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5 Steps for Conducting an Lab Asset Inventory Audit

Posted by Amber Poltl on Feb 15, 2024 9:31:11 PM

Lab asset inventory audits are critical for maintaining an organized, efficient, and compliant laboratory environment. A comprehensive lab asset inventory audit can support environment, health and safety (EHS) controls, limit costs, and improve operations. Lab assets encompass everything from equipment, and chemicals, to software and furniture. In this article we highlight the importance and benefits of conducting these audits from an EHS perspective focusing on equipment and chemicals.

The Importance of Asset Management in Labs

Effective asset management in laboratories involves a systematic approach to procurement, maintenance, upgrades, and disposal of assets. 

Effective asset management can improve:

  • Procurement of proper equipment that mitigates risks with engineering controls and that is sustainably designed. 
  • Maintenance schedules of equipment and potentially reduce malfunctions, injuries, and accidental releases.
  • Optimization of chemical inventories by minimizing hazardous materials storage, and ultimately risks of exposure.
  • Regulatory compliance against preventative maintenance and monitoring requirements. 
  • Waste mitigation efforts by extending equipment lifespans and minimizing resource consumption. 

1. Defining the Scope and Preparing Resources 

The first step of the inventory audit is defining the scope. Identify which facilities, equipment, chemicals, and other assets will be included in the audit. Identify any applicable compliance obligations for the audit (e.g., Occupational Safety and Health Administration Nationally Recognized Testing Laboratory [OSHA NRTL] Program). 

Assemble your team for the inventory audit. Gather resources by preparing checklists, barcode scanners (when applicable), and labels for tagging assets. Prepare the lab inventory management software (if available). 

2. Performing the Initial Inventory Audit  

  • Start with tangible equipment such as lab equipment. Record the 
    • Location
    • Condition
    • Make and model
    • Relevant dates (e.g., acquisition)
    • Brief description of the asset  
  • When possible, group similar assets together to simplify identification. 
  • After entering this data into your database, tag the equipment with concise labels with essential information such as name, ID number, date of acquisition, and safety information. Consider a color-coding system when labeling to distinguish ownership, health and safety classification, lab zones/work areas, etc.  
  • Assign specific locations for each category of assets to avoid clutter and facilitate retrieval, where applicable. Ensure storage areas are accessible and appropriate for the specific items (e.g., temperature-controlled for certain chemicals).
  • Inventory all chemicals by the following classifying information but not limited to: 
    • Estimated volumes
    • Storage locations
    • Expiration dates
    • Supplier/manufacturer information. 
  • Use all available resources such as colleagues to help inventory, bar coding system, and chemical inventory management software, if available.  

3.  Evaluating Results 

Identify the gaps, missing items, outdated equipment, duplicate chemicals, etc. This may take a long period of time to understand trends but it’s important to analyze the asset usage patterns and compare them with the inventory. 

Assess the condition and performance of the equipment. Flag any equipment that requires maintenance, repair, upgrade, or needs to be safely decommissioned and disposed of. It may be an inventory but you’re also visually inspecting for any noticeable damage or defects. 

For chemicals, evaluate the usage data and expiration dates across several inventory audits to avoid unnecessary hazardous chemical storage and disposal, which could have environmental impacts. 

4. How to Automate Best Practices, Corrective and Preventive Actions (CAPAs)

Assigning Team Responsibilities 

  • Determine roles and responsibilities for inventory audit tasks and ensure your team is trained on the system.
  • Build and foster a culture of shared responsibility for inventory management. Increased ownership/engagement, visibility, and communication of the inventory activities brings forth proactive solutions, promotes efficiency and optimizes processes.  

Organization and Storage 

  • Implement a first-in, first-out system to avoid expiring chemicals persisting in storage areas.
  • Regularly dispose of obsolete or damaged items. Don't let outdated equipment or expired chemicals occupy valuable space and pose health and safety risks. Establish clear disposal protocols for different asset types.
  • Store equipment based on frequency of use. Keep frequently used equipment within reach while infrequently used items be stored on higher shelves or in designated areas.
  • Streamline asset identification and data entry with barcode scanners.

Product Demo: Automating Barcode Data Entry & Asset Identificationt With Chemtracker

Procurement and Cost Management

  • Forecast future asset needs and use bulk purchases when possible, to take advantage of any discounts. 
  • Seek help from your procurement department (if applicable) and compare prices across different suppliers to find what works best for you from an EHS perspective but also operationally and financially.  

Maintenance and Calibration of Equipment

  • Implement routine maintenance schedules for equipment to ensure optimal performance and prevent unexpected breakdowns.
  • Document equipment usage and calibration records. Maintain accurate records of usage logs and calibration certificates for compliance.

Automate Recordkeeping and Documentation

    • Recordkeeping and documentation are prone to error due to their history of being maintained with only Excel spreadsheets and physical notebooks. Lab inventory management software to ensure accurate documentation and uniformity with your data.
    • Set clear expectations for your team on recordkeeping. 
  • Move from Excel spreadsheets and physical notebooks to lab inventory management software to automate your documentation and ensure accuracy. 
  • Develop templates or forms to ensure consistency in data collection.
  • Ensure that records are complete when conducting the inventory audit, so you don’t have to double your effort. 

Case Study: How The Engine Accelerator 5Xed  Their Laboratory Resident Companies by  Automating Inventory Management

Conducting Routine Inventory Audits

  • Communicate the importance of routine audits to your team and lab personnel. Routine audits ensure you meet compliance obligations for asset management, chemical storage, and equipment safety. Failure to comply could result in serious penalties, injuries, and fatalities.
  • Implement a regular schedule for inventory audits (e.g., monthly, quarterly, annually).
  • Update records with current information with each subsequent inventory audit.

Product Demo: Watch To Learn How  To Build A Chemical Audit Report

5. Specific Considerations for Lab Relocation

Lab relocations can be complicated, especially when it comes to asset inventories. Some tips for navigating a lab relocation are: 

  • Conduct a comprehensive inventory of all assets, prioritizing the criticality of the assets (e.g., EHS critical equipment, frequently used assets, and assets with special transportation or storage requirements). 
  • Identify the chemicals and equipment that need to be either disposed of properly or decommissioned first to avoid unnecessary transport risks. 
  • Use appropriate storage containers to protect equipment and prevent exposure to chemicals.
  • Ensure that chemicals and chemical storage containers/boxes are labeled appropriately according to regulatory requirements. 
  • Maintain a record or chain of custody of asset movement to avoid loss or damage.
  • Implement safe work practices including proper waste disposal procedures for the new lab. 
  • Schedule calibration for equipment upon arrival. Perform a Pre-Startup Safety Review (PSSR), as needed, to check for potential hazards prior to using the equipment.

Conclusion

In conclusion, lab asset management isn't centered around just operational efficiency and cost cutting; it also involves proactive EHS monitoring and measurement. By conducting routine inventory audits, you are fostering a culture of continual improvement that values the protection of personnel, the environment, and your company’s reputation. 

Learn More About Scishield’s Lab Inspection & Auditing Software