Lab management is a demanding task and while it touches on business management, there is no official education track for a new PI who needs to manage everything from finance, research progression and human resources. Today I will discuss ways for a PI (or any lab member) to improve ordering and storage usage.
A few days ago I had a talk with a colleague of mine about the way their laboratory storage and supply management system works. She explained “everyone orders for themselves, so we end up with 2 to 3 vials of every substance you can think of. We have 5 brand new vials of IPTG while we have yet to finish the first open one.”
In my experience I have seen “autonomous labs” where each student is responsible for his/her reagents and no one takes responsibility for shared devices and working areas. This kind of mentality is an easy path to chaos!
The other extreme is having a regulator or lab manager, who handles ALL order requests and lab administration. While this is a better way to save on money and regulate the day-to-day life within the lab, it can be a limiting step as most lab managers also act as the lab’s main technician. With the increase of laboratory personnel and projects it can be time consuming to just get the orders in place.