Nearly 85% of labs rely on inefficient methods of tracking their inventory, such as paper or spreadsheets. Here are some helpful tips for upgrading to a digital lab inventory management system, which can save labs up to 96% of their manual inventory review time.

Overview

Are you still writing everything down in your lab on paper or in Word or Excel spreadsheets? You aren’t alone! A staggering 85% of labs today are still using paper or Microsoft Excel to manage consumables data, and 25% of their time per week is spent managing consumables data in the laboratory. Your habits are probably taking up similar amounts of your treasured time, if not more, which could be used more efficiently for other valuable scientific work.

As technology progresses, rethinking the structure and operational routines of your laboratory are becoming a top priority for many lab managers and scientists.

Planning and tracking are easier and smarter with a Lab Inventory Management system. It is one of the most productive ways for labs to reduce time, costs, errors, delays, and headaches. Imagine a time savings of 50%? What about 95.8%?

Change can be intimidating from the old way of managing inventory – from spreadsheets and whiteboards to even illegible sticky notes and relying on your own fail-proof brain. “These can all lead to inaccurate tracking without the ability to know where your items are located,” says April Kohtz, BrightLab’s Product Owner for Inventory Management.

Are you too busy to take the time to update your lab?  These guidelines will help ease that burden and stretch your budget. We understand that some habits are harder to break and you do not need another action item on your plate, but in the end, it will be worth your time for a more efficient lab!

Did You Know?

85%

of labs use paper and Excel files to manage consumable data

25%

of time per week spent managing consumables data in the laboratory

96%

of time spent reviewing inventory could be saved by using BrightLab software

Start by Creating an Accurate Inventory List

This is the first step to keep track of everything in one place, including your stock levels and orders. We suggest easing into the new system at a comfortable pace. Set a completion goal to keep moving towards and break it down with mini-goals. You are building a firm foundation that will take your lab to the next level.

This is going to seem like the longest step, but it is the most critical for success! Take stock of your inventory and feel free to use pen and paper, or any current method as you are going to say goodbye to them in time. Get rid of items that are no longer needed while you are doing this.

Then separate your materials by “collections,” with supplies and materials unique to your research. Include a separate “Consumables” collection for everyday items used that are vital to your research. These are anything that holds lab supplies such as vials, tubes, gloves, pipettes, and bottles.

Having an accurate, up-to-date list of everything in your lab will make it much easier to import your list into a Lab Inventory Management system and start with a fresh slate.

Characterize Each Material Item in Your List

This is where you tell the descriptive life story or DNA of each item to save time in the future:

  • Name
  • Manufacturer/Source
  • SKU/LOT/Catalogue number
  • Price
  • Description/Application
  • Quantity
  • Expiry Dates
  • List any associated hazards/Spill-Handling Procedures
  • Toxicity
  • Include Safety Data Sheets
  • Health Effects/First Aid
  • Storage/Disposal
  • Density/Volume/Concentration
  • Protective Equipment
  • Location (this can be added in once placements are defined)

Location, Location, Location

Take some time to go through your lab and write down the current inefficiencies of storage location placement and how you could make changes to improve this. Picture the best arrangement and routes to minimize your lab team running around to find supplies or materials.

Sort and store your most used and essential supplies within easy reach from the workstations of the scientists that use them with custom-defined locations.

Uploading Your Inventory

Uploading batches of data in Excel spreadsheets will help save a ton of time. Web-based Lab Inventory Management software systems have this feature. If you forget an item, don’t worry, as you also can upload these individually with a few extra minutes of data entry to ensure your system is accurate.

Staying on Track

Now that you have stocked all items in their appropriate locations, and uploaded your inventory into the system, going the extra step is crucial. This step includes writing a guideline to ensure everyone follows your new established procedures. It will also allow everyone to keep resources properly managed and save unnecessary hours of review.

Reaping the Benefits

Pretty soon, you will be a pro at managing your lab’s inventory and your whole team will have a clear picture of how much you have in stock and where everything is located. Plus, if you use a cloud inventory management system like BrightLab, you will also reap the rewards of some cool benefits and features that will continue to save time and money:

  • NO more expired or out-of-stock inventory
  • NO more wondering or trying to remember what needs to be ordered
  • NO more lost items/samples or mix-ups with our barcoding system and mobile app for iOS and Android with built-in scanner

Now that you have seen how an Inventory Management System can be simple and straightforward in making your scientific work easier and faster, are you intrigued? BrightLab’s Inventory Management System is only going to make your lab life easier and keep you productive and passionate.

Remember the 95.8% time savings mentioned earlier on? It can happen as with a large biotech and QC lab who uploaded their inventory with 2,500 items.

We are here to guide you through the process or answer any questions when considering an Inventory Management System. BrightLab’s user-friendly inventory management system is free for academic labs with trial periods available for all others. Click here to get started.