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Science is vitally important to society, but many labs work with seriously limited budgets and controlling costs is an essential concern. Cutting costs in the lab can help to maximise productivity and profit, and ensure lab resources aren’t wasted. This guide contains some ideas on how lab managers can cut costs by making a few little changes to how the lab is run.
- Keep Track of Your Costs
- Cut Back Less Productive Work
- Maintain Your Equipment
- Consider Equipment Upgrades
- Order in Bulk
- Train Staff in Efficiency
- Consider Sharing
If you’re wanting to cut back on your costs, it’s time to get in accountant mode and start keeping track of all your expenditure. Write down all your lab’s overhead costs, salaries, necessary supplies and equipment, and any fees or fines that must be paid. This will help you identify where your money is going, as well as any areas where expenditure is significantly higher. Often, this can highlight areas where spending can be cut down, whether it is maximising equipment efficiency or simply reducing the cost of the communal biscuit fund.
With your new-found insight into the lab’s spending, it is easier to develop strategies for cutting costs. Keeping track also means you can identify which cost-cutting strategies are effective and which aren’t, maximising the efficiency of the lab.
Calculating how much each procedure is costing is a great way to identify activities that are unproductive financially. Jobs which aren’t financially viable can then be limited to when absolutely necessary, rather than being performed routinely. Once you’ve calculated the costs, it should be pretty obvious which procedures are more expensive than they are effective.
Labs are full of equipment, from the everyday essentials like centrifuges to niche specialist equipment for performing complex tasks. All this equipment tends to use a lot of energy, especially things like freezers that operate at ultra-low temperatures. Maintaining a lab’s equipment is key to ensuring that it runs efficiently, using as little energy as possible. Whilst it might be tempting to simply upgrade to a newer model, maintaining equipment makes it work effectively for longer, meaning less financial investment is needed.
As lab equipment accounts for such a high proportion of energy usage, having efficient equipment can have a huge impact on overall running costs. Upgrading freezers, centrifuges and other equipment that is in regular use to more energy efficient models can create significant savings. When deciding whether to upgrade your equipment, it is worth working out whether the initial outlay will be offset by the energy savings achieved. For broken or outdated equipment, using energy efficiency as a selection factor is a good way to ensure that the lab runs as cost efficiently as possible. Many manufacturers are now moving towards a more ‘green’ approach, so it is relatively easy to find clear information about energy use on modern lab equipment.
Bulk ordering non-perishables is a reliable way to save money in all walks of life, and science labs are no different. You can often secure a lower price when ordering a large number of items, and having everything delivered at once saves on delivery costs. Don’t be afraid to shop around from your usual supplier to make sure you’re getting the best deal. For items with a use by date, make sure the lab’s requirements mean they will get used before they expire to avoid unnecessary wastage.
Staff training in efficiency is a really effective way to cut costs in the lab, as it reduces wastage and energy use. Simply setting laboratory rules about keeping fume hoods closed when not in use, for example, can save hundreds of pounds a year in energy costs. Turning equipment off when it is not in use can also be effective, although only where this is possible without reducing efficiency. Organising freezer space, using no more of products than is required and turning lights off are all ways that staff can help to reduce laboratory costs.
Lots of university labs are now beginning to share lab space and equipment between different departments, and this is something that can also be effective in the wider community. With many scientists now spending as much time at the computer as at the lab bench, it might be possible to share your lab space with another team when you are not using it. This is a really easy way to split costs between two teams and therefore significantly reduce outgoings. It is not possible for all research teams, but it is well worth considering whether it would suit your lab.
If your laboratory could do with an upgrade to make sure it is running at maximum efficiency, then the team at InterFocus can help. For more information about our bespoke fitted labs, visit our homepage or call our team on 01223 894 833.