Continuing our series of monthly blogs on the value of different lab KPIs, this post explores asset utilization metrics. In contrast with the previous posts that presented quantitative measures of performance against benchmarks – for instance, monitoring due date adherence by comparing actual delivery dates against targets or analyzing actual performance against pre-determined figures – utilization metrics offer a more qualitative look at lab performance.
Why asset utilization data is business critical
Modern laboratories are lean and dynamic environments employing multi-specialism teams with overlapping responsibilities and complex equipment with specific functions, all working on a range of tasks.
Not all such tasks will fall into the same category of work. From a business perspective, greater emphasis is typically placed on work that is directly linked to revenue generation.
- In a QC lab, for instance, revenue is generated from the successful completion of testing activities according to client demand
- A significant proportion of operational time in QC labs is therefore dedicated to testing activities
- Among other tasks, these can include the preparation, analysis, and validation of test sampling
- However, analyst and equipment time is also required for other, non-testing tasks
- Examples include analytical method validation activities, device maintenance and calibration, environmental control responsibilities, staff training, etc
- Some non-testing activities, while not directly generating income, nonetheless enhance the business offering by improving the quality of the working environment or utility of assets, thus positively impacting overall service delivery
- Such value-add tasks might include training staff to use specific devices, calibrating and maintaining equipment, lab cleaning tasks, planning activities, etc.
- Meanwhile, other tasks may still be central to the day-to-day management of the lab that must be logged as utilized time but which are considered as non value-add, such as staff meetings, HR training, absences, etc
As with any business, it is vital to optimize the time spent on the different categories of task such that revenue generation and value-add activities are prioritized wherever possible. This ultimately increases the quantity and the quality of output, therefore maximizing revenue by successfully meeting as much demand as possible.
Improving asset utilization
QC labs can enhance their asset utilization by monitoring the nature of the activities being performed, including the amount of staff and equipment time being dedicated to each type of task. Such information can be captured via various key performance indicators, or KPIs. These can include:
- Task category overviews, describing the proportion of work dedicated to:
- Planned (i.e. utilized) time vs unplanned (i.e. free) time
- Testing vs non-testing activities
- Value-add vs non value-add
- Sample types analysis, detailing time spent testing specific types of sample such as:
- Environmental samples
- Release testing
- Stability testing
- Activity type breakdowns, detailing time spent on specific tasks such as:
- Test execution
- Analysis preparation
- Validation activities
- Equipment calibration
- Asset utilization, to review workload distribution across assets, including:
- Time spent by specific team members on specific task types
- Time spent using specific devices for particular task types
With clear visibility on past and project asset utilization, management can adjust workload distribution to help achieve an optimal balance.
How Binocs can help
Are you looking for ways to reduce costs associated with your QC operations? Binocs comes equipped with a range of standard KPI dashboards that have been designed to help labs stay on top of the performance metrics, identify areas of improvement and take action.. You can use our Business Case Calculator to get a ballpark figure estimation of just how much costs reduction you could achieve, taking into account your unique lab parameters.
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Karen Van Den Bossche
Following her degree in Bioengineering, Karen spent 13 years working at Siemens as a LIMS specialist and R&D and PLM consultant in laboratories at global companies including Milcobel, Cargill, Merck, BioNTech, P&G, and many others across a range of industries. A great enthusiast for travel, exploration, and learning, since Karen joined Bluecrux as a Solution Manager in 2021, she has spearheaded the journey towards our new suite of Binocs dashboards and KPI reporting tools.