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Lab Scheduling Solutions to Ensure Organizational Success

Implementing robust scheduling for the “three Ps of business” can streamline communication and boost productivity in your lab

Holden Galusha

Popularized by businessman and television personality Marcus Lemonis, the “three Ps of business”—people, process, and product—are the factors that, if one succeeds at individually, will translate to overall business success. This principle applies to laboratories as well. By continually improving in these three dimensions, one is on the path to meeting their ultimate research goals while cutting costs and boosting efficiency.

An easy way to improve across all three dimensions is robust scheduling. There are a wide variety of platforms available to schedule and streamline lab processes under all three Ps. Here are the benefits of implementing such solutions and some questions to consider while searching for the right one:

People: Streamline communication with meeting scheduling software

Of the three Ps, scheduling software for people may be the most impactful. Efficient communication is critical to organizational success. There is a plethora of solutions available to streamline communication and yet, many organizations still rely on email to coordinate meetings or relay information that is better suited for a face-to-face discussion.

There are numerous benefits to meeting scheduling software. For instance, these programs make it easy for attendees to RSVP and for the organizer to see who can and cannot attend. Trying to coordinate a meeting of more than a couple individuals over email quickly becomes unwieldy as the thread lengthens with responses. Many meeting scheduling programs allow you to reserve conference rooms as well, which cuts down on conflicts between teams who inadvertently try to meet in the same place at the same time. Finally, many meeting scheduling applications have companion web apps and­­ mobile apps that make it easy for attendees to be notified if the details of a meeting have changed.

Questions to ask when selecting meeting scheduling software:

  • How does this software accommodate remote workers?

Will any of your team be attending remotely? If so, how will they be joining? The more integrated your calendar and video conference platforms are, the easier it will be to hold meetings with hybrid teams.

  • Will I need to book conference rooms?

Depending on the size of your organization, you may need software that allows you to reserve rooms to prevent scheduling conflicts with other teams.

Options for meeting scheduling software

Process: Decrease overhead with operations scheduling software

Administrative and operational processes, such as inventory management and asset procurement, are prone to becoming efficiency drains. Because these processes don’t directly contribute to a lab’s bottom line of research, they may never be reevaluated and optimized after initial implementation. ­­An easy way to streamline these processes is by implementing scheduling software to ensure that routine operations, such as ordering consumables or booking preventative maintenance visits, do not fall between the cracks. Scheduling these processes means that they will be done promptly and in accordance with the needs of the lab, which will curb issues and interruptions that lessen the lab’s productivity.

Additionally, scheduling routine maintenance will heighten the ROI of your equipment assets by maximizing their lifespans. While routine maintenance costs more upfront, it often saves money in the long run.

Questions to ask when selecting process scheduling software:

  • Is my inventory complex enough to warrant dedicated inventory management software?

Unless your lab is no larger than a couple instruments, then your inventory is likely complex enough to justify dedicated management software. Using spreadsheets to manage inventory is inefficient and does not scale.

  • How many people will need access to this software?

Inventory management platforms are usually Software as a Service (SaaS) models. SaaS pricing is typically based on number of users. Tally how many people who will be using the software to ensure that the final price fits your budget.

  • What kind of user management/access control features does the software have?

For security reasons, it is prudent that you determine who gets access to what in the software. The more complex the hierarchy of your lab is, the more sophisticated you will want the access control customization to be.

Options for meeting scheduling software

Product: Ensure smooth research with equipment booking software

Not having a dedicated platform for booking equipment that’s shared amongst multiple researchers or teams can cause logistical issues and frustration for those involved. For instance, taking the time to prep an experiment and then approach the analyzer only to find it in the middle of processing samples for another researcher potentially means that all that prep time has been wasted and the organization has lost money. Equipment booking software is an easy way to curb these issues.

Questions to ask when selecting equipment booking software:

  • How many shared instruments are in my lab(s)?

Some equipment booking platforms offer features that allow you to easily collect asset utilization data. Such data can be useful for identifying what is being used, what is not being used, what needs to be replaced, etc.

  • Will I need custom booking rules or user access management?

Like inventory management software, you may want to limit who has access to certain instruments and at what times.

Options for equipment booking software

While it may seem like a chore to add even more software to your suite, the right scheduling program can ease communication, augment your asset utilization data, and more. Over time these benefits can save you time and help you identify ways to make your lab a leaner operation.