Latest News

Waste Elimination in Laboratory Design – Applying Lean Principles to Leverage ROI

Realising the Return on Investment in your proposed laboratory space can be achieved through understanding waste elimination and types of waste that directly or indirectly effect cost per sample or economic denominator.

Waste reduces the capacity of a laboratory to reach its objectives in the most efficient manner; it uses limited resources in ways that do not contribute to the organisation’s overall goals. Lean is an organisational performance management system characterised by a collaborative approach between employees and managers to identify and minimise or eliminate activities that do not create value for the customers of a business process, or stakeholders.

One way to strive toward a goal of perfection is by remaining constantly aware of waste so it can be potentially eliminated. Eight sources of waste have been identified that detract from the value a customer receives from a business process. Educating employees about the eight sources of waste and conducting team-based reviews of business processes to look for and correct them can yield substantial benefits.

Waiting Time

Waiting is the idle time created when employees wait for parts, materials, lab equipment, information from co-workers, help, etc. Wait time translates into downtime when people and equipment are not creating value. Some of the potential causes of waiting include unbalanced workload among employees, too few office machines, lack of a clear process, quality problems at steps earlier in the process, or waiting for a signature approval. Solutions to excessive wait time depend on the root cause.

Ideas to reduce waiting time.

  • Invest in faster test methods.
  • Better inventory control.
  • Labour Balance.
  • Increase equipment to reduce bottlenecks.
  • Improve quality.

Over Processing

This kind of waste can apply to a lot of everyday things we do in the laboratory and results when a product is made in greater amounts than necessary. The root causes of over-processing include a poor understanding of the customer’s true requirements, the failure to communicate customer requirements to workers, or failing to design the products of a process to conform to customer requirements. Common examples of this are over-produced reports that are too long, copying more people than necessary on correspondence, distributing information that isn’t read, capturing and creating services or rules that aren’t needed.

Ideas to eliminate over processing in the laboratory.

  • Keep communication precise and accurate.
  • Send communication to only people relevant.
  • Keep reports precise and accurate.
  • Order consumables based on need over against bulk.

Over Production

Overproduction is when you make too much of something or you perform too much of a service for some one. Copying too many agendas for a meeting is a typical example of over production. Have you every as a question about something, and the individual goes on and on answering your question when all you wanted was the simple answer? This is overproduction.

Ideas to reduce overproduction

  • Eliminate Unnecessary Work
  • Answer questions directly and precisely
  • Train staff so they are multi-skilled.
  • Produce to a forecast
  • Improve automation
  • Obtain better scope of works


In any process, work need to be performed correctly the first time. A defect happens when incorrect or incomplete work is sent to the next step in the process or to the customer. Avoiding defects starts with understanding the customer’s definition of service quality.

Ideas to reduce defects and complaints

  • Preventative Maintenance
  • Inspection Advances
  • Communication
  • Automatic Triggers, Poka-yoke


The lean waste known as excess motion is exactly that. Having to move more often, over a greater distance, with greater effort than might be truly necessary. In our set of daily operations, we all have to move. The process of creating value for customers all but necessitates our physical moving of something; raw materials, finished product, even keys on the computer keyboard. While we can’t completely eliminate it from our processes it is certainly worth our while to reduce the time and effort we devote to it.

Ideas to eliminate over processing in the laboratory.

  • Create a spaghetti diagram to see how your lab flows.
  • Motion map your laboratory space and look at workflow.
  • Look at repositioning equipment to align with workflow.
  • Purchase more equipment to assist with double handling
  • Look ROI on automation to reduce motion.


In an administrative process, the sum of all tasks waiting to be processed is considered inventory or backlog. One of the main causes of inventory or backlog is poor balancing of workloads, mainly when work is handled in large batches. When a staff wait for a significant amount of work to pile up before processing it, the process flow grinds to a stop. Other causes include sub-optimal housekeeping E.g. poor filing or record keeping, or lost documents and insufficient communication.

Ideas to reduce inventory.

  • Identify a bottle-neck in your process and improve it.
  • Negotiate with suppers for better terms to assist with reduction of Inventory.
  • Consider cloud filing to reduce physical space in files etc…
  • Colour code and labels storage area so inventory can be found and accounted for.


Transporting anything that does not directly add value to a final product or service is another form of waste. This includes not only materials and documents, but also moving staff to different offices and desks to complete a process.

Ideas to reduce transport.

  • Double handling within a process
  • Increase volume of equipment that is overused.
  • Transport directly to user instead of holding bays
  • Look at better laboratory space layout
  • Misaligned process flow.


Studies indicate that staff lose a substantial amount of time each day because their work area is disorganised. Disorganisation causes employees to spend over 12 percent of their workday trying to find information they already have, instead of supporting customers, improving processes and helping to make their laboratory a better facility. The 5S Steps are a great place to make your space a more efficient space.

Ideas to reduce waste in space.

  • Sort – Determine what is needed and what is not needed.
  • Set in Order – Control at glance.
  • Shine – Structured cleaning roster performed routinely
  • Standardise – Repeatability of prior steps.
  • Sustain – Create a culture of continues improvement across the company.


18 September 2020


Ready to discuss a project?

Call us on 01527 834798 or fill in the contact form below