As your laboratory professional, I will be very direct with you: most laboratories lack consistency in their testing procedures and systems. This is mostly due to personal preference or because of limited resources such as reagents and equipment.
Many times, there are also variations in how different people run tests due to personal preferences or technology limitations. For example, some technicians use dry chemistry methods for certain analytes while others don’t.
There may even be discrepancies between what method a person uses when they run a test, which can sometimes lead to false results. All of these things contribute to poor accuracy and precision of a given lab test protocol.
In fact, many labs that claim to have consistent and accurate results are actually not! It is important to have quality control measures in place to ensure this. But unfortunately, this isn’t always the case.
Fortunately, we all work in similar environments at least somewhat so we can learn from each other’s mistakes and strategies. By looking into the practices of other like professionals, we can pick up tips and tricks to make our own routines more efficient and effective.
That is why I would love to talk to you about something called “lab design and build out consulting.” This is an ever-growing field that has become increasingly popular over the past few years.
Business owners who want help running their laboratory effectively hire consultants to do it for them.
History of the laboratory
A good place to begin understanding more about analytical laboratories is by looking at their history. The term “laboratory” comes from the Latin word for study, lares. In ancient Greece, people gathered in public spaces to do things like measure moisture content in plants or check liquid levels.
These tasks needed to be done carefully, so Greeks invented what we know as precision now. They assigned numbers to describe how well something was done and used these numbers to make predictions based on those descriptions. For instance, if a recipe called for two cups of milk then they would estimate that it contained one percent milk (two divided by three equals one).
If you ever see a list with percentages next to them, this concept has carried over! These lists are often referred to as percentage scales. Technically speaking though, they are not proportions, but ratios! This makes sense because a ratio does not have an exact amount of each element, only a proportion of one ingredient to another.
This way, no matter which number you pick as your final result, the equation will always work! Scientists eventually put all of these concepts together into one thing, and that thing is a scale. Scales play an important role in science due to their ability to quantify items easily.
As mentioned before, your laboratory will play an integral role in ensuring that your testing is of the highest quality and accuracy. It will also be a place where you can do some quick data collection or analysis.
The way that your laboratory is set up heavily impacts what you are able to measure and how well it functions. For example, if you want to test for glucose levels, then you must have access to blood samples!
There are several types of laboratories with different purposes. General clinical labs perform tests for most major organ systems in order to identify disease or indicate potential illness.
Specialty clinics and hospitals may focus more on specific diseases like diabetes or heart conditions. Some even offer services such as DNA profiling or genetic screening which can help determine future health plans.
Research labs exist to conduct studies and experiments. This could be anything from looking at the effects of nutrition on weight loss to exploring new methods to diagnose diseases.
All of these settings require adequate space and resources for proper functioning. Make sure to look into the specifics of each type of lab before picking out equipment and supplies.
Equipment and materials
As with any project, finding the right equipment to meet your needs is the first step towards starting up your lab! There are several ways to start off depending on what you want to test and how much money you have to invest.
You can begin by looking into free or inexpensive tools that can be used for testing. Some of these include having a spectrophotometer to measure colors, an optical microscope to examine cells, and a gas chromatograph/mass spectrometer (GC-MS) to check for chemicals in samples.
These three pieces of technology work by detecting specific compounds or elements within the sample. For example, a GC-MS will identify different chemical components in liquid samples such as urine, blood, or water. By comparing this list to those of known chemicals, you can determine if something was found in the specimen or not.
There are many companies that offer all three of these pieces of technology either completely or affordably. While it may be hard to decide which one is best for you, do some research and see what each offers. You will know what features matter most to you and being able to compare prices across vendors can’t hurt!
Another good way to find equipment is through charities and fundraisers. Many labs hold raffles or giveaways events where people can win free gear or discounts on commercial kits.
Staffing the laboratory
As with any business, staffing your lab will vary depending on how much work you have and what kind of workload you can get. There are several factors that determine how many researchers or analytical professionals you need to run your lab.
The first is whether you want to start off as full-time staff or part time. Starting off as a part-timer may be more feasible if this is your first experience running a laboratory, but it can make it harder to recruit and retain top quality talent.
If you do plan on being able to pay high salaries, then starting out as full-timers may be the better option.
Organization of the laboratory
The next major component of your lab’s design is organization. This includes where you keep specimens, reagents, and equipment as well as how you organize your work areas and computer systems.
Your organizational system should be one that you feel confident using consistently every time you use the facility, so test yours out for a few days to see if it works well for you.
Making changes to your current setup can be difficult at first, but hopefully only take a couple hours to figure out!
If something seems wrong or does not function properly, try to determine what part is having an issue and fix that first. For example, if there was never enough space in your refrigerator to cool down your samples, invest in a second fridge or find ways to use the existing space efficiently.
Once everything has been fixed, repeat this process with the other items.
Procedures in the laboratory
In any laboratory, there are several procedures that must be done to perform certain tests. These testing procedures usually involve mixing components together or heating up substances before performing the test. Some of these testing procedures require very specific temperatures, while others do not.
For example, you may need to heat a liquid until it reaches its boiling point, then mix it with another substance at a specified ratio. This is how most chemical reactions work, so knowing what temperature to use when doing this can help start new experiments!
There are many different ways to design your analytical lab depending on your goals. For instance, if you want to make sure your chemicals are safe for human consumption, you will have to get certified as an analyst and have appropriate licenses.
Quality and regulatory requirements
As mentioned before, there are many different specifications that laboratories have to meet for their facilities to be considered adequate. These include various categories such as internal quality control standards, external accreditation agencies’ guidelines, national regulations, etc.
Some of these require very specific equipment and procedures to be in place while others ask if those things exist at all. There is no set list across industries and countries as what must be present so it is best to do your research ahead of time!
Many times, however, people get hung up on whether or not their laboratory needs an ultracentrifuge (for example) or not. This can sometimes create quite the bottleneck when trying to find someone to do additional work for you.
As mentioned earlier, there are several ways to be a laboratory consultant. One of the most popular is as an internal services provider for your company. This can mean helping design new facilities, revamping current labs, or both!
As with any type of consulting, their is no one way to do it better than another. What matters more than what method you use is that you love what you do and have fun while doing it!
That being said, not all laboratories need to look the same. In this article we will discuss some things about how different types of laboratories work so that you know which style fits you best!
We will also talk about other things such as why having an analytical chemist in your lab is important, what equipment you should include, and some tips for keeping up on your game. All of these things relate back to designing and running your own personal quality control (QC) lab.