Documenting a budget is a great starting point when given the job to supervise the expenditure for your laboratory. Managing a budget in a laboratory can be an overwhelming task as there is responsibility and accountability expected of persons responsible. While you don’t receive any more money by budgeting, it allows you to maximise and control the money that you have been given to spend within your facility. In this article, we cover a few key considerations to assist with budgeting to assist you with saving money in your laboratory.
Keep a record
It is a great idea to keep a central and detailed record of all expenses from one day to the next, this allows you to review your expenses on an ongoing basis and become familiar with the costs of everyday laboratory items. By revising this regularly you will get a grasp of a competitive price whilst keeping quality and service in mind.
It is a great idea to categorise your records and even share it on a simple and transparent cloud program such as “google sheet” so others can share and review your costings.
Choose the right equipment
Create a checklist of equipment needed, and ask around the wider laboratory or institution to see if you can fulfil parts of the list with existing equipment that is unused. Speak to fellow managers to see if they have any unused equipment that they could loan or give to you.
Reach out to a few suppliers and perform a mini-tender. Make sure you are specific with the details and applications of your needed equipment required, so suppliers can make some recommendations that are aligned directly with your needs. It is a good idea to get a presentation from suppliers that perform, gauge their knowledge of the equipment as this will assist you with aftersales support.
While second-hand or sale equipment may seem like a good idea, new equipment may have some features that may come in use: they may save time, money, have a better warranty and be more energy efficient. In this case, it might be worth spending a little more initially to get better ROI.
For equipment that is most important in your laboratory, it is worth researching maintenance and service contracts. This is another investment that may seem costly at first but can result in savings in the long run.
Plan ahead & bulk buy consumables
Consider purchasing consumables such as reagents and plastic ware in bulk. This mostly saves money and delivery time, and placing a standing order once you know how much stock is required makes it less likely that you will run out. This can assist greatly with budgeting and may benefit with substantial savings associated with bulk buying.
It’s important to keep in mind the ongoing expense of replenishing stock. This could be difficult if you are running a new lab with little inventory history. If possible, look back at previous statements to help estimate how much inventory will be required over the next period.
The key to budgeting is glancing back into the past and using those statistics to forecast into the future, get another laboratory staff member to run over your budget before submission, most staff will be happy to assist and this is a great way to identify any oversights.
A great budget is an elastic one. Over time you should be able to adjust and improve your budget to make it more effective. Review regularly to include any new overheads that may arise.
Find the right staff
Take time to find the right staff for your laboratory. It is a great idea to look for multi-skilled staff that are keen to learn and change with the times. Technicians and postdocs with more experience can be expensive but would be a good investment, in the long run, they should require less supervision and can assist less-experienced staff.
Develop a good filter for interviewing applicants. Speak to previous managers and arrange a meeting with candidates at the laboratory if possible. This will allow you to get to know the applicant better as an individual and to see how they conduct themselves in the laboratory environment. Get your candidate to do a simple test that is aligned with the role to examine their ability in a real-life scenario.
It is important to allocate money for training your staff – if you don’t have any experience with staff training, ask your colleagues or look at previous courses that have been taken by your staff.