How to Move a Lab in 9 Days
Rachel Oefelein, Chief Scientific Officer – DNA Labs International
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There comes a point in time at most laboratories when it seems that every pipette rack is full, every bench has an instrument on it, and you’ve run out of desk spaces for new personnel. This can only mean one thing, the dreaded move of your laboratory into a larger facility. Moving in general, even to a new apartment, can be a very stressful process. A forensic laboratory move comes with a whole new set of challenges: designing your new space for optimal performance, selecting movers, scheduling vendor maintenance, performance checks, calibrations, maintaining accreditation, the delicate ballet of packing and moving instruments without breaking anything, analysing, and summarizing your results, communicating with your accrediting body, and ensuring that the new space can accommodate future growth.
Relocation and expansion in 2017 and 2018 served as a template for how to make the laboratory relocation in 2022 as seamless as possible. First and foremost, we had to find a new space that could accommodate both our current operations and the growth of future operations. This process started with an exact testing scheme ensuring that every instrument and every kit was tested across five different workflows, including both manual and automated workflows. Decisions had to be considered prior to finalizing the testing scheme: phased or single move, cost/risk analysis, timing of scheduling movers and field application scientists’ visits, and how to keep your staff sane for a very busy 9 days!
Prior to the move, additional laboratory casework was prioritized so we could keep our remote staff busy while those on-site got us up and running at our new digs. Our accrediting body was notified as soon as move dates were finalized so our post-move assessment could be conducted in a timely manner. We opted for a single phase move with all instrumentation, computers and hardware, supplies, chemicals, and evidence moving over two days. Once everything was moved into their respective places it was time to bleach, and then bleach some more, and then bleach even more! The laboratory had to be free of any extraneous DNA before the laboratory-wide test could begin. The testing scheme incorporated on-site visits from vendors so that as soon as instruments went through their maintenance, their performance checks began. There was staff dedicated to the summary of all performance checks so that as data became available it was immediately incorporated into the summary. Fast forward 9 days later, after many long nights and countless Uber Eats deliveries, the final move summary was signed and authorized. We were officially live for casework!
Moving into a new facility is not just about finding the best shelf to store the 1.5 mL tubes though, it is also about making it an environment that people are excited to come to work in every day. A new facility means leaving behind an old facility filled with memories, victories, and life moments. Throughout the years staff not only contributed to solving crime in our previous laboratories but they also announced engagements and expecting little ones! Staff and interns came and went as the years went by, instruments that we had spent countless hours with were retired for shiny new models. New technology was innovated within those walls! Personal touches were introduced into the new laboratory, some of which were throwbacks to where we came from to remind of us of who we are and what is to come. A DNA Paint and Pour night was introduced to help gather us together to decorate our new home away from home. So now that months have gone by, we look forward to the our ever-competitive annual pumpkin carving contest to be held at the new laboratory for the first time and have settled into what we do best, helping provide DNA support to law enforcement throughout the United States and the world.
Lots of love,
The DLI Family