September 28, 2023
Adding equipment, software tools and members to the team are exciting parts of lab growth, but excitement can wane as lab members realize that inventory management did not keep pace. In many cases, labs are using low-tech options such as Excel spreadsheets or disparate paper-based systems to manage their lab inventory. These approaches confound as each lab manager creates their own unique way of managing inventory, resulting in redundant purchases and an excess of lab materials. Or worse — running out of vital inventory, leading to a significant disruption in lab operations.
Lab inventory management systems address these challenges by helping labs transition from a diverse array of paper clipboards and spreadsheets to a centralized and ordered system. All of this makes it easier to locate and track a wide variety of lab inventory, such as specimens, clinical samples, cultures and culture media, collection kits, protective gear, and chemicals and buffers.
Lab inventory systems are software tools used to track and manage materials and supplies within a laboratory, ensuring organization and accessibility of resources. These systems are built to improve lab efficiency, allow accurate stock control, forecast future usage, prevent waste, and maintain regulatory requirements and accountability.
Lab inventory systems address common issues that labs encounter. For labs using Excel templates for their inventory management, these systems can address problems like manual data entry errors, accidental cell or file deletions, minimal permissions control, lack of concurrent entry, and little to no integration with other data sources. For those still working in pen and paper notebooks or other low-tech solutions, system adopters have a lot to gain. A few key motivators are the ability to centralize storage information, allow digital access from any lab space or office, automate entries, and speed up inventory tracking and data entry.
Some lab inventory systems are more flexible than others, with the more robust systems offering a wide range of control over permissions. Many systems allow fields to be customized to specific lab requirements, and integrate easily with assay data, sample management, and electronic lab notebooks. If some of these options seem extraneous, there are still essentials to any lab inventory system that you should look for as you consider adopting a new software choice.
Inadequate inventory control in a lab causes redundancy, confusion and decreased efficiency in lab operations. This can potentially lead to problems like financial loss, project delays, compliance issues, and loss of samples and data. To avoid these consequences, labs should take proactive steps towards exploring and investing in an effective lab inventory system. Embracing modern solutions is key to aligning laboratory inventory management with laboratory growth.