Optimize the use of laboratory assets


Optimizing the use of equipment and instruments in the laboratory is a key responsibility for laboratory managers. After people and space, the guarantee of working tools in the laboratory represents the second most important investment for most laboratories. The provision of properly functioning instruments and equipment impacts both the capital budget (for new investments) and the operational budget (for repairs, maintenance and calibration).

Optimizing laboratory assets provides significant benefits. Implementing a more efficient approach to optimize asset management can help reduce overall costs and generate greater lab productivity. “Optimized lab assets mean you have the most productive combination of assets available, reliable, and performing the right tasks to meet your business goals,” says Melissa Zeier, product manager of enterprise services at Agilent Technologies. “It is the responsibility of the laboratory manager to justify the life cycle cost of the laboratory assets to the company, from the planning, acquisition, deployment, repair, maintenance and disposal of these assets. while balancing the risks and benefits. “

Optimizing laboratory assets involves studying and monitoring a variety of different data about laboratory instruments and equipment. Some of the data important to the optimization process include repair history, maintenance schedules, calibration requirements, usage history and expectations, operating costs, space requirements, asset life, asset replacements and disposal options. While labs track some or all of this data, most have a manual approach to recording the data, and few are truly effective at analyzing these disparate data sets to optimize availability, usage, and costs associated with the data. their assets. “Manual methods of collecting data from spreadsheets or from logbooks can be time consuming and inconsistent,” says Zeier. “By having standardized and meaningful use definitions, deploying the right technology to capture data that matches that definition in critical workflows, and visualizing the data in a way that can translate into lab information,” laboratory managers are well on their way to understanding the current use of laboratory instruments. Having software designed to capture this data and analyze it effectively can make a significant difference in the ability of laboratory managers to optimize the use of laboratory resources.

There are now options available from multiple vendors that can enable more powerful tools to track and understand lab asset usage and availability. According to Jim Sweeney, Senior Product Manager, PerkinElmer, “One approach is to have a software solution that automatically captures instrument usage, either by parsing an instrument log file or by logging in. direct to the instrument via an application program interface. “Obtaining data on laboratory instruments directly removes the need for staff to remember to collect this data during their already busy schedules, and provides an electronic record that is easy to share and document.

Related article series: Asset Management for the Lab: Strategies and Tips

When approaching a choice about the various tools now available to manage this type of data, it is important to understand the scope of the data that the tools measure and analyze. According to Joachim Lasoen, Vice President of BINOCS Product at Bluecrux, visibility and optimization are key to getting the most out of lab resources. “Visibility helps laboratory managers understand instrument availability around maintenance and calibration schedules and test requirements on instruments, and defines a required capacity profile for each instrument,” says Lasoen. Once lab managers have visibility into their lab’s data, they can begin to optimize the use of lab tools. Lasoen continues: “Two aspects determine the success of using the instrument: maximizing the white space between tests and maximizing the fill rate of the test campaign. Lasoen also adds that some of these tools now use optimizers based on business rules and artificial intelligence to manage more sophisticated workflows.

Before implementing a tool to optimize asset utilization, it is important to understand the metrics that determine lab performance. “There are concrete steps laboratory managers can take to optimize the use of laboratory instruments,” says Zeier. “Start by prioritizing meaningful, standardized operational data for lab instruments into critical workflows. The hard work in standardizing the lab’s workflow will allow the Asset Optimization tool to align the data collected and analyzed with key lab metrics. “To help optimize the management of laboratory assets, managers should establish key performance indicators (KPIs) and continuously evaluate them. These KPIs should reinforce the metrics important to the lab, ”says Carola Schmidt, global director of automated solutions at PerkinElmer. Using an asset utilization tool will help laboratory managers correlate the use of laboratory instruments with laboratory metrics. “By keeping a watchful eye on established KPIs, lab managers can identify areas for improvement or prevent small problems from becoming bigger problems,” adds Schmidt. The use of asset management software tools makes this process much more efficient and useful.

Another part of optimizing lab assets is figuring out what instruments and equipment are needed in the lab. Most labs tend to cling to old or infrequently used instruments due to difficulties in obtaining capital to purchase new ones. “Users of laboratory resources often have an emotional attachment to some of the instruments,” explains Sweeney. However, applying effective metrics and KPIs can overcome these emotional connections, especially when this data can demonstrate that the space, time and effort required for these instruments to work is not helping the lab. to fulfill its mission.

An asset optimization tool can help laboratory managers perform a key function of laboratory management: making good decisions about the efficient use of time, money, and effort to carry out the mission of the laboratory. laboratory. Zeier reminds us that “Optimizing asset management is essential to maximize the return on the investments a laboratory manager makes in their operations. “

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