What’s in Your Lab? How a Chemical Inventory Management System Can Simplify Your Search

chemical inventory
A chemical inventory management system can help simplify wasteful searching through your laboratory inventory.
Image Source: Purchase College via Wikimedia Commons

A number of emails remain starred and unanswered in my mailbox for one common, annoying reason: the request wasn’t simple enough to answer at first view. The topics vary, but the most common request is for something in the lab. It could be a catalog number on a rare enzyme, a request for the current inventory of a homemade antibody or even something as abstract as how to properly ship a reagent to a colleague. If I can’t find the answer quickly, I star the email and intend to respond as soon as I can locate the necessary information. The problem is, though, that the search for these kinds of answers can be very difficult in a lab that lacks a comprehensive chemical inventory system. I can spend hours digging through a crowded freezer until my fingertips are numb and still not be able to locate that elusive antibody.

A chemical inventory management system can help simplify such wasteful searches. Though commonly viewed as simply a digital catalog of chemicals, a chemical inventory management system is more than an electronic database used to record the chemicals on your shelf. If implemented to its full capabilities, such systems can provide management valuable information on multiple items in your lab. Consider these following management options to determine if a digital chemical inventory management system could benefit your lab:

Biological samples

Whether you’re storing antibodies or enzymes, serum or cell lines, cataloging biological samples can be difficult. There are often no common identifiers, catalog numbers or neat methods to organize containers. But typically, users just want to know where the items are stored, when they expire and maybe an approximation of how much remains. A chemical inventory management system allows you to track those values as well as the option to split samples and maintain a running quantity of all aliquots. The records are stored in a central digital location that can be accessed by users from any designated computer.

Freezer management

I could kick myself for every time I pulled out a new freezer box in which to store reagents. I never knew an effective way to store samples in the freezer, so anytime I started a new project, I would just get a new box, stick a label on the outside, and throw my samples inside. The box would get stuffed into any open space I could find in the deep-freezer, and typically go unnoticed until our annual freezer clean-out. Aside from the obvious organizational issues with this approach, the constant flux of personnel ensured that no one ever really knew what was in the freezer. A chemical inventory management system can help your lab manage your freezer inventory by providing a secure digital location to retain sample location. The use of barcodes can further simplify the freezer management process by allowing users to quickly scan inventory that is added or removed to update the system in real-time.

Safety Data Sheets

Many times, laboratory chemical handling techniques are passed down through lab members. Even though we all take the EH&S courses on proper handling, what actually happens in the lab is a different story. In cases where laboratory tradition can’t be trusted in handling chemicals, lab members should refer to safety data sheets (SDSs). As with many labs, my labs have always retained massive 3-ring binders with SDSs stored and liberally alphabetized. Fortunately, these archaic practices can be replaced with a digital chemical inventory management system that not only store SDSs, but keeps the database up-to-date with the most recent versions for all in-stock chemical inventory.

Searching for items within your laboratory chemical inventory can be frustrating and time-consuming if you don’t have a comprehensive system in place. Visit our website to learn more about how BIOVIA CISPro can help your lab organize its inventory.


2 thoughts on “What’s in Your Lab? How a Chemical Inventory Management System Can Simplify Your Search

  1. It’s often easier to follow the practices of more senior scientists than to try to revamp outdated techniques.

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