Steps to Leading a New Lab Setup

The top factors to consider when setting up a new lab space

Lauren Everett

Taking on the leadership role of setting up a new laboratory space is both an exciting and overwhelming task. As the lab manager, you need to have a multi-phase plan in place, including establishing the layout of the lab, scheduling when and how equipment will be installed, and communicating your expectations to your staff on how they can assist during each phase of the lab setup. Each phase will require thoughtful decision-making and adaptability for when unexpected delays or issues inevitably arise.  

If you are starting a new lab from scratch, the first step is to ensure you fully understand the startup’s mission and business goals. This will influence how you approach each phase of the physical setup of the lab, and any purchasing decisions you make. To learn more about some of the top challenges and considerations of creating a successful startup lab, click here. If your lab is simply moving to a new space, then it is important to understand how the new space will better accommodate your work, and how it could contribute to future business goals as the organization evolves. 

Once you have a clear understanding of the purpose of the new lab space, there are a variety of logistical puzzle pieces you will need to organize. Examples include transportation of lab equipment to the space, getting the equipment running, checking that all supplies and inventory have arrived, having a designated space to store the supplies, ensuring the lab will have power turned on, and notifying lab and facilities staff, as well as vendors that they will be needed on move-in day, and likely for days afterward. 

Equipment installation

When managing a new lab setup, getting the equipment running and operational as soon as possible is a top priority. But many lab instruments are bulky and complex, and often take a coordinated effort to transport and properly set up in a new lab environment. Some instruments will require a technician be on-site to do the installation, while others can be done by staff. Additionally, some instruments, such as centrifuges, cannot be immediately installed. Rather, it is best to wait at least four hours to ensure any condensation within the centrifuge’s components has evaporated and the instrument has acclimated to the new environment. Rushing through the installation process can create problems and delays that lead to longer downtime. 

Although the needs to set up each piece of equipment vary, there is one necessity they have in common—power. There are many factors to consider regarding power in the lab in addition to simply ensuring the power is indeed on. For example, it is often a wise decision for lab managers to consult with a power management expert to determine which pieces of equipment should be protected by a power conditioner. For more tips on developing a power protection plan for your lab, click here.

Post move-in day

As writer Gail Dutton notes, the days or even weeks after you move everything into the lab can be the most chaotic part of the process. Dutton shares advice from lab relocation experts that can make the post-move-in day experience a smoother one. One key piece of advice the experts share is to have a stringent project management plan and a contingency plan to deal with any and all glitches. 

The physical move-in day of a new lab is just the beginning to a weeks-long, multi-stage process that requires a coordinated effort from internal teams as well as outside vendors. Being aware of all the requirements—big and small—and having a plan in place to deal with unexpected challenges will help to ensure an efficient, safe setup.