin and optimise your lab’s resources?