Golub Lab Improves Process with Web-based Lab Management System

Golub Lab Trades in Intranet Based Supplies Management Tool for an Advanced Web-Based Lab Management System

Research Lab Profile

The Todd Golub Lab of the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard has more than 21 researchers, including post-doctoral fellows, graduate students, research specialists and research technicians. Before adopting iLab, the lab faced significant challenges in managing lab supply orders. The implementation of iLab’s Materials Management software gives back more than 95 hours per week to the Golub Lab, which allows them more time for new discoveries in cancer research.

The Challenge

The Golub Lab orders thousands of dollars worth of research reagents every day. To carry out this process, the lab had relied on an intranet-based system designed by a former lab member. However, Jason Barnett, the Research Laboratory Coordinator responsible for managing the ordering process, realized several drawbacks with their setup. Communication about orders from Barnett to the rest of the lab was cumbersome, order information was often incomplete, and Barnett often needed to track down lab members individually before submitting their orders. This required extra time and sometimes led to placing incorrect orders, which were identified as incorrect only after the ordered supplies were received. In addition, the system lacked a way to support distribution of received items. Barnett could only identify the owners of an order based on PO numbers, which was time consuming. Furthermore, the system’s incompatibility with the institutional procurement system was a significant drawback.

The challenges in the ordering process extended to the lab’s scientists because each stage in the process was handled by a separate system. Before placing an order, a scientist would visit each vendor website separately, locate the items, and manually enter their requests into the system. In addition, there was no easy way for each person to manage and track orders or determine whether other members of the lab had already ordered the same item. The process stole time away from their research and burdened the lab financially as valuable grant money was spent on unnecessary orders.

The Solution

In 2007, the Golub Lab adopted iLab Solutions’ web-based lab management system. The iLab team met with Barnett, listened to his challenges, and offered a risk free opportunity to use the system, including full trainings and support.

“We were very excited to work with the Golub Lab from the beginning because the challenges they expressed were ones we designed our system to address. Working together with the lab and providing support is a key ingredient in our Software-as-a-Service model,” said iLab Chief Software Architect, Andreas Hagen.


Improves Management of Ordering Process

iLab immediately made life easier for Barnett. iLab’s catalog of vendor-generated and user-generated reagents, which only registers after the input of critical information, has helped to standardize request information submitted and has helped to minimize mistakes. In addition, all the orders are centrally submitted, which allows Barnett to manage them more effectively and to take advantage of savings on bulk shipping and special deals from vendors.

“iLab lets us hold or corral orders so we can not only save money in terms of shipping cost but also get a better discount on special bulk deals,” Barnett said.

Barnett also praised iLab’s flexible search feature for the order history. “Finding orders used to be a nightmare. Before, I needed exact PO numbers to track down who ordered what, but now, I can do more with less information,” he added.

Scientist Approved

Since the adoption of iLab, the scientists in the lab have also embraced the system. The user-friendly and intuitive features facilitated the smooth transition from the old system to iLab. Each lab member now manages orders in a centralized place where members can search through an extensive database of laboratory supplies. In addition, both individual orders and those of other lab members can now be tracked, minimizing redundancy in orders.

“It keeps track of things very well, and seems like the natural way of going about things,” said Willis Read-Button, a senior research technician.

“[It] is remarkable being able to track who ordered what; the search engine seems strong too,” added Kimberly Hartwell, a postdoctoral fellow in the lab.

iLab has made such an impact that close to 90% of the scientists in the Golub Lab recommend that their colleagues in other labs adopt iLab.

Real Savings

iLab has proven truly beneficial to the efficiency of the Golub Lab, saving each laboratory personnel on average 4.5 hours per month. With a lab of over 21 people that translates to a savings of more than 95 hours per month. With iLab, members of the Golub Lab can now focus more of their time and resources on finding the next breakthrough in cancer research.