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Laboratory Planning Kit: How to Plan To Improve Lab Productivity In 2013

Productivity is a topic of increasing importance as lab management has to contend with higher testing volumes in research and service labs, tighter budgets, and a growing focus on intellectual property management and use.  While the demands on lab’s is increasing, the resources available to meet those demands is shrinking, pushing management to look for more efficiency in lab operations.

The use of information and automation technologies has been used successfully to meet these challenges in other application areas, and it can in your lab as well.  That success is dependent upon planning, especially in this economy when resource management is so essential:

  • Buying products without a plan is very expensive and wastes resources
  • Having a plan puts you in control of the process and helps support groups understand what you are doing, and what their role is
  • One purpose of the plan is to put you in control of the development and management of the lab's intellectual property (it is why labs exist)
  • Plans guide buying decisions, and,
  • They put you in a better position to justify expenditures

The purpose of this “Laboratory Productivity Planning Kit” is to give you the background and education you need to begin planning for improving productivity.  There are a lot of products and technologies available, in some cases a bewildering array of elements, but little information to help you get your head around them and figure out how to use them.

For example, take a look at the chart on the left which shows the time frame when informatics technologies such as laboratory information management systems, electronic laboratory notebooks, scientific data management systems, and instrument data systems came to the market. 

Place the cursor over the chart and it will show how the functions they addressed have been adopted as vendors strived to improve their market appeal.  How do you make product choices? By effective planning.

The kit is intended to give you a strong start on the planning process.  It consists of a series of components, some at no charge, others are fee-based materials that provide more depth.


The following are available at no charge.  They introduce the need for planning and working with support personnel:

Material available for a modest fee:

  • ELTM Guide – The “Elements of Laboratory Technology Management” Guide is description of the ILA program that looks at laboratory functions and the technologies that can be used to address them.  In particular, it introduces the ELTM map, (shown at left), the concepts behind lab automation implementations: computer-controlled, computer-assisted, and scientific manufacturing/production, and, the changing skill sets needed to be successful in modern labs as you take advantage of automation.  This document serves as a companion to the course below.


  • An eight-part course “Lab Automation is Inevitable, Are You Ready?”  (part 1, the introduction is available at no charge through the ILA's channel on LabTube as well as the ILA's on-demand site) that begins by introducing the ELTM map, and then moves on the issues and technologies used in laboratory work.  In addition, it covers the elements needed to plan successful lab automation programs.
  • A 80-minute mini-course on project management, focusing on the unique aspects of project management in lab applications.
  • The course “R/D Technology for IT Professionals”, designed for IT support professionals who want to learn more about supporting lab applications.  This course introduces laboratory work, instrumentation, and concludes with what is needed for an IT professional to successfully support lab applications.  Why does this course matter to a lab manager? Because of the complexity of information technology, IT professionals should be part of the planning process, the better educated they are in lab work, the more effective they will be in supporting planning and the hardware/software systems put in place... see the article above on "working with IT professionals".

The ILA does provide some services to assist organizations in their planning efforts. For more information, please visit our services page.



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