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Racing for a Cure: Bringing Agility to Labs

Racing for a Cure: Bringing Agility to Labs

Ask anyone in pharma or healthcare: Time is of the essence. Whether it’s bringing a new drug to market or getting the results of a patient’s blood chemistry, a lab that is designed for speed can quite literally save lives. With new drugs taking an average of 10 years and $2.5 billion to get to market, there’s a strong incentive to pick up the pace. Today’s lab designers are tasked with cutting through “the physical and logical barriers to getting the work done,” as Mitchell Weitz writes in

Speed is a product of agile design, and autonomy is a guiding principle of agility. Lab designers at Johnson & Johnson, for example, have boosted employees’ autonomy through the use of “hoteling” workspaces. Staff can collaborate in the same physical space on an ad hoc basis, and teams working on related projects can co-locate to make the quick in-person decisions that speed up processes.

To support agile labs, the lab furnishings must be equally agile and flexible, able to change form and function as fast as researchers make advances. Modular casework and mobile adaptive furnishings like Swiftspace products allow the interior environment to deliver quick-response changes as user needs change. Wheeled workstations can be repositioned as teams change, and long runs of cabinetry can be divided and re-used in smaller rooms, saving money as well as time.

Efficient space utilization goes hand in hand with agility. When a new project is under consideration, it may be cost-prohibitive to undertake a long-term lease for what might be a short-term need. Build-out costs only add to the potential spend. By looking for efficiencies in existing spaces, a financially unattractive project can be transformed to a positive prospect. Innovative storage systems can find new space for new revenue-producing activities. High density shelving condenses space horizontally, while vertical storage makes the most of vertical space, using carousel shelves and bins to take storage right up to the ceiling.

Adding to these flexible and efficient design building blocks, lab designers are incorporating elements that encourage exercise – open stairways, for example – and create opportunities for “water cooler moments” – lounges where casual conversations can turn into research breakthroughs. Taken altogether, these design features add up to significant savings in costs and time, letting labs operate profitably and delivering results that improve everyone’s health.


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