Key Considerations in Designing an Efficient Laboratory

WL_MODULAB SYS 6000 HEADERLaboratory layout, design, and modularity will have a significant impact on lab processes, efficiencies, and communications. A great design will continually support Lean processes in areas including workflow, visual management, organisational excellence, and OH&S whereas a poor laboratory design can create waste in multiple areas including time, extra implementation, use of space as well as inefficient workflow.

There has been a large shift in the way we arrange our space in today’s laboratories that can be contributed mostly to the automation of test methods and manufacturing capabilities. Here are a few ideas on how you can increase your efficiencies when designing your laboratory.

Workflow

Bring key laboratory staff to the table early to map out the workflow of your laboratory space. Draw a simple workflow diagram that shows the flow of your processes from start to finish to help you position your lab equipment in the most efficient manner.  This exercise can result in hundreds of hours of saved time through the reduction of downtime in moving from process to process.

Consider a Lean Layout

Laboratory design is the key to an efficient production environment. Traditionally, the focus tends to be towards equipment or material flow, but it is important to consider designing laboratories around Lean principles, such as Jidoka, Kaizen and Kanban. People, workstations, and instruments should be arranged to optimise flow, minimise waste, and boost productivity. It is amazing how much time can be saved by properly planning an efficient layout.

Process Lines

Process lines come in many shapes and sizes depending on the type of laboratory and the volume of throughput. For instance, linear layouts are typically used by high throughput and automated laboratories, but cellular process lines are common at smaller testing and research facilities.

Traditional Layout

Traditional laboratory layouts follow a functional flow. Work centres tend to be grouped into departments, responsible for a certain process, with similar machines. Then, materials are moved between processes in erratic flows, with high levels of work-in-process inventory and long lead times. Such arrangements require 30 percent to 50 percent more physical space than a lean layout to accommodate inventory storage, material handling routes and equipment.

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Lean Layout

With a Lean layout, work spaces tend to be grouped by product families or groups of products that share common routes. This type of layout facilitates smaller batch and run sizes. It doesn’t require as much in-process inventory and requires less material handling due to shorter travel distances, and less physical space.

Any Lean layout should remain flexible. As continuous improvement takes place, it may be necessary to rearrange the equipment (even if just slightly) to achieve the new standard. To facilitate this, it is a good idea to ensure your furniture is modular and can be potentially mounted on casters for ease of change.

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Plan for Storage

A well designed lab layout provides adequate storage, equipment, and workspace. Don’t overlook storage needs. Position consumables where they are needed to ensure reduction of motion in your ‘Spaghetti’ (movement) diagram. Allow sufficient space for bulk storage and remember that it is important that dangerous goods are stored in appropriate cabinets that are positioned and manufactured in accordance with current standards.

If there is insufficient storage in your laboratory space, you will find that it can quickly become cluttered and inefficient.  If you are lacking space, look into some space saving storage solutions. You would be surprised at just how much extra room you can achieve by  planning your storage properly.

At Westlab, our projects team specialises in designing efficient laboratory spaces. Speak with one of our consultants for a free consultation. Call 1800 358 101 or email sales@westlab.com.au

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