The design of any space can directly affect the way we work and live in it. When it comes to laboratory design, consideration should be made for the way in which the lab will be used and not just about what fits in the space.
The layout of your lab will depend on many factors and there is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ solution. If you work in a genetics lab, your processes and equipment will vary largely from a lab that focuses mostly on quality-control. However, in all cases, it is recognised that an efficient workspace holds the key to more effective working for laboratory staff.
What are the benefits of an efficient laboratory layout?
Firstly, you should consider the time that you will save and therefore, the money you will save. Each time a researcher or technician completes a process, there is likely to be a certain amount of time lost in between steps of the process which could be avoided.
These increments of inefficiency can accrue and cause delays over time, which could be very costly. In order to minimise wasted time, improve efficiency and increase ROI (return on investment), you should consider modelling your lab in the most efficient way possible and in line with the procedures fulfilled by the laboratory staff.
Secondly, you must understand that lab inefficiency could even lead to accidents and errors which are not ideal when you are aiming to work with precision. To maintain high standards of practice and minimise cross-contamination or any factor that could cause issues with the research or testing being carried out, it is essential that error margins are minimised and that ergonomic solutions are put in place to assist laboratory staff with their work.
Your goal will always be to improve levels of efficacy without adding additional staff members, whilst also minimising the error gap by controlling productivity and reducing error rates.
Lastly, you should make the lab a more pleasant and ergonomic working environment for your team. Ergonomics is a science-based discipline that brings together knowledge from other subjects such as anatomy and physiology, psychology, engineering and statistics to ensure that designs complement the strengths and abilities of people and minimise the effects of their limitations.
With this in mind, it is important to ensure the design of work surfaces are at the correct height, furniture is sourced from a reliable, knowledgeable, and quality supplier so to ensure that staff are physically comfortable when working, standing or sitting. Not only can this improve the efficiency of your lab team but it also increases performance, reduces stress, and can impact ROI.
How to design an efficient laboratory layout
- Assess your common processes. If your lab predominantly processes medical tests, outline your procedures, and consider where the best placements might be for the equipment involved to make the most of lab time and minimise errors.
- Be mindful of contamination. Prepare a risk assessment of the possible errors that could occur in the lab and use this as a basis to take steps for the prevention of these errors and improve efficiency.
- Ensure that you position stations in the most efficient order to ensure that commonly used areas are close together, helping to minimise the movement of staff around the lab and therefore save time. A good example of this can be found in the interior design practices for home kitchens. You should plan to arrange the sink, oven, and fridge within short distances of each other (also known as the ‘golden triangle’ by kitchen designers), but also consider that the fridge should not be directly next to the oven, nor should your work surfaces be cramped.
- Consider investing in more efficient technology and equipment. Today’s modern design innovations not only help to reduce emissions and costs of energy usage, such as the cabinets and fume hoods supplied by FASTER and Biopharma UK, but they are also now being designed to be more compact and help to save space in the lab where possible. (View our products here)
- Consider the individual bench space for each team member, keeping it small to improve productivity – 8 to 12 linear feet is ideal, with 4 feet allocated for non-bench space stations such as write up space, sinks and shared bench space, for example.
- Create a separate space for ‘office’ related tasks, separate to the main lab areas. You can also implement the use of desk space at no more than 4 feet per staff member, as this is sufficient for a computer with extra space for writing.
- Find efficient storage solutions to store your equipment and disposables. Your wall space is just as important as floor space, as this allows for cupboards and useful holders for disposables that may be important to a particular area of the lab.
- Re-assess your initial design to ensure that the space is laid out as ergonomically as possible. You may need to adjust the position of certain areas to prevent accidents or injury, or you may need to reconsider the height of cupboards, or even move equipment to ensure it does not inhibit access to another important area of your lab such as the fume hood, storage, burner, freezer, incubator or centrifuge.
- Consider flexible and reconfigurable workstations to help your team quickly adapt to changing schedules or if your lab is required for varying project types where your procedures are likely to change regularly. This will make it easier to reassemble the lab in a way that helps you quickly adapt to your next project.
- Don’t re-invent the wheel. Visit other labs where possible. Find out what has worked for them. Do your research and get a second opinion. Use common sense, optimise safety manual information and feel confident that you have covered all the relevant bases in order to get the best possible result – in the same way that you might approach a laboratory research project.
Contact us for your laboratory equipment needs
The team at Biopharma are UK distributors for FASTER equipment, which is eco-friendly, ergonomic and cost-effective. FASTER cabinets and other products are all customisable, so we are able to create solutions even in the tightest spaces! We offer a wide range of equipment solutions for a wide range of labs across the UK and we are also partnered with other UK suppliers who can provide the other materials required to make your lab run efficiently.
Get in touch via our website or give us a call on 01962 841092 to speak to a member of our friendly and knowledgeable team.