Space planning impacts every aspect of a laboratory’s performance by reducing costs, minimizing waste, and ensuring diagnostic processes are efficient.
By Gavin Finn
Every lab manager knows that space planning is important—but, as reported at the recent Laboratory Asset & Facilities Management (LAFM) conference in Boston, studies have shown that the space planning process actually impacts every aspect of a laboratory’s performance in a critical way.
One of the more obvious ways that space planning can improve lab performance is by improving efficiency. Effective space utilization reduces costs, minimizes waste, and ensures that research projects and diagnostic processes are completed in a timely manner. These efficiency improvements are achieved through a combination of optimized human workflow, reduced time for preparation and operation, and rapid transitions.
Efficient Labs Equal Quality Testing
Less obviously, effective and continuously updated space utilization has a material effect on the quality of the science and outcomes of clinical workflows. First and foremost, by maximizing the use of available space, researchers and clinicians can ensure that they have all the resources and equipment they need to conduct their work efficiently. This can help to minimize delays and disruptions, as laboratorians won’t have to waste time searching for equipment or materials or waiting for a particular piece of equipment to become available.
A more organized and efficient work environment can lead to increased productivity and improved outcomes. When laboratory space is well organized and uncluttered, laboratorians can more easily access the materials and equipment they need, which can reduce the time it takes to set up and perform diagnostic testing on samples. This can help to accelerate the pace of testing and allow technicians to process more samples in a shorter amount of time.
Space Planning Boosts Morale
Optimizing workflow and equipment configuration also helps to improve safety in the laboratory. For example, accounting for safe human workflows ensures that there is enough room for technicians to move around freely and that equipment is properly stored and organized. The consequence of this advance planning is that labs reduce the risk of accidents and injuries. This allows clinicians and laboratorians to work more confidently and efficiently, further accelerating the pace of testing. Lab operations and facilities managers have reported that effective space planning can also have a significant impact on the overall user experience within a laboratory.
A well-laid-out facility is more likely to be a pleasant and productive place to work, which can help to attract and retain top talent and improve the overall performance of the lab. This may involve providing comfortable and ergonomic workspace, ensuring that equipment is in good working order, and maintaining a clean and orderly environment. By focusing on the user experience, facilities operations and management teams can help to create a positive work culture and foster a sense of community within the laboratory.
Space Planning and Lab Sustainability
For several years, a key issue in lab operations and facilities planning has been a focus on sustainability. With growing concerns about the environmental impact of testing facilities, sustainability has become an increasingly important strategic and tactical performance indicator for laboratories.
While much of the organization’s sustainability initiatives may involve implementing renewable energy sources, such as solar panels or wind turbines, to power the facility, or adopting environmentally friendly practices such as water conservation or the use of green building materials, the way the lab operates has now also become a source of improved sustainability. The co-location of equipment that share energy sources or water, for example, an overall reduction in these resources can be achieved. Many labs have now implemented consolidation programs with a critical driving factor being a reduction in energy reduction.
Constant Lab Changes
Leaders in lab operations, support, and planning have all learned the value of going beyond the traditional approaches for space layout, both with respect to meeting current needs and also as it relates to predicting the needs of the technicians and clinicians. Thinking about the need for innovation, lab managers and facilities teams for pharma, diagnostics, and production facilities report that new digital lab design tools that are “designed to facilitate constant change” have allowed for greater collaboration between lab operations and healthcare teams throughout the organization. This increased teamwork has reduced the amount of time that it takes for updating and improving workflows and physical arrangements of benches, equipment, and cabinets.
Laboratory space planning has become even more innovative by layering in a multi-dimensional perspective on workflows, such as sample streams, reagent streams, consumable streams, waste streams, etc. This has allowed for a more holistic view of optimization. When space planning and facilities teams have input from all constituents, then they can create efficiencies and improvements along every KPI dimension—it is a win-win-win mindset, as opposed to many more traditional methods that focus on optimizing only for one factor, such as throughput. Systems for managing equipment booking, monitoring and control, inventory management, ticketing, and connectivity are all made possible through cross-functional collaboration. Not only are these systems useful as functional tools, but they also yield excellent data that can be used in continuing planning and optimization processes. This optimization has created even more opportunity for lab automation, such as robotic sample processing and storage, as well as automated sample registration, labeling, and tracking. These developments result in further efficiencies, energy reduction, and modularity.
With ever-increasing demands on all kinds of labs, innovations in space planning have become imperatives as essential components not only of laboratory design, but also in operations, management, and the evolution of every lab. Rather than thinking of space planning as a one-time event, it has become crucial as a regular aspect of continuing to ensure the safety, efficiency, and diagnostic success of every laboratory.
About the Author
Written by B2B digital customer engagement pioneer and CEO of Kaon Interactive, Gavin Finn, the Lab Design Tool serves the world’s leading life sciences, diagnostic, and biotechnology companies. Learn more at: labdesigntool.com.