Planning the equipment and facilities of laboratories ahead of time will undoubtedly deliver benefits on a grand scale when it comes to time, cost and efficiency. Westlab’s methodology to implement LEAN principles and Six Sigma define our commitment to ensuring that this facet of the approach to efficiency in lab designing – equipment planning – is done right the first time. The lab is a living system of people, equipment and services which must all operate collectively as a whole.

A laboratory is poor business if constructed without efficient planning of equipment and workflows. This is perhaps where modern laboratories rise above the traditionalist approach to laboratory design, which is where non-specialist architects will fall short. Without experience in specialist laboratory design, architects will not be able to deliver the goods to provide the return on investment and efficiencies that a laboratory has the potential to provide.

Westlab provide some inside knowledge on equipment planning so you can get the most out of your lab.

Refrigeration

Making the right choice on a refrigerator or freezer is a common decision in laboratory planning as this type of equipment is likely the most common piece of equipment within laboratories. This requirement – more common and important in such labs as genomics or genetics labs – is important to get right and can define the planning for the rest of the laboratory.

The temperature range is a key consideration when choosing and placing refrigeration units, which again relies on the laboratory’s key functions. A good thing to consider is whether your choice will be future proof, for example if the laboratory is going to expand down the track, in which case you may need increased cold storage capacity. It will also define the services needed. In many instances, larger 15-amp power sockets will be a requirement for high performance units such as ultra-freezers.

Ventilation for this may also be a requirement for cold storage, as well as proper space allowances on the top and/or back and sides.

Electricity

Typically, laboratory services require high levels of power and services, and thus basic operation needs often require large expenditure to maintain operation. Such needs include capable cooling and ventilation systems for the laboratory, as well as equipment throughout the lab which draws large volumes of energy. Although this might affect lean flow and planning efficiencies, grouping equipment that produces heat into one area will allow specific cooling of that area, so it does not affect the rest of the lab. This will save initial costs of procuring cooling units, and the ongoing cost of operation.

Another consideration is the comparatively high plug loads needed in most laboratories. Equipment such as centrifuges, cooling units or large equipment such as pathology immunoassay testing machines will draw large amounts of power and in some cases may require two or three phase power.

Safety Cabinetry

When working with chemicals and biosafety material, correct cabinetry and storage is essential to the proper functioning of the lab as well as meeting regulations and standards. Chemical safety cabinets, fume hoods and biological safety cabinets are wide in choice but must be planned according to the regulations and standards.

Fume hood placement is important to get correct the first time, as most fume hoods are fixed. However, this is made a lot easier by Westlab’s Ductless Fume Cupboards.  Using a HEPA H-14 Filter to recirculate air inside the hood, the unit is modular and flexible in its positioning. The use of this type of innovative equipment can ensure the laboratory design is future-proof, and that planning is made easier.

Water

Water supply is probably the largest need of most laboratories, with huge usage to operate equipment such as autoclaves, and needs such as water purification. Other high usage equipment includes single-pass cooling units and water deionisers. In the case of the latter, inefficiency from a relative point of view is very high, with 3 litres of water needed to make 1 litre of DI water. Autoclaves are another high inefficiency product, especially old machines, which can use over 200 litres of water in one cycle. Laboratory planners will need to consider the application of high-usage equipment, where in some cases laboratory units will likely service the whole building, e.g. in the case of a university. This may dictate the placement of fixed units, which may need to be out of high-traffic areas in the lab, so that they do not obstruct workflows. Conversely, areas with low needs and low traffic may be best suited with a portable and modular benchtop unit which can deliver equal results to larger units, however without the required volume output.

Sterilisation

Sterilisation units such as autoclaves are generally a common sight in laboratories. The sizing of your autoclave is a high-impact decision, as larger autoclaves will require larger piping, larger water volumes and increased internal building infrastructure. Sizing of your autoclaves and sterilisation units is an important decision that is important to obtain expert consultation about. Specialist laboratory designers and experts in this particular market are best to consult regarding your sterilisation needs, because overcapitalisation and overengineering is easy to rack up. Furthermore, the flip side of having larger sterilisation units is the ROI and the value you as the laboratory manager place on the space utilised.

Workflows and Comfort

Ergonomics in the laboratory is an absolutely essential consideration when planning, installing and implementing your laboratory system and is crucial to efficiency and productivity in the laboratory.

Not only furniture and benching ergonomics within the laboratory, but workflows, all have a profound effect on the functioning of the laboratory. As well as the avoidance of RSI which is common in laboratory settings in activities such as pipetting, sorting, examining samples and operating a piece of equipment, ergonomics in planning and implementation will ensure that maximum efficiency can be achieved. Lack of ergonomics in the laboratory setting will have an impact on physical as well as mental and emotional performance.

Workflow optimisation aims to minimise the effort needed and wastage of movement in routine activities. This is difficult to achieve but can be implemented by laboratory planning specialists who are experts in the field. By doing so, throughput and efficiencies as well as maximum return on investment in the laboratory can be reached, all while providing ultimate working conditions for lab personnel.