TetraScience has covered the benefits of understanding instrument utilization in great detail (here, here, and here). But reaching optimal levels of instrumentation does not necessarily guarantee that your team is using that instrumentation as efficiently as possible. (PS - There’s also a new solution available to you, so keep reading)
I’d be willing to bet that seasoned veterans of the R&D community would be surprised by the similar challenges shared across companies, both large and small. Besides the obvious, like the immense amount of pressure to discover that new method or molecule and fill a pipeline, there are a few issues that remain unaddressed, even though they’re in plain sight.
One challenge we’ve encountered time and time again is the idea of striving for total resource utilization. We’ve heralded the benefits of an active lab asset management strategy led by utilization for quite awhile now. Although organizations (startups or industry giants), may have achieved optimal levels of instrumentation, they still may be operating well below their potential.
For example, when we discuss scheduling usage of instruments, people initially scoff at the idea. Often times we hear, “Our team communicates unlike any other” or “We’re too small to have scheduling issues; we know what’s being used and when.” In limited cases, these claims are backed up. But in the vast majority, we’re finding people are floored by the amount of time wasted due to inefficient scheduling.*
The reality of lab scheduling challenges
A group I spoke with recently had a few instruments in a relatively small lab (~10 scientists). One would think they could simply share their schedules with each other. This didn’t happen. People get too busy and too honed in on their work, which is completely understandable. As a result of this lack of communication, the groups were spending an entire day each week cleaning these instruments. If they had the means to reserve instruments and see in real-time the plans of others over the coming days, they could tactically delay their work by a few days, focus on other tasks, and increase output without investing in more resources.
Life gets more complicated when your lab manager wants to schedule preventative maintenance or your IT guy wants to install a software patch; it’s not uncommon for scientists we speak with to arrive at an instrument they plan on using to find a technician working away, causing unexpected project delays. That’s no joke when you consider the daily burn rate of a growing life sciences company.
The next chance you get, ask your teammates if they’ve encountered any issues with instruments unexpectedly out-of-service or in use. If one person answers in the affirmative, it may be worthwhile to spend 30 minutes collecting survey results* or doing a deeper dive into your team’s efficiency levels (I’m not advocating for 100 hour weeks; just doing more in the 60 you’re already working). Strive to maximize your resource utilization.
*Good news, we can help you with this process. If you’re interested, we can do a free assessment of how much time your team is wasting due to scheduling inefficiencies, and even help you create a survey to send out. It’s simple and you’ll get the answers you’re looking for. Reach out to learn more.