In today’s turbulent laboratory business environment, change is inevitable. Whether triggered by downsizing, offshoring or growth, the frequency of lab relocation has increased dramatically. Overall this dynamic has proven positive for lab managers faced with the need to contemplate both domestic and international lab moves now that a host of services such as RFID asset tagging and asset disposition are available as part of the relocation process. That said, the challenge of moving an entire laboratory remains a cause for angst. Regardless of the reason for a lab move, minimizing cost, downtime and overall disruption to business is paramount.
Selecting the right laboratory relocation partner
precious samples and hazardous materials efficiently is not a job for a standard moving company. Add the complication of operating within GLP/GMP guidelines, and the need for an experienced technical resource quickly becomes apparent.
Selecting a qualified lab relocation provider means doing a thorough audit of the provider’s experience, processes, capabilities and resources.
- Does the provider have defined processes that can be tailored to your specific requirements?
- Does the provider subcontract most activities or can it perform all or most tasks?
- Can the provider access additional resources rapidly or deliver the resources appropriate to the scale of the move?
- Does the provider have international capabilities, including knowledge of local regulatory requirements and local resources?
- Can the provider present case studies and references that demonstrate its ability to overcome unique obstacles?
- Does the provider offer any value-added services such as RFID tagging or surplus asset disposition services that can improve your relocation outcome?
The initial meeting with a prospective lab relocation provider should include a checklist that takes into account these issues as well as the critical aspects of the move as outlined by internal stakeholders.
From the provider’s perspective, an experienced lab relocation resource first seeks to understand the background of the relocation, the culture of the work environment and important issues that will affect the overall project. Developing relationships with stakeholders and ensuring that their concerns are highlighted within the project plan means most of your time is spent not in the actual act of moving but in the exhaustive measures required for move preparation.
As a result of the initial meeting, a lab relocation provider should be able to craft a preliminary project plan for evaluation. The preliminary project plan should demonstrate clear ownership and accountability by use of a high-level map of resources and checkpoints. Appointing a project leader who takes ownership for the entire relocation and is responsible for creating a project plan in partnership with the client company should also take place. The performance of the project leader can mean the success or failure of the move.
Planning, planning, planning
The project plan should include every operational aspect of the move in detail, complete with timetables, ownership and logistics. An equipment inventory audit must be carried out to verify what equipment needs to be moved and to address any shipment issues. Each instrument’s location, configuration, operational condition and usage are documented. Any sensitive instrument or samples that require specialized transportation are identified. Then all assets are tagged systematically. Identification and resolution of logistical obstacles must also be addressed as part of the project plan.
The project plan should include a new location readiness status verification methodology, a process to help ensure that all site preparation activities are accomplished in tandem with the relocation to avoid costly delays. The lack of utilities specifically can delay the entire operation. In addition, there should be enough flexibility built into the plan to account for any potential additions to the equipment inventory list.
The very essence of laboratory relocation is the safe and efficient move of laboratory assets. In many labs this typically entails working in a hazardous materials environment. Working in conjunction with Environment Health and Safety staff and Radiation Protection Services personnel, a deliberate stepwise approach is applied for the safety of all personnel. Procedures for the disposal of all hazardous materials prior to the move are first communicated. Chemical, biohazardous and carcinogenic inventory needs to be characterized and reduced before relocation. Packing, labeling, and storage of these materials must be in compliance with local, state and federal regulations. Safety procedures in the event of an emergency are reinforced.
A lab relocation provider should employ an experienced relocation team made up of specialists who have experience working with varied instrumentation and software platforms and are well versed in current regulatory requirements (for both transport and GLP/GMP environments). Having a team staffed with life and analytical science instrumentation specialists means that the relocation does not depend on the original equipment manufacturers to conduct these services. This consolidated approach to relocation saves time and money and improves the quality of service delivery.
On the day of the move, equipment is broken down systematically in a documented fashion and then prepared for shipment. After the instruments complete the journey, the lab relocation team handles the unpacking and reinstallation. When possible, the same members of the lab relocation team work both ends of a move.
Once at the new site, the equipment is reinstalled according to the system map established during disassembly. Alternatively, equipment can be reconfigured according to customer specification and value-added services such as RFID asset tagging—a technology that allows lab managers to accurately track instrument location—can be installed. In a GLP/GMP environment, the installation qualification/operational qualification (IQ/OQ) is conducted immediately.
The logistics challenges of any laboratory relocation can be overcome as long as the provider has the ability to tailor services that are also scalable. Today, the global economy fuels a need for intercontinental moves, so country-specific customs and licensing knowledge must be leveraged.
From complexity to opportunity
The logistical complexity of a laboratory relocation also represents a great opportunity to evaluate the current status of all laboratory assets. The thousands of pieces of equipment— from the simplest centrifuge to NMR systems—represent millions of dollars in asset equity that may be underutilized. Additional steps in the equipment inventory audit can include:
- Obtaining existing service records, history, current preventive maintenance (PM) and validation schedules.
- Checking with OEMs to determine current parts inventory for older instrumentation
- Appraising all assets and making determinations for efficient deployment, or disposition in the case of underutilized assets
- Delivering findings and recommendations so that informed decisions can be made
The activity allows for identification of surplus laboratory equipment so that it can be used where it is most needed within a customer’s organization. Redeploying idle laboratory equipment can positively offset forecasted capital expenditure. Having this asset management step integrated into the actual laboratory relocation planning process ensures that the correct equipment is moved and deployed for the highest utilization. The redeployment or disposition of idle assets is only a part of the overall benefit for customers. Challenge lab relocation service providers to:
- Conduct a life cycle analysis of currently utilized equipment to facilitate planning for future capital expenses
- Sell surplus equipment that represents an untapped source of revenue and frees up valuable laboratory real estate.
- Dispose of unwanted laboratory equipment in accordance with EPA guidelines
Keys to success
The future productivity and profitability of a company in transition is directly impacted by its ability to execute relocation efficiently. Choose your lab relocation provider carefully. Challenge its track record, check its references and audit its resources.