Importance Of Understanding Workflow Before Designing Your New Laboratory


What Is Workflow?

Workflow is the set of tasks grouped chronologically into a process and the people or resources needed for those tasks, that are necessary to achieve a goal. A laboratory workflow is comprised of the set of processes it needs to achieve and the set of people or other resources available to perform those processes, and the connections between them.

Why develop a workflow process diagram?

Development of a custom workflow process for your laboratory will:

  1. Improve Space Allocation
  2. Improve Efficiency
  3. Increase Adaptability
  4. Increase Cost-Effectiveness
  5. Minimise Movement
  6. Increase Safety

The purpose of the workflow diagram is to come up with an outcome to provide an optimized and lean laboratory facility. The workflow process diagram will help you and your team understand each other’s opinions and view on the process current process and will promote healthy discussion on how you can improve an existing process. Without a doubt, understanding your process can enlighten you to obvious inefficiencies and can potentially result in immediate time, motion and monetary savings in your existing space.

How do I conduct a workflow diagram effectively?

Put aside some time with your team to execute this project as it can be difficult and inaccurate if you do this on your own. It is a great idea to get all your laboratory team together in a room for a workflow workshop.  You will need 1 person to run this meeting and ask key question whilst documenting the process.  If you have multiple laboratory types such as a chemistry laboratory and a microbiology laboratory, it is a great idea to separate the workflow diagrams for each lab type. Ask questions such as:

  1. What is the laboratory type?
  2. How many processes within that laboratory?
  3. What is the first step? E.g. Incoming Samples.
  4. What is the next step, and the next step etc…?
  5. What key equipment in needed in each step? E.g. Balances, Incubators, Microscopes etc…
  6. What are the key services needed with each piece of equipment?

Who should I include in the workflow process meeting?

Include existing laboratory staff as they will know the process the best! Producing a laboratory workflow will assist you in the build or refurbishment of your new lab space as there are many opinions on the question of the best use of laboratory space. Different stakeholder groups in your laboratory will often have different views, and each person within these groups will have their own set of priorities. At the end of the day, the same object should be shared by all, the arrangement and layout should promote safety and efficiency for your research staff.

What does a simple workflow look like?

In the below, we have given you an example of an organics laboratory workflow diagram. This diagram was performed for a wastewater laboratory facility and one of 5 processes.  Additional detail can be included to assist with planning the new space such as power, gas, data, drain and water requirements in each step of the process. This will help eliminate oversights in services when planning the new laboratory space.



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