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Tips for success in your lab relocation

Detail is crucial

Whatever your industry, the relocation of your lab requires utmost detail. Lab relocation is a stressful and sometimes frustrating experience but is a highly important and delicate task which can suffer greatly from the smallest oversight. Attention to detail will ensure your old and your new lab maintains cleanliness, preserve your years of research and collected data, and will guarantee that your work is not lost. A well-executed lab transition usually means you use dedicated planners for the job as well as outsourcing for utmost care and proper management.

This means that your lab can still function the laboratory while effectively planning your move. This phase can take more than six months of planning, because every detail should be contemplated during planning before equipment is moved. Such use of expert managers enables you to plan, prepare and manage the requirements exclusive to the shift.

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Challenges

One of the many failings during lab moves is oversight: many un-planned lab-moves result in the subsequent loss of valuable research, wasted time and higher cost and stress levels. Therefore, it is imperative that you fully understand the importance of the move, and the nature of the equipment being moved, so that you can sustain the reliability of your research. It is important to keep track of equipment being moved, and to have a suitable backup or reserve in case anything goes wrong. Oversight results in loss in such circumstances. Take, for example, such a minor issue as overlooking the dimensions of the doorway used for bringing your high-performance laboratory refrigerator in, which results in subsequent loss of critical samples and materials, thus loss of years of research. Apart from these, routine challenges will arise such as communication, frustration in the team and unforeseen costs. These challenges can be overcome with effective planning and thorough management of the move process.

In is important to consider, in this area, infrastructure and services particular to your specific needs and equipment, such as plumbing, electrical, ventilation and mechanical installations. It can be the smallest oversight that can require full replacement of infrastructure.

Fundamental factors

Forward planning

Forward planning enables the laboratory-move to be seamless, time-efficient and cost-efficient. It helps to implement systems with which the move can be coordinated, such as fast and effective systems to pack, move, store and place equipment. This can be done initially by implementing a plan to place equipment, furniture and consumables by their frequency of use. Not only does this help set up your lab quickly, but it creates an efficient lab, focussed on productivity and resource. Therefore, when planning your lab, it is crucial to consider all the equipment being used, not just the equipment in a specific lab.

Explore possible issues

Firstly, communication is essential: with the whole team, and with outsourced services. Communication means your team is kept informed about the whole project, meaning any issues can be resolved quickly, and any needed changes or requests will be quickly made. Secondly, cost can be a big issue, especially for labs with research grants, on a limited budget. However, measures need to be taken to preserve equipment, which may involve using specialist lab removalists. Some issues such as these might be hard to avoid in this context. Constant monitoring also is needed, so that any issues that may arise can be eliminated, and so that communication is present and effective.

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Avoid temporary labs

Temporary labs provide significant hassle and cost and use precious time, therefore should be avoided. They require double the amount of work, as two separate moves are required. If a lab transition is effectively planned, this will not be a needed alternative. Therefore, without a temporary lab, efficiency, money and time is maximised.

Effective steps to an effective transition

Setting up a team

Utilise key personnel in your relocation team

The first step to your move is to assign clear and concise roles to each staff member involved. Note that all staff members at the lab should be given relevant tasks and roles in the move. To do this, select team players to coordinate and manage the relocation.

Essential roles should be assigned to each member of your team, including areas such as:

• Team leader

• Logistics

• Equipment

• Consumables

• Communications

• Furnishings

• Systems (IT, etc.)

To make full use of the team, it is important that regular meetings are held, so that communication can be effectively maintained, and all members are kept up-to-date. Use of a team like this can be helpful, especially if you have a large staff.

Constant communication

It should be noted that all team members, especially your key personnel, should always be informed and up-to-date with all decisions and changes to the process. Lab workers should know how long their equipment will be out of action for and should be aware of important changes and considerations in their new workspace, so that the move is efficient and transparent. Everyone, from the cleaners to the facilities manager, should know the information relevant to their role, ensuring the move is fast yet manageable.

Planning

Recording equipment specs and needs

It is a good idea to document specifications of your equipment such as weight, dimensions and requirements and capabilities. This can be done on lab plans and in folders for your relocation and is a critical preparation step that can help save significant costs. If this is not done, the day of the move can be hampered time- and money-wise. Incorrect power supplies and fittings are expensive to replace and could affect the integrity of your research and data.

Planning your transport

Transport is self-evidently one of the most important factors in the transition. Knowing the guidelines; and knowing the functioning and requirements of your equipment, will assist in quickly gaining access to the correct facility or service, and will help you identify any storage or freight costs. It must be considered that specialist transport may be required for different types of research.

Equipment Requirements

Avoid contamination

Equipment for your lab always needs to be respected and carefully handled. During transportation and storage, it is important to ensure that no items are subject to cross-contamination. By maintaining this, your research will stay untainted for the new research facility. This will make sure that your research is 100% accurate.

