If you're like many successful laboratories around the country, you've been around for awhile. And though it's great that business is doing so well, you're beginning to notice that your machines, appliances, and even your laboratory space are looking a bit outdated. It's not uncommon for excellent, reputable laboratories to fall behind the times simply because it's such a hassle to renovate and upgrade. Many labs built more than 20 years ago are still getting by, but they're inconvenient to work in, are inefficient, and are likely drawing far more energy than is strictly necessary. The problem is that it never seems like there's a convenient time to renovate. Even if you've got the budget to make improvements, is there ever a good time to commission a lab redesign?
Though it can be a difficult decision to make, there are a few ways you can determine the "right" time to start your lab renovation:
When Your Lab Needs it Most
If your lab is running on its last legs, you don't have as much say in when to commission a lab redesign. At this point, it's likely in your best interest to get new machines in as soon as possible and get your lab back up to code. If your lab was built in the 80s or 90s and hasn't been touched since, now is better than ever for that renovation. You don't have the luxury to consider what season might be best because you need to update your equipment ASAP. If you're in dire need of lab renovations, but can't afford downtime, then focus on getting the most important things in first––new machines and up-to-date equipment––and work on updating your layout and design when you have a little more wiggle room.
When You Have the Money
If your lab needs a renovation, but you can survive without it for a little while, then it's best practice to wait until your company has the budget to devote to the renovation you actually want. In this situation, it might be a good idea to wait until the new year to begin renovations. At the beginning of the new fiscal year, your company might have more room in the budget to allocate towards your renovation, and you're more likely to get the best renovation possible.
When You Have the Extra Space
To eliminate downtime issues, many labs opt to move a portion of their lab to another location during renovations. This helps keep business running smoothly, and it ensures your employees don't have to work through loud construction disruptions. If there's space in your building that's underused, or rarely used part of the year, then that might be the best time to commission your lab redesign. For example, if your facility has classrooms for incoming employees or interns that aren't used during the summer, then summer might be the best time for you to get your renovation underway. Even if your renovation is expected to take more than just the one season to complete, your contractors can get one portion of the new, updated lab finished, and you can move back into that space before those additional rooms fill back up with students.
When the Weather is Most Likely to Cooperate
Though the weather isn't typically a primary concern for lab renovations, there are a few instances where it might behoove you to take weather into account. In deciding to phase renovations, many lab managers opt to rent trailers for additional space during the process. The trailers are then used as temporary set-ups for the older lab to ensure processes aren't interrupted while the updated lab is under construction. If you rent trailers to house a portion or all of your processes during the renovation, it might be a good idea to consider scheduling construction for the summer. This just ensures your employees don't have to traipse through rain or snow from the building to trailers with specimens and heavy equipment. If you have additional space within your building to house operations, then weather shouldn't be much of a concern.
Ensuring a Smooth Transition
One of the most difficult parts of commissioning a lab redesign is deciding when to do it, and figuring out how to best implement the renovation without disrupting your business. Here are a few things to think about when you're trying to work out a smooth transition:
Consider Phased Renovations
One of the most seamless ways of implementing a lab redesign that doesn't interrupt processes is to commission a phased renovation. This means that contractors work on separate parts of your renovation at a time, generally in several specific areas of your new lab. For example, they may work on the west side of the lab first, leaving the east side open for your employees to keep working. When they're done with that portion of the lab, contractors and employees can switch to keep the renovation going, and business booming simultaneously.
Phased renovations are an excellent choice for any lab that must remain running during all aspects of a redesign, but it's important to know that they often take longer. Since contractors can't have full access to the space, the renovation will go slower as they fix up each individual section of your lab. This extra time will add to your budget as well, but if downtime and operations are concerns that outweigh budget, a phased renovation is an excellent way to multitask.
Worried About Disrupting Clients? Fill Them In
Another aspect of a lab redesign that concerns many lab managers is the negative impact that the renovation could have on clients. The last thing you want is to fail to deliver on a client's product or test during the renovation phase. The best way to handle this is to let your clients know what's going on. Let them know that business is going so well that you're expanding or redesigning your lab, and tell them how this might affect your services for a finite amount of time.
If your lead times are going to be a bit longer, let them know what to expect. If you're going to have different hours while under renovations, make sure that's clear in your email or letter. So long as you let your clients know what's going on, assure them that you'll continue your stellar service, and give them a direct contact to call in the event that something slips through the cracks, you should experience minimal pushback. Consumers appreciate honesty, and so long as you make it clear what's happening and how long their service could be disrupted, you'll be doing everything in your power to lessen the impact of your renovation on the client.
Make Contractor Safety a Priority
Finally, it's important to make sure you're placing safety as your highest priority during your lab renovation. Benches and floor space should be kept clear, and employees should be following safety procedures to the letter while you have contractors in your space. When you're renovating, you'll have inspectors in and out of your lab on a regular basis, but more importantly, you need to make sure your contractors are safe. Even if they work in labs often, they're not as familiar with the environment as your employees are, and any injury could be a liability for your company. Do your best to make sure you're keeping your contractors safe so they can finish your renovation as swiftly as possible.
If you think it's time to renovate your lab, but you're not sure when would be the best time to get started, or if you have questions regarding a potential lab redesign, feel free to give the experts at Multi-Lab a call! With years in the industry, we know how, and when, to design the laboratory renovation that best suits your application and budget. Give our office a call at 616-846-6990, or contact us online today!