Though it can easily be overlooked, lab inventory management is among the most effective ways to improve productivity and reduce costs in your lab. However, monitoring reagents, instruments, lab equipment, and consumable supplies can be challenging. Improving lab efficiency and stretching your budget is possible with the following creative and straightforward tips from experts in laboratory staffing and optimization.
Whether making an effort to simplify an existing lab's inventory practices or beginning a brand-new lab, choosing a starting point is essential. First, you must take stock of absolutely everything in your lab. You can do this through a software program or paper and a pen. Regardless of the tools you use, it is critical to account for everything. This initial inventory helps you take stock of what you need and what you don't.
Now that you completed your inventory list, it is time to assess what you need more and less of. During this operation, it is essential to evaluate your daily routine, what products you use most often and how many you use weekly or monthly, what items get thrown away because they reach their expiration date before use, etc. Taking notes during this process can be helpful and give you something to look back on.
Next, create a spreadsheet or list of items your lab will continue using and how many to keep stocked as your reordering threshold. Once lab stock reaches this number, it is time to reorder. Again, automating this process using a Laboratory Information Management Software (LIMS) is highly beneficial.
It would be best if you also addressed reduction at this time. Do not continue ordering items when you notice that they sit on the shelf and rarely get any use. Buying in bulk can help save money, but not if the items will never get used.
Once you determine stocking levels, it is time to evaluate the best place for storing supplies. Careful planning during this step adds to your lab efficiency. It is essential to keep things where they can be easily accessed and adequately stored. For example, you may store items used in the same area or store certain items together according to expiration dates. Grouping inventory items by type, expiration date, and use frequency helps keep the lab organized and makes it easy to restock.
There are great ways to automate your inventory system when necessary and cost-effective. For example, Barcode systems allow you to place a barcode on inventory shelves for scanning inventory in or out. If automation is not an option or you prefer to work without it, you can post a spreadsheet to track inventory or even post a whiteboard for lab users to write what needs ordering.