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8 Ways to Optimize Your Lab Space

Labs Explorer on February 9, 2021

This article is a guest post by anvajo, a German developer and manufacturer of point-of-care solutions for the diagnostic testing of liquids.

Especially in the laboratory, it is important to work efficiently, cleanly and safely. Routine procedures should be simple and regulated, which in the best case lead to faster and more reliable results. The first step to good laboratory work is therefore already taken when planning and organizing the workspace. Optimizing laboratory space can improve the workflow and thus increase productivity. Here we show 8 possible ways to optimize your existing lab space.

Invest in smart equipment

Laboratory equipment enables and facilitates work in the laboratory. Not only the quality and quantity of work, but also the quality of the results depend on them. That’s why top-quality lab equipment is of great importance. Equipment specifically geared for performance and efficiency will allow you to optimize the workspace in your lab. It makes a lot of sense to invest into portable instruments that offer exceptional performance. Small, stackable instruments allow more space for work. This plays a major role for example in cell culture where the working area is limited by the workbench. Here the instruments should be small to fit under the bench, like the fluidlab R-300. The portable cell counter fits in the palm of your hand and allows you to perform cell counting as well as label-free viability measurement at the bench without having to leave for measuring.

Sharing is caring

Most labs have an open layout that allows sharing equipment and work areas. Not everyone in the lab needs their own equipment. Instead a lab where the technicians share instruments and collaborate is way more efficient. Communication is key here to make sure everyone has access to the devices when needed. This promotes a good team culture. Additionally, the money that is saved can for example be invested in smart equipment of high quality.

Define work areas

The need for research as well as for diagnostic investigations can be increased if specific tasks are assigned to separate work areas. This offers the possibility to perform the work for the intended task more efficiently. At these separate workstations equipment, supplies and materials should be easily within reach or at least in their immediate environment. This way, the individual steps of the process can be completed easily and quickly. The creation of special work areas ensures that only one process is carried out in one place. This prevents employees with different goals from getting in the way.

Release your inner Marie Kondo – avoid clutter

The workbenches should be organized and tidy. This is crucial as it minimizes the risk of mixing up or spilling samples whereby the risk of making a mistake increases. Therefore, only what is needed for the currently performed task should be under the bench. Materials and supplies should be well organized. This also contributes to a clean and easy execution of the tasks and ensures accurate results with good quality. Especially in cell culture it is important not to clutter the bench. If the bench is too full, the air cannot circulate properly and sterility cannot be guaranteed.

Labeling makes work easier

After the materials have all been sorted, the next step is labeling them exactly. It should be marked clearly what is contained. Important details that are crucial for the experiment should also be taken from the label. Especially when materials are shared it should be immediately obvious what is contained without needing to ask. In this way, misunderstandings can be avoided which makes the workflow fluent and thereby increases productivity.

Use electronic Software

Technology is a constant companion and makes many things easier in our everyday lives, whether it is a digital bus ticket or the access to a recipe via your smartphone. The use of new technologies and electronic software can also be useful in the laboratory. For example, investing in good software that performs an inventory check automatically can save a lot of time and energy. It is not necessary to recount individual components since it is recorded electronically by the software. Using an electronic lab notebook is a great advantage, as you are able to record the data automatically and use it for the documentation of experiments. Most electronic notebooks also contain a description of the experiment and materials used.

Establish a sustainable work schedule

If the laboratory equipment and working rooms are shared, establishing a schedule is advisable to ensure a smooth workflow. This prevents conflicts and allows an organized planning of the experiments. The plan should be adapted to the needs and work of each employee. Afterwards, it should be accessible to each individual and retrievable at any time.

Even more efficient is an option for employees to independently register online for devices or to book rooms. If changes need to be made, the booking can be cancelled independently. Other colleagues can track this and make their bookings accordingly. This way, individual use of rooms and devices can be handled easily.

Place large devices reasonably

Large devices such as nitrogen tanks or refrigerators require a lot of space in the laboratory anyway, which unfortunately cannot be avoided. However, there is a trick that prevents the device from taking up more space then necessary during use. Therefore, attention should be paid to how and where the devices are placed within the laboratory environment. Sometimes the doors of a refrigerator are mounted to the wrong side and when opened unfavorably protrude into working areas. However, there is a trick to avoid this. With refrigerators, the doors can be removed and placed on the other side so that they open towards the wall and not towards the bench someone is working on.

Anything to add to our list? What do you do to streamline your processes in the lab? Send us your ideas!