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Efficient laboratory design.

Achieving optimal operational efficiency in today's clinical/diagnostic laboratory is imperative for short- and long-term success in this competitive marketplace. Operational efficiency can be achieved, maintained, and improved upon with visionary leadership, good cash flow, taking advantage of progressive operational business models, and efficient laboratory design.

Many factors influence an efficient laboratory design, including the number and type of workstations; work flow; operational business models; automated instrumentation/robotics; and quality of life in the lab. Test volumes, FTEs, and beds served by the laboratory should still be evaluated during the planning process, but are no longer the critical issues that drive the design.

In order to successfully achieve these objectives and incorporate the important criteria that enhance operational efficiency, the creation of a flexible, adaptable, and expandable laboratory design approach is imperative.

Flexibility, adaptability, expandability

The most effective way to achieve maximum flexibility, adaptability, and expandability is the utilization of an open laboratory plan. An open plan will enhance staff utilization, communications, supervision, and the ability to share equipment/instrumentation. The lab environment will be further augmented with flexible casework. Flexible casework systems provide an economical and efficient method for easily modifying workstations and support areas. An open laboratory plan with casework that can be reconfigured as instrumentation and workload are improved greatly enhances the functionality of the laboratory environment. Designing flexibility into the laboratory engineering systems will also enhance operational efficiency. Design features that will maximize adaptability within the lab include layering, reserve riser space, and accommodations for future capacity. An open laboratory plan will also provide the resiliency required to create innovative ergonomic and operationally efficient workstations.


Simply stated, workstations are the specific places within the laboratory that are used to prepare, perform, or report test results. The number, size, instrumentation, location, and specific function of a workstation are the key design criteria that must be thoroughly evaluated during the planning process. The workflow within the station must also be thoroughly analyzed down to the minute details, which include location of kneeholes, drawers, bench-top heights, and the location of floor-and bench-mounted instrumentation. Contingent upon current and proposed test volumes, and after the selection of instrumentation that will occupy and support each station, these areas can be sized and preliminary projections of the overall laboratory space requirements can be developed on the anticipated number and types of stations. Quicker turnaround times and greater volumes produced in less space, with fewer FTEs, can be accommodated with an efficient workstation configuration, location, and design. Proficient workstations will also accommodate the various operational business models, including Lean and Six Sigma.

Operational business models

Operational business models, including today's most talked about items--Lean and Six Sigma, can have a significant impact on operational capability and the design. For example, the implementation of the Lean-management approach will greatly impact the laboratory design. The elimination of waste within the design, combined with optimizing workflow, relationships, and adjacencies within the lab, can have a profound impact on operational competency. Having an even bigger impact on management organizational models is the introduction of automated instrumentation/robotics.

Automated instrumentation/Robotics

To maximize operational opportunities, it is mandatory to utilize automated instrumentation/robotics. The introduction of front-end processors and, ultimately, full robotic lines has organized processing, and impacted turnaround time for results. Initial investments in this technology are continually decreasing, allowing a significant percentage of the market to purchase this technology. No matter how high-tech a lab goes, a high-touch, more user-friendly environment is also critical for achieving and maintaining operational efficiency.


Quality of life

The creation of a better quality of life in the work environment is a high-priority item in today's marketplace. Staff recruitment, staff retention, marketing, public relations, education, and the promotion of laboratory medicine to the customer base and the public at large are important strategic objectives. A high-tech/high-touch design philosophy should be pursued to achieve these objectives. Specific design considerations include the use of natural light within the laboratory environment, administrative, and support space. Bright colors, interior landscaping, and original artwork are all effective approaches to softening the physical environment. Sound control is also important, and the use of carpeting, acoustical tile, and other noise-control features should be effectively utilized. Other amenities, including exercise/fitness areas, lockers, showers, lactation suites, and other specialized support areas should be considered when planning the lab.


An efficient lab design based on optimal work flow, workstations, effective operational business models, the accommodation of automated instrumentation/robotics, and sensitivity to the quality of life within the lab environment will make your chances for success more obtainable. Customized laboratory design is good business. Such a design promotes and supports operational efficiency which, in turn, enhances productivity and, finally, a healthier bottom line for the laboratory.



Ron W. Garikes is executive vice president and COO of Karlsberger Laboratory & Technology Group located in Birmingham, AL, and he can be reached at
COPYRIGHT 2006 Nelson Publishing
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Copyright 2006 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:LAB MANAGEMENT
Author:Garikes, Ron W.
Publication:Medical Laboratory Observer
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Aug 1, 2006
Previous Article:Design of Lean work cells: a Lean lab layout (part II).
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