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Laboratory Pack-up & Relocation, Part 2 | Lab Relocation Timeline

female lab researcher using microscope
When it’s time to relocate your laboratory, careful planning long before the actual move date will make the difference between success and disaster. See last month’s blog for a timeline of exactly what should be done and when, but for a view from 30,000 feet of the process complete with best practices, see below:

Who’s On the Team?

Choose who you want to be involved with the move. Utilize key employees to act as “move captains” but take care to involve all staff in the process. As your timeline emerges, meet regularly with your internal team to keep everyone informed and to address issues as they arise.

Cold Storage Transport

Maintaining the integrity of your research during the move means paying attention to every detail. If you have samples or substances that require storage at exact temperature ranges and requirements, keep appropriate cold-storage transport procedures in place. Be sure to identify a backup freezer in case of emergency and make sure to have dry ice on hand the day of the move.

Hire Specialists

Most laboratory equipment is sensitive and fragile, requiring expensive re-calibrations even when you move them from one bench to the other. It’s falsely economical to trust that equipment to a cut-rate moving company, hoping against hope that they won’t damage it. Spending the money to get a qualified moving company that you can trust to move your sensitive equipment will save you a lot of money and countless staff hours in the long run.

Preserve Chain of Custody

If your lab handles evidence for law enforcement agencies or other items that need chain-of-custody documentation, be particularly careful. While expensive upfront, it may turn out to be more economical and safer in the long term to arrange an escort who can maintain the chain of custody for certain items during relocation.

Hazardous Materials

It’s not unusual for a lab to contain items that have been classified as hazardous materials by the Department of Transportation. Consult authorities to get information about the legal and safety implications of transporting any type of hazardous materials. You will need to take steps to ensure the public’s safety when transporting potentially dangerous items.

Live Animals

Live animals need food and water—a unique consideration when transporting them during a lab relocation. Hanging water bottles is a solution to keep animals hydrated, but they frequently leak during transportation—soaking the animals’ bedding and leading to hypothermia or even death. If the animals in your lab are part of an experiment, they will require chain-of-custody documentation or other provisions to ensure the integrity of scientific research.

Avoid Cross-Contamination

Because cross-contamination can negatively affect the outcome of your research for years into the future, be especially careful to ensure that no items become cross-contaminated during your lab relocation.

Calibration Considerations

Confirm with your contacts at your instrumentation companies to see if your arrangement with them includes post-move calibration, even if they are not involved in packing, moving, and unpacking the instruments. Are you still indemnified even if you use a separate moving company? Ask how that process will affect your warranty.

Plan Your Route

Walk through your intended route with a tape measure and the measurements of everything that will be moved during your lab relocation. Will everything fit through doorways? If not, you will need to map out an alternate route—better to do that in advance than while the clock is ticking on moving day.

Record Specifications

Documenting the weight, dimensions, electrical connections, temperature, and humidity requirements of each item being moved will save you money. For example, you will want to know in advance if your new table is going to hold pieces of heavy new equipment before you move into the new lab. Figuring that out on the day of the move will be an expensive, time-consuming problem you don’t need.

Inform Everyone

Your team of researchers is likely data-driven like most efficient scientists. Be sure you communicate fully with them so they can plan for exactly when their equipment will no longer be available. Make sure you are aware of how long each piece of equipment will take to move and place back in operation. The facilities managers—both in the building you are vacating and the one you’re moving into—also need to be kept up to date. Keep them in the loop so they can oversee utilities connections and disconnections, provide adequate staging areas for packing crates, and make loading docks available when needed.

Understand and Comply.

Is your lab governed by GLP or GMP guidelines? Address if and how you will need to comply with federal and state regulations long before move-in day, so you can obtain needed documentation.

Any lab relocation, no matter how big or small, can be a stressful experience for everyone involved. Taking the time to plan and develop a roadmap in advance will help keep the process on the rails.

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Laboratory Pack-up & Relocation – Everything You Need To Know, Part 1

technician working in lab

When It’s Time to Move Your Lab

There’s no getting around it: moving a laboratory is a complex process that involves meticulous attention to detail, making it a stressful experience for all concerned. The actual move date will likely be preceded by 4–6 months of careful planning, even if you follow most lab managers’ recommendation that you hire an experienced lab relocation specialist. Outsourcing the project to a lab relocation specialist will minimize the move’s impact on your operation’s scientific mission and productivity.

Moving usually signals that new and exciting opportunities are ahead for a company, but it’s still critically important to plan correctly and take into account all aspects of the experience. For example, although it is important to plan out the logistics of the physical move, it is also important to take into account its emotional impact. A relocation is not only disruptive to the physical plant, but the introduction of a lab relocation specialist will change the dynamics of the organization. A good lab relocation manager will take the time to establish trust and respect with your entire team, and foster productive, collaborative relationships between his move team and your technicians, administrative personnel, and lab leads.

Make keeping everyone informed a top priority. So they can plan accordingly, your team will want to know not just the date for the move itself, but also when the equipment they use will no longer be available. Remember to talk to the facilities manager in the building you are vacating and your contact in the building you are moving into as soon as possible. These individuals will oversee everything from the disconnection and connection of your utilities to the availability of packing/unpacking areas and loading docks.

