Core facilities centralize services, equipment, and expertise for greater efficiency and resource utilization. Core facility managers have multiple responsibilities, ranging from coordinating incoming samples and ensuring appropriate analysis and data interpretation, to scheduling, billing, and equipment maintenance, to name a few. Core facility management software solutions are designed to support busy managers in maintaining organized, efficient operations.
“Core facility management software provides solutions that include equipment scheduling, project request management, reporting, and financial system integrations that assist cores and institutions with recovering revenue, utilization reporting, and business intelligence analysis,” explains Chris Lopes, head of global business development, iLab Solutions, Agilent Technologies, Inc.
Finances and visibility
Core facility management software is similar to a laboratory information management system (LIMS) with added financial management capabilities. This type of software can aid managers in obtaining funding information, ensuring compensation for completed work, and record keeping in the event of an audit. “Good core facility management software can simplify this process for the core manager by enabling easier communications with lab financial managers and principal investigators,” explains Lopes, adding, “it incorporates billing and invoicing functionality to assist core facility managers, researchers, and financial managers with accounting accuracy and timely compensation, streamlining the accounting process.”
It also addresses the issue of visibility. Many cores have numerous instruments and services that are underused, and increasing visibility provides researchers with access to a broader range of instruments and services, and increases income for the core. According to Lopes, “core facility management software assists core managers with increasing the awareness of, and access to, the instruments and services their core has to offer.”
Scalability and flexibility
Different core facilities will have different needs based on their type, size, and customer base. “Core facility management software should be able to accommodate the lab’s individual needs,” explains Lopes. It is important to keep in mind that these individual needs may change over time. A single core can evolve into a department, and a multi-core institution can expand to include multiple institutions. A robust software solution should scale along with the organization. Flexibility matters, too, and Lopes notes other factors including “role-based permissions” can help to manage access to the core facility data.
As with any software, ongoing updates and improvements are essential to ensure optimal functionality. A cloud-hosted solution delivers these updates automatically, “saving time, and increasing productivity,” says Lopes.
Tips for optimization
There are a few simple ways users can ensure they get the most out of their core facility management software. Lopes suggests “adding images of the lab or the equipment offered, or customized forms for project requests.”
Reporting also provides valuable information about operations, and “core managers and institution administrators should also have the option to build and save custom reports to communicate and share this information,” says Lopes.
Regardless of a core facility’s type, size, or customer base, proper management improves operations. Core managers seeking to maximize visibility and streamline financial management, scheduling, and maintenance should consider a software solution that can be customized to meet their specific needs.