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Guest blog: Why every lab needs an equipment management system

January 26, 2021

Picture this. You spent last week carefully planning out your time and experiments so when you stepped into the lab this morning you knew exactly what you needed to do. You prep your samples. You spend your time setting up that crucial PCR plate you need to finish your thesis chapter or your next manuscript. Then you head downstairs ready to hit go on the PCR machine and you find that someone else has jumped on the machine before you. This despite the fact that you had left a note on the computer signed and dated to let everyone know. I can’t tell you how many times this happened to me during my PhD, and I’m pretty sure I’m not the only one who has experienced this frustration either.

lab booking system

When I was doing my PhD, I was part of a small lab group. There were only 3 of us. So, we often used some of the equipment that the other larger research groups had to help us on our way. One example was the PCR machines. Other examples used a written booking system, and yet the problem persisted. In the end, trying to book lab instruments just got a little bit confusing and messy. So, here are 3 reasons why a digital equipment management system is crucial for running a lab efficiently.

Reducing waste

Each time I discovered that I couldn’t run my plate, the next step was to frantically run around and try and find another available machine in the building that someone could let me use. Unfortunately, that didn’t always happen. Not only did this mean I ended up wasting precious reagents, countless consumables but sometimes even valuable samples that I had spent weeks or months collecting. Having a lab equipment booking system that everyone can access easily from their laptops and from the lab computers would have made things so much easier for everyone to book, to check availability or change bookings and more. Yet, crucially those all important savings could be made.

A one stop shop for everyone

Sharing equipment between labs has many benefits. But things can get a little confusing when some have no system, some have paper systems and others have electronic systems, and of course they can be spread out around the building too. Having one system that everyone can access and book all the relevant lab resources that they need is just going to make everyone’s life that little bit easier and save a surprising amount of time too. It would save on admin time, there would be an easily accessible option available for everyone and ultimately the time of everyone in your lab can be used more effectively. Even though you think booking your lab equipment won’t take too much time, once you add it all together it will soon add up

Communication is key

Many issues when you try to book lab instruments stems from a lack of communication. Whether it's someone not following the system, someone not being trained properly or even letting someone know if they don’t need a piece of lab equipment anymore. During my PhD, I found myself spending far too much time trying to hunt down the relevant person to let them know I needed to cancel my booking, or find the person who was using the PCR machine before me but was overrunning. Just being able to send someone a quick message to update them on a lab schedule or announce equipment maintenance would have saved so much time and many resources. It also helps to maintain good relationships between people but also labs more generally. This is vital for teams, especially those in shared labs with shared equipment.

When I discovered Bookkit, it was the perfect solution that had come too late for me and my time in the lab. But you could take advantage of this lab equipment booking software and make your lab even more efficient and help to increase your lab’s research output even more. It can help solve these three issues and more. You are able to manage your team, your lab equipment, protocols and more, and there is a messaging service that can help with those last minute changes to anyone’s schedule. If you want to manage your lab in the most productive way, then take a look into Bookkit.

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About the writer:

Dr. Soph Arthur is an award-winning science communicator, blogger & digital communications creator. She created the Soph talks science brand which aims to bring science stories to life through digital media to empower everyone to explore science, as well as support STEM researchers to become more confident in communicating their research with various audiences.

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