Every lab relocation is different with different priorities and steps needed to ensure a smooth and seamless transition. However, establishing a timeline is will help keep the process on track:

Two to Three Months Before the Move

  • Tour existing and new lab space with your lab transition planner and your architect.
  • Develop equipment binders and review responsibility matrix.
  • Dispose of old files, old chemicals, and old samples.
  • Notify vendors, the mail room, and other relevant parties that the lab has relocated.
  • Secure keys and access to the new space.
  • Identify who will pack the equipment and move it.
  • Set a start date and time-frame.
  • Establish a timeline to shut down certain pieces to prepare for move.
  • Send out RFP for specialist movers (chemical, equipment).

Two to Three Weeks Before the Move

  • Have boxes, tags, and other materials delivered to the lab so that packing can begin
  • Begin labeling each piece of equipment with a separate label that includes the name of the lab, the phase of the move in which it should be handled, and where it should be placed in the new lab.
  • Tour the new space to ensure connections are compatible with incoming equipment.
  • Identify move route for key equipment, checking door and height/weight clearances.

Day of the Move

  • Chemical movers pack up the chemicals in special containers.
  • General movers pack items not already packed.
  • Freezers are placed on the truck last so they can be unpacked first, positioned and plugged in.

Post-Move Follow Up

  • Tour the vacated lab to ensure all items have been moved.
  • Coordinate the calibration of equipment.

We can’t stress enough how important it is to have a lab relocation specialist working with you to ensure a smooth and trouble-free transition and restart. Using spreadsheets, templates, checklists and other tools, a good lab relocation specialist will create a lab transition plan that will make this complex process as clear, straightforward and incident-free as possible.

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Laboratory Relocation Tips For Success

cold storage units and researcher in lab
Whether you’re renovating, consolidating, decommissioning, or expanding your laboratory into a brand new space, use a detailed transition plan to ensure a smooth move and protect your projects. After all, the stakes are high– and missteps have the potential to cause more than temporary inconvenience – so be sure to pay close attention to every detail.

The process can be so complex that some labs hire “transition planners.” Using a set of proprietary templates, checklists, and work plans, these professional planners forecast a timeline for the entire transition, day by day, complete with all the decisions and activities that will need to be made. If you’re anticipating a lab relocation, consider whether or not to hire a transition planner in light of the following points:

Expertise.

Believe it or not, some laboratory transitions take up to six months of planning before a single piece of equipment is moved. With that level of detail to consider, even if you feel you have the resources in-house, you may want to hire an experienced professional planner dedicated to this one task only. This will allow your research staff to continue working on their projects virtually uninterrupted, while your transition planner manages the logistics of the upcoming move.

Experience.

It bears repeating because it’s the most critical thing to account for when managing a laboratory relocation: maintaining the integrity of ongoing research is the most important aspect of any transition. This means your transition planner needs to fully understand the environment your lab is moving into. Where will each piece of equipment be located? Is the proper electrical, mechanical, and plumbing infrastructure in place? If you deal in live specimens, what sort of climate and humidity controls need to be implemented?

The following 10 best practices are highly recommended when transitioning your lab:

Choose Your Internal Team.

It’s likely everyone will play a role, but selecting key people to act as team captains will help keep things on the rails. At your first meeting, identify important dates and a project timeline that you can share with the rest of the staff. Set up regular meetings with your core team so everyone stays informed and any emerging issues can be nipped in the bud before they become problems.

Find a Qualified Equipment Mover.

Don’t rely on regular home or business moving companies to handle your sensitive lab equipment. We don’t have to tell you that these items are delicate and easy to damage. Spend the money and hire someone who specializes in moving lab equipment– the extra investment is well worth it.

Monitor Calibration of Instrumentation.

Talk to your vendors/service contractors to determine under what conditions they will calibrate your equipment after your move. Will they recalibrate or re-certify instrumentation after the move, or does your Agreement with them require that they crate, pack, move and uncrate the equipment in order to maintain your indemnification and guarantee?

Determine Cold Storage Needs.

A regular freezer truck probably isn’t going to do it if you are moving items that require cold storage. Any laboratories contain items, samples, or substances that must be kept in cold storage. Factor in the exact temperature ranges and requirements that the items involved in your research require. Have a back-up freezer on hand the day of the move. Dry ice is also a good idea “just in case.” T

Observe the Chain of Custody.

Do you handle evidence for law-enforcement agencies? Pay particular attention to documenting any chain-of-custody considerations during transport.

Special Permits for Hazardous Materials.

Chances are your lab uses items classified by the Department of Transportation (DOT) as hazardous. Make sure you’re adhering to any legal requirements as well as safety concerns while in transit.

Avoid Cross-Contamination.

Your lab’s reputation is on the line. Take every step to ensure that the outcome of your future research is scientifically valid by being accurate and thorough with every item in your lab. Live animals are a special consideration.

Comply with GMP Requirements.

The need to meet regulatory compliance requirements (especially GLP/GMP guidelines) both before and after relocation– is essential. You will need to fill out and file all the appropriate documentation, which can be extensive– so be sure you do your due diligence very early in the lab relocation process.

Plan Your Route.

You may find that doorways and corridors are not large enough to accommodate bulky lab equipment. Measure equipment and consider your route carefully– find alternatives if you have an issue.

Anticipate Your Needs.

Replacing the benches at your new lab? Make sure they look more than look great. If they won’t bear the weight of tabletop equipment, you’ll have big problems on your hands. How about electric outlets and cord lengths? Again, these issues are easy to address in advance, but very inconvenient the day-of.

The most important thing to remember is that laboratory relocation is never routine. The process is complex and the stakes are high. So whether you hire a transition planner, appoint someone from inside your organization, or take the job on yourself, pay careful attention to the details by using these suggested best practices as your guide!