Lab inventory management is often not the first priority of biotech companies trying to stay ahead in a competitive environment. But according to a report released by the EU commission, the hidden costs of inefficient lab practices are estimated to exceed €10B every year. Novel lab inventory management solutions can thus reduce costs and push a lab’s efficiency limits.
The success of biotech companies depends on the innovative capacity and scientific skill of their research staff to make discoveries and develop new therapies. However, many researchers spend too much time shuffling through cabinets, searching for the chemicals or materials needed for their experiments, which often get delayed because the reagents are used up or expired.
“In one of our recent surveys conducted by C&EN, 90% of scientists said they struggle to find the storage location of consumables, even with some sort of tool in place meant to facilitate the process,” said Roja Azees, Senior Product Manager, Connected Lab at Merck KGaA. “More than half of the researchers acknowledged discarding unused or expired stock, resulting in sunken costs.”
Moreover, spending too much time on routine inventory upkeep leads to professional dissatisfaction, increasing employee turnover. Eventually, companies might lose skilled researchers and risk their competitive advantage.
“Merck has thus created the LANEXO® Lab Inventory, Safety, and Compliance Management System to address the pain points of lab inventory management at every step,” added Azees.
Moving towards efficient lab inventory management
The LANEXO® system controls and monitors all consumables used in a lab and is easy to set up. When a reagent is added to the database for the first time, a smartphone app scans the QR codes already printed on the reagent bottles to retrieve product data, including safety and storage information. Alternatively, these data can be entered manually.
The actual bottle is then labeled with a proprietary Smart Seal Label containing a radio-frequency identification (RFID) tag and a tamper loop; scanning it links the consumable to the database. “When a reagent bottle is opened for the first time, the tamper loop on the Smart Seal Label is broken, generating a timestamp for automated expiry date calculation,” Azees said.
Storage cabinets are also equipped with RFID labels, and scanning both the cabinet label and the reagent label defines the exact consumable location. For an easy storage compliance check, a warning message is displayed if a reagent is stored incorrectly; for example, when placing acids in a cabinet reserved for bases.
On the day of the experiment, researchers can quickly obtain information on the location of reagents closest to the expiry date, reducing the time required for experiment preparation and avoiding unnecessary lab waste.
Supporting regulatory compliance
Biotechs that are subject to audits by regulatory bodies are especially affected by poor lab inventory management. Failure to provide consumable information to a regulatory authority can result in a warning or a heavy fine of up to 30% of the company’s annual revenue. Needless to say, the experimental data generated are then deemed worthless, meaning financial losses, wasted time, and a potential hit to the company’s reputation.
The LANEXO® system also serves as a regulatory compliance management system, providing full traceability of the consumables used to generate a particular dataset.
Using proprietary identifier labels, buffers and semi-finished goods prepared on-site can be registered for the audit trail. Similarly, samples can be labeled for complete documentation of the experimental setup.
The reagents are also tracked for their expiry date, keeping the parent-child relationship right down to the particular vendor and lot number of all chemicals used, for example, to prepare the buffers required for a specific experiment. This detailed information ensures data integrity and quality and facilitates root cause analysis to verify data discrepancies or unexpected results.
Smart experiment planning and inventory management
As the LANEXO® system is based around a mobile app, it is easy and intuitive to use. Stock level monitoring and experiment planning are possible from any location, allowing both researchers and purchasing agents to work remotely or even plan their daily activities on the train to work.
Purchasing agents can set a restock rule that generates an automated message when a consumable is close to running out, maintaining reagent stocks while reducing the number of discarded items. Researchers can then locate the reagents they need in the quantity and quality required to generate meaningful data.
Less administration, more innovation
Setting up the LANEXO® system is straightforward, allowing labs to benefit from savings quickly. “Our survey showed that automated consumable expiration tracking can reduce sunk costs due to spoilage by up to 75%,” Azees stated.
Digitizing day-to-day admin tasks can also free up time for creative and innovative research, improving scientist motivation and helping the company stay ahead of the competition.
Discover how the LANEXO® Lab Inventory, Safety, and Compliance Management system can add to the efficiency and productivity of your lab!
Images reproduced with permission from Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany and/or its affiliates
This article was originally published in April 2022.