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Tips and Tricks for Lab Efficiency Volume 1

Times of disruption often offer us a chance to change habits, take stock and reflect on the ways we’ve always done things.

Many of you will be itching to get back into the lab and implement some of the things you’ve been reflecting on. With that in mind, we’ve been pestering our well seasoned members of staff for the helpful tips and tricks they’ve picked up over the years.

Some of them are seemingly small in their potential impact but add up to more than the sum of their parts. 

Others are larger in scope.

Hopefully at least one of these might help your lab run just a little bit smoother. 

Mark Perkins – Senior Application Chemist

Only buy what you need!

By that I mean chemicals and standards.

Often, when you buy chemical X it will be £35 for 5 mL and £39 for 100 mL, seems obvious which one to buy!? The 100 mL, better value for money … but, I only need 1 mL and at some point will need to dispose of the remain 99 mL, which costs a lot more than any “value for money” you might think you get for bulk buying…

Ah… you say, hang onto the remaining 99 mL – I am sure I will use it in the future! But what about the expiry date? If it goes off before you use it – what a waste!

Simon – Senior Support Engineer

If you can’t find the time to be healthy, you’ll have to make time to be sick.

It used to be a gamble to restart a PC connected to an instrument. Would it start an update that takes hours? Would it save my settings? Would it turn back on at all?

Even if you dodged all of those bullets, it would take at least 5-10 minutes. When you’d be working to tight operating procedures on shifts, and nothing was obviously wrong, it wasn’t exactly a priority. So people just wouldn’t restart their machines.

Even now when computers are far more reliable and restarts take a couple of minutes, this technical hangover persists.

Computers need local disk space to run smoothly and reliably but after a while their page files fill up, causing a significant drop in performance. This creates knock on problems which have the potential to knock out systems. These then need addressing, often halting operations for days at a time through callouts.

In my meandering experience, many problems can be avoided with one simple, effective and highly clichéd piece of advice. It only takes 5 minutes and you only have to do it once a week.

Turn it off and on again.

Sean O’Connor – Account Manager – Midlands, Wales and the South West

Quieten your lab with Cryostatic Cooling.

It’s essentially a bench-top cryostatic cooling device that uses ethanol to provide cryogen-free cooling to temperatures as low as -40˚. It’s not right for everyone but for flavour extraction purposes it’s proving to be a solid, low maintenance option.

As well as saving certain labs cash on Liquid Nitrogen, it has less easily quantified benefits for the people who use it. 

No more hauling dewars into the lift, then racing them up the stairs. No more loud tttssssssh of Liquid Nitrogen going into an instrument. No more fear of the cylinder venting fully in an enclosed space reducing oxygen below safe levels. In short, this unassuming bench top box has made a significant impact on the working enjoyment of the people who work near it.

Kathy RidgwaySenior Applications Chemist 

Remotely Connect to your lab.

Look after your system from home (well maybe not at weekends!) and save waiting once you’re at work. Being able to tune or vent before my commute means I can get to work as soon as I’ve had a cup of tea (don’t take hot drinks into the lab). Sometimes it means I can avoid coming into the lab completely!

Get your own tools

(Or at least extremely tidy draws). In the time I’ve spent looking for spanners/column cutters/ferrules etc, I could probably have studied for another couple of degrees by now.

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