This year has been difficult for labs and lab operations. However, in spite of the supply shortages, scientists have made incredible innovation progress.
COVID-19 has exacerbated lab supply shortages due to interruptions in the supply chain and lack of product availability. With unprecedented changes to lab functioning, scientists and lab managers have had to address these challenges and identify new processes to stay productive and keep experiments on target.
Lab managers and scientists have a newfound appreciation for organization, lab supply tracking, and using software that allows them to check if supplies are in stock. They’re getting creative with product substitutions and working with supply vendors to use new products. By more carefully planning out experiments and making adjustments to the schedule based on lab supply availability and shipping speed, labs have been able to maintain efficiency and keep projects going.
We took this opportunity to host a webinar to discuss some of the key lessons our expert scientists have learned in the past year about getting their experiments back on track. Here are a few key takeaways:
The idea of keeping extremely detailed logs and records of all lab supplies and processes is at the top of the list in our industry. Optimizing the workflow of all of your lab services all comes back to your equipment and supply efficiency.
Maintaining these records through the pandemic brought to light how important organization is when there are regular issues with incoming shipments. Delays necessitate urgent reprioritization of projects based on current and future supply.
This idea of organization helped tremendously when there were delays in the overall process. Getting ahead on other research when you are waiting on a specific delivery keeps labs operating efficiently and makes the most use of precious lab time. This all comes back to knowing exactly what you have in stock and what will be arriving soon (more on supply software requirements below).
Need a lab inventory management template? ZAGENO created a free Excel template for lab supply and equipment management, check it out →
One lesson learned this year was how important it is to have good relationships with your suppliers. It was easy to say that there were no issues when the supply chain was smooth before the pandemic, but lab managers quickly saw which companies were helpful and communicative when issues arose.
This highlights that suppliers can have problems at any point, but it is much more important how they handle them. Good signs to look for are frequent communication, accurate delivery schedules, and fast customer service.
With quickly changing guidelines and many creating off-the-cuff hybrid communication plans, the scientific community saw just how integral communication can be to a lab’s efficiency. It was much easier to check on scientists when you could simply walk up to them and get the answers you need, but when some people are working from home, organization, communication, and relying on virtual collaboration tools for labs became crucial.
While having an open flow of quick communication is not something that was only important during the pandemic, having to transition to new workflows overnight exposed areas where communication and documentation could be improved in most labs.
Having scientists who are comfortable speaking up about certain processes or having quick answers from diligent lab notebook keeping will future-proof lab teams. This comes from both the lab manager being receptive and training your employees not to hesitate if they have something to say.
A detailed, centralized lab notebook (usually digital) can help to maintain constant communication, helping to avoid double-booking equipment or lab space, see all the moving pieces in one place, and keep track of experiments in a shared location.
There are certain pieces of equipment that are crucial to lab processes. Take the time to schedule usage of such equipment well in advance. Being bottlenecked by a certain step is a quick way to fall behind on your work.
This also ties in with the supplier relations and communications; regularly check in with the scientist who operates a certain piece of equipment to ensure the schedule is the most efficient for your lab. For the scientists, speak up if there is a better way to schedule the processes or optimize based on when you are getting a certain supply delivered. Once you find that consistent groove, you will see just how much work your lab can do.
Creating efficient lab workflows starts with communication. Scientists in your lab may have tons of ideas on how to improve processes but were never asked. Setting up sustainable processes and incorporating technology can help growing labs to scale and improve productivity, helping lab members to feel happier and more satisfied with their roles. It’s a win win.
Choose technology that lets you do product research more easily and source alternatives (for delayed products) with the help of experts. Look for a lab supply software that offers real-time shipment updates on supplies and trained staff to suggest alternate products if certain items are out of stock due to supply chain shortages.
After a year like 2020 and as a new standard, lab supply companies need to provide detailed tracking of supply shipments to allow lab managers to rearrange timelines and projects based on availability. Try using a lab supply marketplace that offers tracking so lab managers can stay on top of any delays or substitutions and plan ahead for last minute schedule changes.
By diversifying lab supplier options, using software that can be shared among lab users, and setting up notifications for any shipping updates, your lab can operate more efficiently and not be held back by supply delays.
Check out the full webinar to hear about getting experiments back on track.