Every lab and research organization works under a limited budget, and working within these limitations is one of the most difficult aspects of scientific project management. Correct planning and decision making can make your budget last longer and yield more results. So without further ado, here are our simple tips for reducing costs in the lab.
Ever found yourself wondering: “where did all the money go?”
The solution, though it may seem tedious at first, is to consistently track all of your expenses, even the smallest and most insignificant ones. When you keep a tidy record, whether manually or using a research management system, it becomes much easier to identify where money is going and highlight areas that cost your organization too much.
Once you’ve tracked your overall expenses for a while, you can calculate the cost of each procedure type by adding up all costs related to a certain procedure over a specified period of time, and dividing by the number of times it was performed during said time. Next, calculate the revenue or reimbursement from each procedure, and consider your lab data to see which ones yield the most results. Compare the effectiveness of each procedure to the cost of it to find out which procedures waste the most money. Limit these procedures and perform them only when necessary instead of routinely.
If you have options for several procedures that serve the same purpose, choose the one most cost-effective to perform most often.
When it comes to equipment, your first priority should always be maintenance. Lab instruments can last years longer and give a better return on investment if tended to properly. Make sure to schedule maintenance events. Treat it as an inseparable part of your scientific project management work.
Sometimes equipment still needs to be replaced, for example if it’s broken or outdated. When this happens, make sure to do your research before ordering a new model. Look for high quality, long-lasting items, and read feedback from other labs in similar fields as yours. Another important factor to consider is energy saving - energy efficient equipment will reduce routine lab costs, as well as being better for the environment. If old equipment in your lab is very energy-inefficient, that might be a reason to consider replacing it with a more efficient one — sometimes the original investment will be returned to you over time.
Before buying new supplies, ask yourself how much of it do you really need. If it’s only a small amount, consider asking neighboring labs if they have any spare that they can give you. This can save an unnecessary expense, and you can also gain from their knowledge of using the supply.
If you do need a large amount, buy in bulk. This can help you get a better price and save on delivery costs. This is especially relevant with non-perishable supplies, where you can go for a large order without worrying about expiration dates. This is still true, however, when it comes to perishable supplies. Look over your lab management data to see how much of each supply you use up during a set period of time. Calculate how much you can order and still have it used up before you reach the expiration date.
No matter if you’re ordering supplies or equipment, always get quotes from several different suppliers instead of going for the first search result. Don’t be afraid to state that you’re getting a better price from another supplier or ask for discounts on bulk orders. When making your choice, consider prices, but also quality - ask your colleagues for recommendations, read customer reviews and double-check information like purity, components and function to make sure it’s exactly what you need.
When possible, try to run all necessary procedures of a certain type at the same time. If there are several samples that need to be tested using the same equipment, testing them side by side will save energy and supplies. Instruct lab members to schedule shared equipment sessions in order to reach maximum efficiency.
Some supplies, such as media, buffers and gels, can be made within your own lab. If you have access to a 3D printer, some permanent parts can also be self-made. Making your own supplies saves significant amounts of money, results in supplies that are highly customized to your specific needs, and can be faster than waiting for delivery. This can take time away from your research project though, so ask yourself whether the cost reduction is worth it. If you’re not sure how long it will take, consider testing it by making some of your supplies for a short period of time, and tracking the results, time investment and cost savings.
Make sure everything in your laboratory has a place and is properly labeled. Keep track of your inventory by writing down the numbers of remaining supplies and mark as used once they’re consumed. This will make sure you don’t buy more supplies than necessary, and don’t waste money by letting stocks expire.
To learn more about storage and inventory management - click here.
It’s not enough to just set new cost reducing strategies, you must also monitor how they’re performing. Try different methods and track your expenses and results to get an overall picture and select the most cost effective strategy for your lab.
Manual record keeping can be messy and lead to information loss, as well as being difficult to analyze for further decision making. A scientific project management software can help you track your expenses and create shopping lists in a way that’s centralized and tied together with your experiments and procedures, as well as keep an inventory and organize your storage. The best research software will combine all parts of lab management, including equipment maintenance and task assignment and scheduling.
If you’re interested in switching to a digital solution for cost reduction, click here: