4 Easy Steps to Increase Lab Productivity

We all wish to increase our lab productivity. We have deadlines to meet, publications to write, and patent applications to submit. Our success is linked to the amount of usable data we can collect and the cost of each datapoint. 

Is your lab consistently meeting its goals and milestones? Can you honestly say your funding is being used to its maximum value? If you answered no to these questions you probably have inefficiencies in your lab that are holding you team back from achieving its full potential.

How productive is your lab?

Think about your day to day operations and keep track of how many of the following apply.

  1. Do you spend time searching for tools, supplies or information?
  2. Do you wait often (waiting for the previous step, supplies or information, waiting for a missing key reagent)?
  3. Do you have to perform the same experiment multiple times?
  4. Have you spent time working on the wrong things or things that don’t get used such as collecting data that never gets analyzed?
  5. Do you either have too much inventory of an item such as expensive kits you don’t use by the expiration date
  6. Do you have not enough inventory resulting in delayed experiments waiting for orders to be delivered?
  7. Do you have PhD level scientists performing routine experiments?
  8. Do you have underused laboratory equipment?
  9. Do you have underutilized team members?
  10. Do you have frequent problem filled days?

If you said yes to any of these questions, you have inefficiencies in your lab. The good news is once you have an eye for waste, inefficiencies are easy to identify and eliminate. Following these four easy steps will get you on the right path to productivity.

4 Easy Steps to Increase Productivity

  1. Implement a 5S program. 5S is a workplace organization methodology. You can greatly reduce or eliminate the amount of time searching for tools, supplies, or information. It is also a powerful tool to improve safety and quality in the work area.
  2. Identify and eliminate waste. Train your team to be waste identifiers. Waste is defined as anything that does not add value to your work. Defects, overproduction, waiting, non-utilized talent, transportation, inventory, motion, and extra processing are all waste. If you said yes to any of the questions above, you have waste in your lab. Treat waste as an opportunity for improvement vs something the team is doing wrong. Find solutions to eliminate.
  3. Develop standard work. Standard work is the “least waste way” of completing a process. Every lab has routine processes. Even a task such as ordering supplies can have standard work. Map the current state steps of the process, identify and eliminate waste, document the “least waste way” you can do now, and train everyone on the new standard. 
  4. Track the frequency of problems. Create a simple problem tracker by adding problems to the bottom row of a spreadsheet.  Anytime you have that problem, add the date to the row above. You will start to see the problems that happen most frequently. Challenge your team to come up with solutions. This is a great tool for tracking defects and errors to improve quality!

Implement these four steps and monitor your key metrics such as cost, number publications, delivery to milestones, safety, quality, etc. and see how they improve. This will motivate you to do more!

If you need help getting started, GenoFAB can help. We are a team of scientists who understand life sciences and we are process improvement experts. There are many challenges in life sciences that are difficult to control. One thing that is controllable is management of your processes. Productivity is easier than you think! Take the first step toward to improving your lab productivity.