The Ultimate List of Laboratory Quality Indicators: 10 Things to Look Out For


There are qualities that make today’s top materials and life science labs stand out. Image Credit: Flickr user RDECOM

These days, every lab looks different. Some labs have lots of benchtop space for wet lab experiments, while others are dominated by banks of computers. In some labs, the available reagents number in the thousands, while in others, it’s only necessary to keep a few essential reagents on hand. The largest labs house multiple research groups and hundreds of workers, while others accommodate only a few researchers. There are labs with relatively high job turnover, as well as labs where all of the researcher have been around for a decade or more.

While the setup of a lab can vary widely, especially in this day and age, there are some key quality indicators that set the best labs apart from the rest. Your judgment of the lab’s quality would have to take a wide range of factors into account, but ultimately, certain indicators could make or break your opinion. When it comes to lab quality, there are certain places where you just can’t cut corners. The following ten quality indicators distinguish the top labs in the materials and life science fields, separating the high achievers from the average labs.

1) There are no huge stacks of lab notebooks lying around.

Paper notebooks have long been a mainstay of materials and life science labs, but the top labs are dispensing with them in favor of electronic lab notebooks. Not only do electronic lab notebooks simplify the data recording process and make it easier to share with others outside the lab, but they also eliminate the tedious task of sifting through stacks of paper notebooks, trying to find data from previous experiments.

2) There aren’t any near-empty chemical containers that aren’t backed up with a replacement, and you won’t find multiple full containers of the same reagent.

As a scientist, nothing ruins your day like getting halfway through an experiment and having to throw it all out after finding the container with the reagent you need empty–and it can be costly for the lab in the long run. Similarly, labs that waste money overbuying reagents end up with less money to achieve scientific goals.

3) The laboratory management system has been updated recently.

The capabilities of today’s LIMS systems go far beyond the simple sample tracking functions of legacy systems. Without an updated system, labs waste time trying to keep track of the reams of data that can be generated from complex, technology-driven experiments.

4) There is no hard copy of shared protocols.

It’s important for colleagues to be able to repeat each other’s experiments, especially in labs with high turnover where lab members are frequently replaced, but keeping a book of handwritten protocols is no longer the best way to do it. With protocol authoring and execution software, it is much easier for colleagues to run similar experiments without spending extra time deciphering each other’s handwriting.

5) The lab has finalized the requested test in a timely manner.

Overall productivity is a must, regardless of subfield. If a lab isn’t measuring up to other labs in the same subfield when it comes to productivity, it suggests a lack of efficiency that could be resolved through strategic process adjustments.

6) The lab doesn’t rely on researchers or techs to perform menial tasks that could be automated.

The top labs in the materials and life sciences field make the most of the technology that is available. A one-time investment in automation software can more than make up for the time that techs–or worse, highly trained researchers–would otherwise have to spend on tasks that could easily be done by a machine.

7) No one is surprised about a suggestion to collaborate with a research group at another institution or in another location.

Once again, today’s technology makes this easy, and both companies and academic researchers have been taking advantage of opportunities pool their knowledge and resources.

8) The are few instances of unnecessary experiment duplication.

This is another benefit of adopting technology, such as electronic lab notebooks, that makes it easier to access old data so that you don’t waste effort and materials on experiments that have already been done.

9) Someone in the lab is familiar with applying simulations software during experiments.

Running simulations can reduce the need for costly benchtop experiments that take up valuable time and eat up your lab’s financial resources.

10) The lab has no recent regulatory violations or chemical spills that escalated into major crises.

You might think that these go without saying, but the truth is, everyone makes mistakes, and a chemical spill once in awhile is inevitable. The key is to know how to handle it properly. With today’s chemical management software, regulatory and safety information is always at hand, making it easy to recognize possible violations and effectively deal with spills.

If your lab gets high marks on all of the above-described lab quality indicators, your setup provides the solid foundation you need to accomplish your goals. If not, BIOVIA is here to help. With our wide range of software solutions, we can help carry your lab into the 21st century and lead the way in the materials or life sciences. Contact us today for more information about our offerings!