Controlling Inventory Costs with LIMS

“We reduced the number of expired chemicals in our labs from 4,000 to 45. We also started saving $2 million a year.”

What is the cost of wasted chemicals, reagents, standards and other consumables such as agar plates, gloves and pipette tips in your lab? This is one of the most preventable expenses in any laboratory.What is the cost of wasted chemicals, reagents, standards and other consumables such as agar plates, gloves and pipette tips in your lab?

This is one of the most preventable expenses in any laboratory.

Beyond the (often significant) lost value of chemicals that expire before they can be used, the cost associated with disposing of hazardous substances and failing to meet environmental, social, and governance (ESG) goals can further erode profits.

In the face of ongoing supply chain challenges, the importance of inventory control continues to grow – not only to manage costs but to ensure sufficient quantities of consumables are readily available and stocked.

To help labs better manage and minimize these challenges, LabVantage LIMS includes a module called LabVantage Consumables, designed specifically to perform inventory control, help manage purchasing and reduce waste. This post provides a quick introduction to the capabilities of LabVantage Consumables and highlights some of the dramatic results that can be achieved when implemented.

Waste Not, Want Not

Within the LabVantage system, a “Consumable” can be defined either as a single chemical entity or a mixture of more than one, such as buffer solutions. The system also tracks whether a Consumable is mixed in-house or purchased from an outside vendor. In the latter case, the vendor or vendors supplying the material can be specified, along with any relevant part or catalog numbers.

The composition, behavior and rules associated with the use of a Consumable can be defined by Consumable Types, which enable the documentation of everything from the recipe for mixing it in-house to a list of acceptable vendors who can supply it. Consumables can also be divided into Consumable Lots, which can further be broken down into one or more Consumable Containers. Each Consumable Lot can optionally be approved before it can become active and can be manually deactivated or activated any time.

In a similar way, many other aspects of Consumables can be documented and tracked, including:

  • Samples to test and ensure the quality and performance of a new lot against approved specifications. One or more quality tests can be assigned automatically for any new Consumable Lot.
  • Storage Locations/Units that can hold trackable items or additional storage units. Preconfigured storage unit types can be used out of the box or customized based on customer needs
  • Parameter Lists to manage the use and availability of Consumable Lots and their associated containers.
  • Expiration Dates which can optionally be set up with warnings and/or grace periods. In addition, any Consumable Lot may be marked as Expired or Disposed at any time.
  • Reorder Requirements which can be monitored using Consumable Tasks within LabVantage.

In addition to the database itself, barcode printing and scanning can be used to uniquely identify samples, kits, consumables and so on. Each lot can be tracked and stored with reminders when inventory is running low. In addition, sample custody data and shipment manifests can be generated to ensure proper handoff during transfers.

Waste Reduction in Action

Just how effective is this type of inventory and consumable management? Let’s take a look at a real-world case study.

Several years ago, a Fortune 500 coating and paint supplier with over 50,000 employees in more than 200 manufacturing facilities worldwide began using LabVantage Consumables to track inventory and reduce waste. In the first year following implementation, the inventory control solution helped the organization reduce the number of expired chemicals sitting on shelves in their labs from 4,000 to just 45! To date, this has resulted in an annual cost savings of around $2 million.

Want to explore what inventory and consumable management could do for your organization? Contact us today for more information or to discuss your lab’s unique needs.