Suggestions for improvement of laboratory workflows

The productivity of a laboratory can be improved consistently through judicious utilization of resources, the timely addition of resources and effective use of manpower.A clear vision of future goals will be helpful in planning for the set goals. The article is an attempt to offer some useful suggestions for achieving a sustained growth in workflows.

Utilization of Resources

Nowadays you will seldom come across a laboratory comprising of a single hall which houses all instruments and staff. A modern laboratory nowadays comprises of several floors or different sections on the same floor with dedicated spaces for sophisticated instruments, wet chemical testing, microbiology testing, etc though portions of the same sample may be distributed to different sections on the basis of analysis requirements.

Analysts discussing approaches to improve their work productivity

Analysts discussing approaches to improve their work productivity

The available resources need to be utilized effectively for meeting the workloads and for recovery of investments. In other words, the instruments should be up and be working at all times without interruptions due to frequent breakdowns. This makes it necessary to strict adherence to prescribed maintenance schedules and no adopts firefighting approach as and when problems arise. In addition to maintenance schedules is necessary to maintain a minimum inventory of spare parts and consumables.

Several sophisticated instruments require a continuous supply of purified gases. It is advised to arrange a series of gas cylinders through a manifold to save time when cylinders require to be replaced.

 Sable uninterrupted power supply is essential for smooth and efficient running of sophisticated instruments. In some areas power supply can be erratic and having voltage fluctuations.it is advisable to install a high capacity UPS to cater to the power requirements UPS system in addition to dedicated UPS requirements which are available on some of the systems.

Planning

Planning plays a crucial role for effective utilization of test facilities and manpower. Any section of the laboratory such as trace metal analysis, chromatography, mass spectroscopy, microbiology, etc should be planned into three distinct segregated zones and each should be handled by specially trained staff. The first should be sample receipt and documentation area. The area should hose reference documents, calibration and maintenance records, training records, etc. It should also have provision for sample receipt and storage for both normal and temperature or light sensitive samples .The next should be sample treatment and preparation area which should be insulate from the other two areas. The staff in this area should be adequately trained to handle and prepare the samples as per the analysis requirements. Each laboratory section should have its own weighing balance of appropriate weighing range so that there is no walk-over of staff from other sections for weighing requirements. Prepared samples after coding should be handed over to the testing area through a service window. The analyst should not know the origin of the sample and should not have access to direct calls from sample owners. This will help save valuable time of the analyst as well help avoid mistakes due to distractions. The staff in the documentation section should be trained for handling queries from sample owners and laboratory managers. Establishing a systematic code of internal and external communications in the lab will be a big step towards improvement of workflows and elimination of errors due to distractions.

Samples should be received in laboratory sections at fixed times during the day and priority samples should be accepted under instructions of higher management only as interruptions resulting from unscheduled changes.

Introduction of additional resources

The infrastructure of a laboratory needs to be reviewed from time to time to meet emerging needs. Such reviews help you stay abreast with revisions in standards and cater to the changing needs of your customers. Automation of facilities and introduction of new technologies is bound to improve workflows. The skills and knowledge of analysts and other staff require regular upgradation through systematic training programs.

A balanced review and analytical approach are essential with a vision focused on future goals will contribute to a measurable extent in sustaining and improving workflows. It will further help utilization of the full potential of available resources and manpower.

About Dr. Deepak Bhanot

Dr Deepak Bhanot is a seasoned professional having nearly 30 years expertise beginning from sales and product support of analytical instruments. After completing his graduation and post graduation from Delhi University and IIT Delhi he went on to Loughborough University of Technology, UK for doctorate research in analytical chemistry. His mission is to develop training programs on analytical techniques and share his experiences with broad spectrum of users ranging from professionals engaged in analytical development and research as well as young enthusiasts fresh from academics who wish to embark upon a career in analytical industry.

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