May 30, 2022
Roja Azees is the Product Manager of LANEXO® System from Merck’s Connected Lab digital program. She is a biotechnologist with over 8 years of combined experience in sales, marketing, and product management in the life science sector.
Q: Why is it important for labs to manage their chemical inventory, and what are current practices for this?
A: Laboratories need to manage their chemical inventory to ensure that their reagents are stocked and available for experiments, as well as to dispose of and replace expired chemicals. In addition, chemicals in the inventory must be stored, maintained, and handled according to compliance and safety protocols.
Current practices for chemical inventory involve manually checking the status of reagents, recording inventory in paper binders, Excel sheets, or whiteboards, reordering reagents, and preparing for regulatory audits. Many of these time-consuming, administrative tasks for manual inventory management can be minimized with digital solutions.
Q: What safety considerations are involved in handling the chemical inventory, and how can they be addressed?
A: Lab personnel know that they should refer to the Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) for each chemical they will be handling. However, during an experiment, they are often pressed for time and may return or dispose of chemicals incorrectly. Instead of having to look through a binder or computer folder in the middle of an experiment, our digital inventory approach allows you to simply scan the item’s identification tag (RFID) with your smartphone or tablet for our app to tell you how to correctly store or dispose of the chemical.
Q: Chemical waste pollutes the environment, as well as increases business costs. How can we prevent laboratory waste?
A: Labs sometimes purchase chemicals in bulk to avoid shortages during experiments, and sometimes chemicals just get buried deep in storage cabinets. Once these chemicals expire, they must be thrown out, creating waste. By digitally tracking inventory and automating the reordering process, labs can purchase exactly what they need when they need it, which reduces both cost and waste.
Q: During the pandemic, labs have focused on employee job satisfaction to prevent burnout and maintain innovation and productivity. How can inventory management practices improve job satisfaction?
A: According to a customer survey we conducted in 2021, a key issue with current practices is that highly trained professionals responsible for planning and executing experiments spend up to 25 percent of their time on repetitive administrative tasks for inventory management. Without proper inventory, it is also difficult for lab personnel to coordinate with each other, particularly when colleagues are working remotely. Digital inventory management successfully addresses these challenges so that lab employees can save time and focus on their experiments, contributing to overall job satisfaction.
Q: How does chemical inventory management help lab leaders?
A: A question that comes up often is whether changing how we do these small tasks actually has an impact on overall lab operations. If one person spends 25 percent of their time on inventory, multiplied by the 10 or 50 personnel in that lab, the time lost really adds up! This is an important consideration for lab leaders, alongside preparing for regulatory audits and reducing chemical waste. Overall, digital solutions for inventory management help labs operate smoothly and cost-efficiently.