What is productivity leakage and how do you eliminate it?

Productivity Leakage

A lack of efficiency at many analytical laboratories constrains growth opportunities and even threatens the survival of the labs. Rather than poor management, the culprit is productivity leakage. Fortunately, by implementing Element LIMS from Promium, the leaks can be eliminated and productivity will increase.

Leakage occurs when resources are consumed by non-productive activities. Performing manual and redundant data entry, correcting errors, chasing paper around the lab, compiling reports, and repeating complex calculations are examples of non-productive activities. Such activities are often referred to as “waste” by aficionados of lean operations models. See list of Top Ten Leaks and Solutions below.

One primary reason for this leakage is that many labs have outgrown their sample control and information management systems. Layers of workarounds and manual procedures mask the underlying task. Like an old car that requires an additional quart of oil before every trip, the infrastructure requires extra resources to keep samples flowing. To compensate for workflow obstacles and keep up with sample volumes, lab personnel are forced to expend more energy and more hours than would otherwise be necessary.

Frequently, the inefficiencies build up unnoticed over time. A false impression develops that the status quo is optimized while unproductive activities persistently siphon off time and dollars that could be invested more effectively. There is a steady unrelenting erosion of financial and operational performance.

Eliminating the leaks

Eliminating the cause of the productivity leaks requires a re-plumbing of your information management system. When you are done, not only will the leaks be resolved, but the flow of information will be accelerated and there will be greater access to analytical and operational data.

To illustrate the impact of eliminating the leaks and improving efficiency, we conducted a survey of labs that have implemented Element LIMS. The results point to significant and broad opportunities.

  • Two out of three labs reported a significant increase in productivity after implementing Element LIMS.
  • The vast majority of those labs noted improvements of as much as 20-50 percent.
  • Based on the reported productivity improvements (stopping the leakage) we estimate that many of those labs may have been previously losing as much as five to ten percent off the bottom line.

The experiences at BSK and the City of Portland illustrate how implementing Element LIMS addressed productivity leakages at their laboratories. Their success provides insight into potential improvement opportunities at your lab.

BSK Laboratory Services Division

After years of modifying their existing laboratory information management system (LIMS), BSK Labs reached a point where that system became an impediment to growth. Producing reports in a complete and efficient manner, keeping their system current with analytical processes, and relying on internal programming resources all become overwhelming challenges. BSK Labs revamped and updated their information infrastructure by implementing Element LIMS from Promium. Streamlining sample management and automating reporting and QC activities have increased the Lab’s competitiveness and productivity. According to the Vice President of Laboratory Services at BSK at the time, implementation of Element LIMS had a direct and positive impact on productivity and quality. “Our productivity as a whole is up a solid 20% from where we were.” (see full case study)

City of Portland

The City of Portland Water Pollution Control Laboratory began to face an increasing level of analytical and operational complexity in their daily activities. Unfortunately, their laboratory information management system (LIMS) didn’t have the functional capabilities to meet their evolving needs. The leadership team looked for ways to automate many of the manual data entry tasks related to sample login, laboratory analysis, QC management, and report preparation and publication. After Element LIMS from Promium was implemented, the laboratory saw a noticeable improvement in productivity. The task of entering sample information went from fifteen minutes for two samples to thirty-five samples over two days—in the same time frame. “Element LIMS is easy, it’s fast, it does what I we need it to do.” said Jennifer Shackelford, QC Coordinator and LIMS Administrator.(see full case study)

Ten Common Productivity Leaks and Element LIMS Solutions

Leakage Element LIMS Solution
Manual upload of instrument data Automate instrument data upload with bi-directional integration.
Responding to client inquiries about sample status Internet-based portal to give clients with self-service, anywhere, anytime access to their project information and test results.
Manual report generation and data compilation Report templates, automated data package compilation, automated distribution, and user-friendly report writer tools.
Manually assembling management and operational reporting Centralized information management and standardized reporting for turn-around time, work order activity and other metrics.
Manually logging samples and assigning analyses Pre-logging samples, automated login, and streamlined analyses selection.
Computational burdens and external calculations Embedded calculations to eliminate repetitive manual work and add consistency and accuracy.
Manual sample tracking Internal chain of custody, bar coding, and intelligent data review with visual cues cut through the maze of data, simplifying sample management.
Manual scheduling of projects, and sample testing Automated and integrated generation of schedules, work orders, and testing.
Redundant manual data entry and error correction Closed-loop infrastructure—login through final report—including integrated QC data entry and review.
Disjointed and discontinuous workflow Task-based workflow modeled around standard laboratory activities to eliminate inefficient flow. Featured News & Articles Cannabis testing with Element LIMS Six Elements of a Successful LIMS Implementation How to stop productivity leakage Seven Keys that Unlock the LIMS Selection Process The Benefits of a configurable off-the-shelf LIMS (COTS)