The Ins and Outs of a Lab Move
3rd March 2023
Moving a lab is no mean feat, just ask anyone who has ever been through a lab move. In fact, we did just that!
Sarah Speroff, Workplace Project Director, based in Seattle, and Molly Frazier, Senior Workplace Project Manager in San Francisco, share their insight into what it takes to successfully relocate a laboratory. From the months of planning, to building trust with lab users, and all the communication in between, Sarah and Molly provide the inside track – and with over 15 clients and 75+ individual laboratory moves between them, they are the right people to do so.
What is the biggest difference between a standard office move and a laboratory move?
Sarah: Lab moves tend to have more pieces in the puzzle. A lot of planning is still involved but there is a lot more additional detail, from knowing where each bit of equipment goes, who is responsible for unplugging and plugging in the apparatus, understanding whether chemicals and cold storage need its own move vendors. These are just some of the questions that need answers, so you can see the level of detail that goes into planning.
Molly: The biggest difference is the sheer volume of content we are responsible for. While office moves have their own challenges, often we are focused on a department’s items or an individual’s workstation contents. With a laboratory move, we can be responsible for moving thousands of pieces of equipment, much of which is very delicate. And of course, every single piece of equipment needs special attention to ensure that it’s deinstalled, moved, and reinstalled properly. That process alone takes months of planning.
How important is accurate equipment inventory when planning a lab move?
Sarah: It’s vital. Having an accurate equipment inventory means accurate move labels, accurate move sequencing, and accurate coordination of vendors and tradespeople. Part of our up front due diligence is reviewing equipment lists with the lab users to ensure accuracy. If we don’t, we risk inaccurate planning from the start of the project and this can create all sorts of problems and delays down the line, something we refuse to have!
How critical is a communications plan for a lab move?
Molly: Communicating with those impacted is critical for any move, but for a lab move, you really want to ensure every single person is aligned with the plan and the schedule, because even a slight misstep can be very impactful.
Sarah: I’d add that often the change management aspect of lab moves is overlooked and yet it’s vital that we consider the impact of change on lab users. Our experience allows us to complement laboratory relocation projects with specific elements of change management that will ensure a successful transition and adaptation for lab users.
We complement laboratory relocation projects with specific elements of change management to ensure a successful transition and adaptation for lab users
— Sarah Speroff, Workplace Project Director
We hear about “Lab Champions”. Who are they and why are they important?
Sarah: Lab Champions are our conduit to the labs. They’re the subject matter experts for the research schedules and equipment, and they are critical in helping plan the sequencing of the move. Having one champion per lab is important because otherwise there would be a dozen or so people all giving you their own interpretation of how their lab operates. One nominated voice helps to ensure there’s a consistent approach to equipment list updates, data gathering, and communication for each group. It allows us to be efficient, yet detailed at the same time, both of which is essential in this type of move.
What is the most important aspect of a lab move?
Molly: That would be the schedule of activities. There are so many moving parts and having a fully planned out schedule of what is moving for each phase, when it is moving, and who is responsible is so important. Regularly checking in with the health of the schedule and the progress of the move team is key during the move.
Regularly checking in with the health of the schedule and the progress of the move team is key
— Molly Frazier, Senior Workplace Project Manager
If there is one piece of advice you'd give someone who is planning a cold storage move, what would it be?
Molly: To have all the details ironed out ahead of time and to collaborate! Aside from the individual pieces of equipment which are handled by the vendors as these typically require being moved at specific temperatures, we are responsible for everything. So, if we are moving the contents of an -80 degree freezer, we have a limited amount of time to get those items off the truck and to their new destination. It’s vital this is planned out ahead of time and in collaboration with the vendors, otherwise we risk these contents warming up and that can be catastrophic.
What's the biggest lesson you've learned from doing lab moves?
Sarah: Establishing roles and responsibilities for the project team early on. Additionally, when you’re talking about who is responsible for what, making sure people know what you, as project leader, are responsible for. As a consultant, it is your responsibility to share what you’ve been brought in to do, and you should never assume people know what your job is. It really helps with clarity which can save a lot of confusion down the line, not to mention ensuring everyone knows who to direct questions or report to.
Molly: The biggest lesson I learned while doing lab moves is to be organized, and stay organized! There are so many moving parts. You must not only be concerned with ensuring a positive moving experience for non-lab personnel but also that all odds and ends of a lab are accounted for, all the while attempting to have the least amount of downtime possible. It’s complex, intense but overall very satisfying once completed!