We are advancing in the 21st century at extraordinary speeds. As we begin to see robotics and automation becoming more prevalent in laboratories, it has become clear that a lean laboratory process needs to be implemented to ensure that you’re making the most out of this incredible technology. Not only will a lean process allow you to perform at optimal efficiency, it will also give your lab a competitive edge on a multinational scale. Let’s explore 4 ways in which you can add to the lean process of your laboratory.

Minimising Motion

How your laboratory is set up plays a big role in efficiency. Using a process such as a Spaghetti Diagram can visually show wasteful and needless activities to reduce this unnecessary motion. You can start this process by getting an up-to-date floor plan of your laboratory and then you simply track the average movements of lab personnel by day or hour. These movements are drawn onto the floor plan to create the Spaghetti Diagram which will begin to look like the example below.

Estimate the total distance walked in metres per day and multiply this out to working days per year to give you have a total number of metres walked. Next, create a new proposed layout that would reduce a lot of this wastage map this movement onto the new layout. It’s a good idea to get your team involved in this proposed layout to look at ways to minimise motion. This could be as simple as duplicating items such as bins, stock locations, copiers, sinks, and balance benches. Speak to a lean consultant at Modulab for more ideas.


Once you’ve got your new lean layout finalised, it’s time to convert this time saving into cost savings. Time is money! Consider a presentation to qualify your proposal showing the existing layout and the proposed layout. Highlight all costs of the project and then compare with time savings. To convert your time saving to a dollar amount, use the below formula.


(Time Saved (hrs) x Number of working days (per year)) x Average wage (per Hr) = Dollars Saved per Year
e.g. (4 x 261) x 40 = $41,760 savings per year


Inventory Management

Inventory management remains one of the single most effective ways to reduce costs and improve productivity in the lab. Depending on the size of your laboratory, you may need specialised software to manage inventory or for most laboratories, a simple Kanban trigger system will ensure that you will keep sufficient levels of inventory and never run out of stock. It will also assist with inventory demand fluctuations creating a pull system. In this article called 4 Tips to Manage Laboratory Inventory, we go over exactly how to set up a simple, but effective Kanban inventory management system. In short, the article goes over the following 4 areas:

1. Take Stock of Everything
2. Sort out your Minimum and Maximum Stock Levels
3. Get your Inventory Organised and Stored
4. Set up a Reorder System

Creating a lean laboratory doesn’t have to be a substantial undertaking, you can work in stages to get the lean laboratory that is going to put you ahead of the pack. Look at what is going to save you the most time, money, and resource and begin with those projects.

Looking to further discuss leaning up your laboratory?Speak to a lean consultant at Westlab on 1800 358 101.