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Preserve calibration

All labs possess some form of instrumentation, whether it be an SEM microscope or an analytical balance. Most of these require calibration to certify that the data it puts out is reliable and accurate. Taking these measures may need you to plan ahead: what procedures will you need to take to make sure the instruments and equipment you are moving need minimal adjustment once reinstalled. Take careful measures to ensure that your equipment is handled appropriately. Therefore, your research is not hampered as a result of transportation circumstances.

Comply with GMP and GLP requirements

Heavily regulated laboratories (as most are) need to ensure that they comply with the Goods Manufacturing (GMP) standards and Good Laboratory Practice (GLP) standards before and after the move. This makes sure that not only legal issues are met, but your lab continues sustainably operating. This should be addressed early on in the planning phase and requires considerable documentation.

Transportation

Use specialised transport

Many lab technicians and managers make the mistake of using regular transport services to move equipment and useable goods, to their misfortune. It is important to outsource and use specialised services to transport your property. In doing so, you are respecting and caring for your valuable tools. Just like a composer with his grand piano, you should value your equipment at the value of your research. Using specialists for your equipment transport saves you the risk of damage, preserves your research and other valuable items and provides a trustworthy service through which to run your freight.

Refrigerated goods

Many refrigeration requirements within the lab environment are very delicate, and often require specific temperature patterns and ranges. These cannot be maintained in standard transport (i.e. a truck with refrigeration). There is consequent need to keep reserve measures on hand for all cold goods, such as dry ice, liquid nitrogen, or a backup refrigerator. This therefore requires monitoring to ensure that your refrigerated goods are cared for.

Permits for hazardous materials

It is obviously necessary to obtain permits for and declare dangerous goods during transport. It is common for labs to possess material categorised as ‘dangerous’ or ‘hazardous’ by the transport laws in Australia. The requirements for these materials should be documented, so that effective planning is made, therefore making it easy to obtain information about the materials when transporting. This is an essential step because not only does it meet the legal requirements for the materials, it ensures the safety of your colleagues and the move. Therefore, you should obtain the relevant info regarding your chemicals and samples, then take subsequent steps to ensure safety and conformity to the legislation when transporting the materials.

Live animals

It is important to note the unique challenges presented when transporting live animals. When transporting animals, there are many things to consider: water, food and temperature, to name just a few. When transporting these animals, remember to look ahead and eliminate any threat, such as leaking water, contamination of food, sudden changes in temperature, and more. Checking these things will allow you to provide the most comfort and the least stress for your living lab tools. Transporting animals may also need Chain of Custody documentation, so that legal requirements and maximum security is guaranteed.

Chain of Custody (CoC)

CoC is an important measure to take when transporting confidential research, expensive equipment and lab animals. It is important to document this and monitor it so that security is ensured, and legal requirements are met. This is especially relevant to companies dealing with legal evidence and material, where it needs to be documented. It is important to pay special attention to this if it is relevant to your operations.

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Relocation planning

During the planning phase, it is necessary to pay attention to detail, which brings us to the next tip. This is to plan the route/s you will be taking to relocate your equipment. This may mean selecting a door through which to move your items. However, in complexes such as universities and food corporations, it may be necessary to review the specifications of your equipment and plan the route you will take to move it, so that nothing is overlooked, and your equipment is moved as efficiently as possible. In doing this, bear in mind doorways, lifts, common thoroughfares, et cetera. By planning your route, you will eliminate the possibility of damage caused during man-handling as well.

Tools

Relocations involve an extensive list of tools needed. This may not be physical tools per se but might be something like a planning tool with which to communicate and organise the relocation. It is important that something is used which will provide real-time updates, progress measurements, and status monitoring for equipment, roles and research. This kind of tool will need clarity and usability and will allow the staff to effectively fill out their role.

Don’t forget:

Before the move:

• Set aside all materials to be packed

• Label/tag all materials with destination (which area of the new lab they are assigned to)

• Inspect the new space regularly to track progress and check/respond to issues that may arise.

• Inspect the new space and the old, to plan the route you will take for transportation.

During the move

• Load your items based on whatever you want installed first.

• Therefore, load chemicals first, then equipment, then things like freezers or sample storage last, so that you can quickly install them upon moving.

After the move

• Inspect the old site, make sure it is clean and nothing is left behind.

• Recalibrate all equipment.

Conclusion

A lab relocation is an extensive, stressful and expensive activity; a typical lab relocation might require more than six months planning. There are two main phases, planning and moving. The planning, in a sense, is the most significant part of the move, and will require maximum attention to detail. The move phase depends on the planning phase for its success, and any oversight could potentially help you lose your years of research, or hold the move up for days, or even weeks. For your move as a whole, it is best to outsource to specialists for proper, experienced management of the move. This will help your lab personnel continue working, will help relieve the pressure on the lab management as a whole, and make an overall improvement on your move. Nonetheless, you will need a good leader to coordinate a trustworthy team, and ensure a minimum stress, maximum success relocation. A lab move is always an exciting transition for the whole team.

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