Laboratory management is evolving. Safety remains a top priority, but new challenges are emerging. Better laboratory management systems can help teams adapt to new challenges and strengthen consistency.
What are the demands on laboratory managers today?
- There’s a growing need to streamline services to meet modern expectations of speed and efficiency.
- Talent shortages make it more important than ever to engage workers and develop their potential.
- Growing demand for higher throughput and productivity are putting pressure on resources.
To address these challenges, laboratory managers must consider new ways of working.
What problems do laboratory management systems solve?
Laboratories are process-driven environments, so there’s a fundamental need to review, adapt and update the processes that enable laboratory operations. Laboratory management systems assist by digitising standard operating procedures and reporting. Data is captured and connected across a single laboratory or group of sites to provide detailed real-time insight.
This blog covers six priorities that laboratory management systems address:
- Saving time
- Improving reliability
- Stepping up sustainability
- Making sense of data
- Strengthening workflows
- Engaging staff
1. Laboratory management systems save time
Laboratory automation is reducing the number of manual tasks that depend on staff. This wide-ranging technology trend harnesses robotics, software, and analytics to automate anything from one step of an experimental process to an entire workflow.
However, in many laboratories, numerous tasks still depend on staff involvement. These include sample and reagent preparation, calibration, inventory checks and management of consumables.
The problem is that manual processes are time-consuming and costly. They also increase the potential for error, which has consequences for patient outcomes and staff safety. As throughput grows and timelines shrink, the physical and mental strain on staff makes mistakes even more likely.
Laboratory management systems minimise manual intervention and relieve pressure on staff. For example, swapping paperwork for digital workflows means staff spend less time filling in forms, and managers/supervisors no longer need to spend hours thumbing through filing cabinets for audit records.
The results? Faster turnaround times, improved integrity and reduced biological risk.
2. Ensuring the reliability of laboratory equipment
The reliability of laboratory equipment is a crucial factor in competitiveness, quality and efficiency. Unplanned downtime can lead to:
- Dips in productivity
- Wasted inventory
- Damage to reputation and relationships
- Additional time spent on repairs
- Unexpected replacement costs
- Inconsistent results
One of the advantages of laboratory management systems is that automated asset monitoring can be part of the overall solution. Real-time insight into performance metrics means faults, inefficiencies and ageing can be identified and addressed before developing into major issues.
A predictive maintenance program saves precious time and money. It is also imperative to provide highly dependable results, deliver quality assurance and build the confidence of customers, partners and other stakeholders.
3. Driving sustainability with laboratory management systems
With an increasing focus on corporate responsibility, it is morally and commercially vital for laboratory managers to prioritise sustainability.
An effective sustainability policy can reduce waste, improve competitive differentiation, limit regulatory costs and attract employees.
Numerous elements of laboratory operations can be leveraged to improve sustainability – from environmentally certified instrument suppliers to right-sizing the purchase of reagents to minimise packaging and prevent avoidable waste.
Balancing expected volumes of work with the availability of laboratory inventory is crucial.
Laboratory management systems produce data that helps managers identify equipment, inventory, and process inefficiencies. This enables a more proactive approach to sustainability.
4. Laboratory management systems keep data intact
Increases in laboratory throughput and technology adoption are triggering a rising volume of data. According to research, managing this data is one of the top challenges facing laboratory managers.
Today’s laboratory managers are collating data on instrumentation, analysis, samples, processes, compliance, maintenance and many more operational areas.
But unless that data is consolidated and optimised, it becomes impossible to extract actionable insight.
Laboratory managers must consider data management a crucial component of their laboratory management systems.
The right solution can improve accuracy, strengthen compliance, increase transparency and accountability, accelerate information sharing and save time spent compiling reports manually.
From pre- to post-analytics, an effective IT solution can drive up workflow efficiency and productivity.
Managers should look for end-to-end solutions that bypass compatibility issues, enable rapid installation, offer user-friendly interfaces, guarantee data integrity and security, allow for flexibility and growth, and include on-demand support.
5. Advantages of strengthening laboratory workflows
Robust workflows are the building blocks of laboratory efficiency. Workflows should be consistent, continually assessed, transparent and accessible to all team members, and adaptable to changing demands.
Knowledge gaps and misunderstandings can have a huge impact on quality, safety, and efficiency, which today’s laboratory managers want to protect.
Paper-based mechanisms are slow, inflexible and vulnerable to shortcuts. However, by digitising workflows as part of a laboratory management system, managers can roll out workflows to staff members consistently, quickly, and clearly. Digital assistants are delivered via mobile devices to prompt, guide and capture essential activity in real-time.
Some workflows can be automated. For example, manual fridge and freezer temperature checks that occupy staff several times a day can be handed over to automated monitoring systems based on wireless sensor networks.
Robust workflows, whether guided by digital assistants or automated to minimise human intervention, can have a measurable effect on the integrity of results, efficient use of resources, and turnaround times.
Laboratory managers can optimise system reliability with greater production efficiency, consolidate testing programmes, and achieve intelligent sample routing.
6. The right laboratory management systems enhance staff engagement
Staff development and well-being are among the most important goals of laboratory managers. With the relentless progress of automation to optimise efficiency and productivity, the vital role of laboratory staff is easily overlooked.
Talent shortages affect almost every area of the economy in the wake of the pandemic. Laboratory managers must work on attracting and retaining staff. This impacts continuity of operations and can be commercially advantageous as a competitive differentiator.
Research confirms that organisations with high levels of employee engagement benefit from increased productivity, higher profits, lower absenteeism and staff churn, fewer safety incidents and higher quality outputs.
Laboratory managers should empower their staff to make faster decisions based on data-driven insight, hand mundane tasks to automated systems, recognise good work, encourage collaboration and provide dynamic training and development opportunities.
Laboratory management systems can have a significant role in all of these areas.
Other significant contributors to staff engagement include laboratory design and décor, catering services, spaces for collaboration and socialising, clear safety protocols, inclusive culture and mental health support.
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Photo by CDC on Unsplash