March 7, 2024

Lab Kit Management: What Can Research Sites Learn from Other Industries?

Efficient and effective lab kit management is vital to the success of a research site’s clinical trial operation. As we highlighted in this blog about the synergy between sample management and inventory management, patient samples are more prone to mishandling when sites don’t have a well-organized and efficient lab kit management system in place. Sites may be more susceptible to losing track of lab kits or having insufficient inventory for imminent patient visits — resulting in deviations, missing lab results that are pertinent to patient treatment decisions, and more time spent addressing lab queries and reconciling data.

What’s more, inventory management can become incredibly time consuming and cumbersome when site staff rely on paper and spreadsheets to keep tabs on lab kit orders and inventory. These manual processes can make it challenging to keep track of expiration dates, on-hand inventory quantities, storage locations, and incoming lab kit orders.

While the challenges associated with managing lab kits may seem daunting, sites can glean valuable insights from other industries. This blog explores how common practices in sectors like retail and manufacturing can inform and revolutionize lab kit management processes for research sites. By applying cross-industry strategies and proven methods to their own workflows, research sites can optimize their own operations, reduce waste, and enhance efficiency — resulting in massive time savings for site staff, a better patient experience, and stronger partnerships with study sponsors.

Retail stores have it together when it comes to stocking inventory—why don’t clinical trials?

Large retailers have mastered the intricate art of optimizing inventory to meet customer demand while minimizing excess stock. Even though customer behavior can be difficult to predict, major retail chains are able to significantly reduce their excess inventory and improve the accuracy of their inventory numbers through demand forecasting. 

If our favorite stores didn’t have robust, demand-driven resupply measures in place, brick-and-mortar shops would devolve into chaos. Imagine if store aisles were packed to the gills with a surplus of everyday household items — with little semblance of organization — while some of the essentials on your shopping list were continually out of stock. Our entire economy would collapse if this was the norm, simply because inefficiencies in our supply chain would debilitate the consumer experience.

This analogy reflects the unfortunate reality of inventory management at many clinical research facilities. Sites are drowning in an excess amount of clinical supplies, with critical lab kits often expiring or going out of stock without anyone noticing until it’s too late. 

So how can sites combat inventory chaos? Consider solutions that reduce lab kit waste and enable more accurate, demand-driven resupply — making on-hand inventory more manageable. By implementing lean inventory practices, research sites can reduce the risk of stockouts, minimize waste, and improve resource utilization — ultimately enhancing trial efficiency. 

Manufacturers QC the components that produce their outputs. If lab kits are tied to data outputs, shouldn’t sites do the same with their inventory?

Manufacturers prioritize quality control to ensure consistency and reliability in their products. For instance, a medical device manufacturer might significantly improve product quality and reduce defects by implementing rigorous QC measures during production.

But let’s imagine for a moment if a certain manufacturer built medical devices using components that weren’t very reliable or closely monitored. Could a patient trust that a heart device from this manufacturer would save them from cardiac arrest if one of the components of the device was missing or expired? Could a preventable shortage of this same device put people in need at risk?

Research sites can draw comparisons between this hypothetical scenario and lab kit management. Lab kits are essential for collecting mandatory biospecimens for a clinical trial — and these samples are directly tied to patient safety data, inclusion/exclusion criteria, efficacy data, and more. It’s clear that lab kits serve as the foundation for the most critical output of a clinical trial — data. 

For this reason, sites need to consider lab kit management a form of quality control. By adopting a more efficient process for keeping tabs on clinical inventory, research sites can enhance data accuracy, compliance, and patient safety downstream — ultimately improving trial outcomes and regulatory standards. 

Other industries rely on the latest and greatest technology. Shouldn’t clinical research apply this same approach to lab kits?

In today’s digital age, technology plays a crucial role in optimizing operations across virtually every industry. Considering that many research sites still rely on paper and spreadsheets to manually track their lab kits while they drown in excess inventory that clogs their small storage facilities, it’s important to consider the ways in which these processes could benefit from better technology.

Unfortunately, most sites don’t have a budget to adopt their own technology. Sponsors may provide sites with technology for certain processes, but these solutions don’t support inventory management.

Fortunately, research sites can leverage digital solutions such as free clinical inventory management software to streamline lab kit management processes. These platforms offer features like real-time inventory tracking, data-driven resupply, and a centralized data platform, empowering research sites to free up limited resources for other critical tasks while enabling site staff to do their jobs better. 

Consider how your site could achieve a double-digit percent increase in efficiency by implementing clinical inventory management software — saving valuable staff time, reducing manual errors, and improving downstream study data. By integrating free technology into their lab kit management processes, research sites can also improve their partnerships with sponsors, using their lab kit data to facilitate monitoring, drive conversations with study stakeholders about optimizing resupply orders, and reduce deviations.

Slope brings cross-industry best practices to clinical trials.

Lab kit management presents unique challenges for research sites, but there is value to be gained by learning from other industries. When it comes to managing lab kits and their associated outputs, research sites can embrace more effective solutions that drive efficiency. Cross-industry best practices can empower sites to optimize their operations and deliver better study outcomes.

Slope’s clinical trial execution platform applies effective strategies from other industries to the world of clinical research. Our solutions for lab kit management, sample management, and capturing sample metadata have contributed to more than 75% of NCI-designated cancer centers trusting Slope with their trials. 

To see for yourself how Slope has helped research sites cut back on lab kit waste and streamline their inventory management processes, sign up for a free account today. In the meantime, check out our case study about how an NCI-designated cancer center successfully curtailed inventory chaos with Slope.

Interested in learning more about the other ways in which today’s clinical trial landscape is hindering research site compliance and sponsor monitoring strategies? Click here.

Slope news

More Posts
Get started today
See what you and your team have been missing
Request a demo

Slope Support

Get help directly in the Slope app — just click the button on the bottom right