For many scientists and lab managers, the laboratory process and experiments performed are so routine; there is little thought into their efficiency. After consulting with many professionals, however, I discovered there are a few tricks that can help reduce time waste in labs, but read them all, some of them may surprise you. I look forward to discovering how much time you save from the three tips to follow.
Planning experiments not only forecasts how much time should to allocate for each task and step; it also gives you an idea of the materials you will need to deploy.
By knowing time frames, you reduce the bench time, and consequently, the time a sample spend in an uncontrolled environment, thus, reducing erroneous results that require amended reports and subsequent testing further depleting resources.
When you properly deploy materials, the time wasted re-batching reagents is avoided, thus increasing efficiency and productivity. I couldn't tell you how many times I started a timed wash and buffer refresh only to discover I needed to mix a batch of the buffer quickly. Generally, only five to ten minutes when done in a hurry, but the errors from rushing, the quality of the buffer, and the extra time the sample spends on a bench adds up quickly to the quality of my tests.
Summation: prior preparation & organization = Better Science!
Unlabeled products are not only dangerous but result in unnecessary waste. Many labs I have worked in exercise a principle "when in doubt, throw it out." This principle applies to the quality of the product, the type of product, all the way to the expiration date (break room refrigerator included).
A few items to always include is the product name, chemical identifiers (hazardous diamond), expiration date, and the name of the person that batched the product. Some labs have other criteria and full training courses on how they expect their labels to look, but this is a few of the basics.
Quick Tip: Now that you have the product labeled, cover with a piece of clear tape. Lab markers are only "SO" permanent. If you are using alcohol or DMSO as we most frequently do, the tape will help protect your precious labeling. When cleaning your glassware, rub with a little acetone, and the videotape dissolves, often with the labeling adhesives/marker.
Summation: a well-written label, reduces waste and increases safety.
Covered briefly in the Organize tip above, batching is essential on many levels. When you have a clear, organized plan of the objective, your next step is to start batching my materials and time. Yes, you read that right, batch the time you will spend at the bench, as well as everything else. Create a quick inventory of the buffers, reagents, and consumables you will need for each step of the process. In the event you don't have something, make sure you will receive it several days before you will need it. Once you are comfortable, you have all the products you will need. Identify the time you will need to spend at the bench and block this time off on your calendar. It is relatively easy to interpret the data collected and write your detailed notes (shorthand notes or dictations in the lab for speed), but the science has to occur on the bench in the lab.
Summation: protect your time and resources; no one can do it for you
Protect your time and resources; no one can do it for you.These are the top three that laboratory professionals have identified, but there are several more available. Feel free to comment and send us your thoughts and tricks of reducing time waste in labs; we are always looking for new content.