4 reasons why you should know the actual use of your equipment

posted on
September 28, 2023
Barbara Van Cauwelaert
While many labs rely on scheduling systems to keep track of equipment reservations and availability, there's a critical need to go beyond these scheduling systems and collect data on the actual usage of equipment. In this article, we'll explore four compelling reasons why tracking the actual usage of your equipment is essential for effective lab management.

1. Optimise equipment scheduling

As a lab manager, you want to optimise planning of your equipment. A booking system allows multiple users to plan jobs but it is flawed in two aspects. One, it does not show when machines are being booked for longer times than the jobs actually need. That means those machines are blocked but in fact sitting idle. With numbers on actual usage, you could suggest average times to perform a particular job. Two, with data on actual usage, you would be able to identify and approach the people that book equipment but don't show up. This would foster a culture of more ownership benefiting the lab in all areas.

2. Accurate invoicing

Experience teaches us there are substantial differences between booking times and actual usage. That means you are either invoicing too much or too little to other users. With hard data on actual usage, you are always sure to invoice the correct amount. You can also avoid lengthy discussions with people disputing invoices.

3. Fostering an open lab culture

When you have a system in place that tracks actual usage like ours, bookings don't have to be mandatory. This offers researchers more freedom and autonomy in their work. If they suddenly realise they need to perform one last task on a machine they haven't booked to complete a test, they can still go ahead with it. In this sense, tracking actual usage promotes an open lab culture.

4. Scheduling maintenance when it is due

With insights in the actual amount of total run hours of your equipment, you know exactly when to plan maintenance. Maybe an instrument is only used  50% of the times it is booked. Think of users arriving late, taking time to prepare and finishing early. Then maintenance can be planned a lot later than the booking times indicate, when it is actually due. So thanks to this data, you can intervene at exactly the right time and reduce maintenance costs.

The grey bars are the bookings, the blue bars indicate the actual use times of the instrument.

In conclusion

Tracking actual use compared to only booked times of equipment clearly enables you to optimise your lab in terms of scheduling, accurate invoicing and maintenance planning. In addition, you can set policies on no shows and offer researchers more freedom in their work.

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