There are over 4,000 lab operations jobs currently available on Indeed and that number is predicted to rise rapidly in 2022. As biotech labs crop up left and right to support scientific and medical innovation, lab operations roles become more critical to helping these startup labs grow.
Moving from pre-clinical to clinical operations requires efficiently managing funding, hiring and retaining lab staff, and maintaining research timelines to hit milestones. Here’s how labs are relying on organized operations workflows to scale and innovate.
Why are R&D Biotech Labs Investing in Lab Operations?
Without lab operations, bench scientists, lab technicians, and lab managers end up spending their precious lab time doing clerical work, manual tasks, and...looking for things. With automated lab operations, labs can increase their capacity for experiments and maximize use of biotech funding.
1. Improves Lab Efficiency
Daily inventory management is tedious and time-consuming. With automated lab operations, and lab operations software, lab managers can design effective ways to stock, record, and manage inventory and allow managers to track supply information in real-time. Errors in businesses can cost more than just money. Automated lab operations have predefined programs that access and analyze data without any errors and identify areas for optimization or safety improvements.
2. Increases Accuracy
With streamlined lab operations, managers can easily access and monitor lab supply orders, keep track of supplies, and record all data electronically, without having to worry about human errors and bulky files. Most lab operations offer end-to-end digital solutions and integrations, minimizing human intervention.
3. Frees up Scientists' Time
Traditionally, lab managers or researchers within a lab engaged in the activity of data entry and inventory management. When expert scientists with advanced training perform manual tasks, it incurs unreasonable operational costs for labs and affects overall lab productivity. Not to mention, it requires a lot of time and effort and is prone to human error, which has a significant impact on research outcomes. Automated lab operation software can reduce operational costs by freeing up scientists’ time and allowing them to focus on their research, instead.
4. Enables More Experiments and Research
Efficient lab processes and automated inventory management free up a lot of time for researchers. This helps lab functions in the following ways:
- Less time is spent in manual documentation
- Streamlined processes make work a lot easier, and less stressful
- Every data point entered in the software can be accessed and extracted at any time
- Instant data analysis makes decision making effortless
- Lab managers don’t need to remember dates for restocking
- Data is error-free, stored safely and can be recovered easily in the event of an accident
- Allows employees to perform meaningful tasks instead of being stuck with repetitive ones
- Multiple tasks can be completed in a short span of time using fewer resources
- Cloud-based platforms allow for more flexible work like hybrid teams or remote experiment planning and analysis
5. Reduces Operational Costs in the Lab
Just like any other business, biotech labs are under tremendous pressure to deliver profits. It’s estimated that if a lab manager spends 30% of their time on paperwork, the organization spends $300K+ annually on manual documentation tasks that are also prone to mistakes, costing labs even more. Automation here saves the day by allowing lab managers to identify redundant processes and cut them off.
6. Maintains Lab Safety
Lack of a reliable lab operation system can be confusing and misleading, leading to extra waste or the use of improper lab supplies. With automated lab operations software, lab managers like you can track inventory and supply in real-time, avoiding the use of expired chemicals or other supplies.
What do Lab Operations Managers for Biotechs do?
While each lab may have slightly different responsibilities and goals for a lab operations manager, these are the common job requirements for the role:
- Manage the lab operations team and ensure that best practices are adhered to.
- Communicate lab processes, workflows, and objectives to lab researchers and scientists.
- Oversee budget management and track lab spending.
- Understand the business and science aspects of lab management.
- Manage lab equipment and safety in the lab.
- Identify and address issues in the lab.
- Build relationships between bench scientists, leadership, and finance teams.
- Improve employee engagement in the lab.
- Provide guidance and assistance to lab teams about the use of equipment and supplies.
- Uphold health and safety standards in the lab to avoid accidents.
- Support lab equipment management including inventory, supplies, maintenance, ordering lab supplies, coordinating internal processes, and conducting audits.
- Perform daily lab walk-through to identify issues and initiate corrective methods.
- Improvise and introduce new ways to help labs run more smoothly and efficiently.
In some labs, regular lab compliance and training sessions or audits might be included in the lab operations manager’s scope.
2022 Biotech Lab Operations Checklist
Use this checklist to review opportunities for improved lab operations, or outline the responsibilities for hiring a new lab operations manager.
1. Relationship building efforts
A recent Oracle HRM Survey claims that just 47% of employees feel their leaders are available and approachable. If your employees don’t feel engaged in the workplace, they’re less likely to feel satisfied at work and give their best. As a lab manager, it’s important to have positive, open relationships with the researchers and scientists in the lab. Some of the great ways to establish a connection are to:
- Get involved with them directly
- Communicate with scientists and recognize their efforts regularly, not just during performance reviews
- Make them feel valued
- Use technology to stay in touch
2. Integrated software systems
Automated processes save time and allow human resources to be utilized in a productive manner. They streamline workflows and lab resources, contributing to increased productivity, efficiency and better profit margins. There was a time when labs needed various software to manage different functions.
In today’s technology-driven world, integrated software systems provide end-to-end support and organize all lab functions under the same roof, saving more time, energy and subscription costs.
As lab operations manager, evaluate the current tech stack in the lab and seek out ways to consolidate and optimize.
3. Lab safety training sessions
Lab employees are in constant connection with hazardous chemicals and dangerous equipment. Set up ongoing training opportunities and create an onboarding process using pre-recorded videos and asynchronous materials to avoid having to teach the same sessions over and over again.
4. Lab equipment maintenance checklists
Lab equipment is costly and requires constant care and maintenance to run smoothly. Here’s a quick lab equipment maintenance checklist for lab managers:
- Clean up every day
- Maintain emergency stations
- Stock up on important, rare machine parts
- Maintain a comprehensive inventory with all equipment details
- Use proper waste disposal system
- Automate maintenance and service reminders for equipment
5. Vendor relationship management
For a seamless supply chain and sourcing relationships to be long-lasting, lab managers must sustain vendor relationships. Here’s how to make the most of supplier management:
- Build comprehensive contracts that benefit both parties
- Update contracts regularly to suit the dynamic market changes
- Communicate clearly to build a transparent and closed-loop resolution
- Keep track of data and ensure its accessibility to both parties
6. Regularly scheduled lab audits
Quality audits assure that the lab processes are in complete alignment with the established quality regulations. As lab managers, your goal should be to establish a regular audit that evaluates supplies, equipment, workflows, and lab processes.
Prepare for the coming months with this deep dive into the State of the Supply Chain for Biotechs in Q3 2021.