From finance to banking to healthcare to day care, industry regulatory compliance is part of the business of doing business. Part of compliance – a big part – is records management, and many of those records are in paper form. Paper has a long and noble history, but it is a very labor-intensive medium, especially when a compliance audit demands supporting documents for your operations. If your paper documents haven’t been converted into searchable e-documents by a document conversion expert, your mission-related productivity will suffer while your team rummages through files.
OCR adds searchability
Locating a specific piece of information, even if a document has been scanned and filed in an electronic archive, is an arduous and time-consuming task unless the document was scanned via OCR (optical character reader) software. A standard PDF conversion is not readily searchable; to make a PDF searchable, it must be re-scanned through OCR software. Often the OCR software must be custom-formatted to understand certain areas within the document (account numbers, signatures, etc.), a task requiring expertise that may not be part of an in-house administrator’s skill set.
Metadata categorizes and adds history
Auditors may also inquire about a document’s origins: when a document was created, who created it, who scanned it and when, what kind of document it is, and whether it has any related documents or transactions. Tracking down a document’s history is quite time-consuming if there is no metadata. Most documents created on a computer have at least some form of metadata tags (date, file type, and creator, at a minimum), but scanned documents have almost no metadata tags. Metadata tagging can be speeded up through automation, but like OCR scanning, expert customization is needed to make the automation effective and accurate.
Clearly, in any regulated business, it makes good sense to build a searchable, categorized document database that supports compliance. But it’s complicated. And a less-than-expertly created database is unreliable, and often unnecessarily expensive. Follow the advice of Inc. Magazine to find a skilled, experienced vendor to take your enterprise through the document conversion process:
Talk to a vendor’s former employees
Talk to a vendor’s customers who have provided testimonials
Look at employee reviews
Think like a journalist doing investigative research
With a well-designed and compliant digital document database in place, you can spend your time making your business productive and profitable.
Ten years and $2.5 billion – that’s what it takes to bring a new drug to market these days, says the Tufts Center for the Study of Drug Development. Time is money, and drug companies are starting to design their labs with speed in mind. As Mitchell Weitz of Bristol-Myers Squibb states in LabDesignNews.com, the goal is to “break the physical and logical barriers to getting work done.”
Technology is part of the picture, of course. At Johnson & Johnson, employees are provided with an array of supportive technology, from laptop docking stations and virtual collaboration rooms to walk-up tech-support kiosks. Employees are encouraged to choose workspaces that suit them and the work they are doing. And because employees are empowered to define their work areas, formerly-distributed teams can now collaborate in the same physical space, and quick face-to-face decision-making can speed the work along.
Giving individuals and teams this kind of autonomy and mobility means lab spaces must be able to turn on a dime, changing form and function as quickly as the teams using them make decisions. Solid walls and built-in casework take time to remove, and even more time and expense to re-build, and designers are turning to modular casework to speed up the reconfiguration of labs. These “building blocks” of cabinetry can be assembled in an almost infinite variety of combinations. Wall units can be repurposed as work benches; fixed work benches can transform into mobile workstations; large runs of cabinetry can be divided and re-used in a number of small rooms. And not only does modular casework save time, it saves the cost of re-building casework from scratch.
Agility-driven design choices of this type can be seen everywhere in the new pharma labs. Designers have calculated walk times from one building to another, analyzed the speed of new-technology adoption, and included such holistic elements as stairways and lounges to encourage serendipitous exercise and face time. As labs get faster, and incremental time savings add up to cost savings, the benefit of speed is readily apparent: new remedies, produced efficiently and profitably, and delivered affordably to improve everyone’s health.
The new year is almost here, full of exciting possibilities and the fruition of well-executed plans. It’s also a great opportunity to consider the knowledge gained in the previous 365 days. With that in mind, here’s a selection of our most popular posts of 2016.
Ten years ago, Stanford University opened the doors of a new interdisciplinary research facility, the Clark Center. This research lab was intended to break down barriers between various academic disciplines, encouraging investigational cross-pollination. Has the university’s effort paid off? Tully Shelley and Seth Meisler analyzed the results for American Laboratory, and reported their findings here.
At the heart of this collaborative effort was the design of the facility – open, flexible, interactive. Labs featured walls of windows where anyone could observe research in progress. The large lab spaces allowed experimenters to co-locate and support each other’s work. Resources could easily be shared, and chance encounters helped researchers come together to solve problems.
Without adaptive modular lab furnishings, the university’s innovative design would have been hard to achieve. Shelley and Meisler discuss how mobile “kit of parts” casework workstations allowed quick reconfigurations when researchers wished to collaborate, or when a research project came to an end. This video shows an example of similar reconfigurable casework:
Shelley and Meisler concluded that the Clark Center’s design has had a positive long-term effect on collaborative research, building a sense of community that supports interdisciplinary investigations. In their words, “With the proper stewardship, along with a well-designed building, collaborative science can flourish.”
It happens every year around this time – the season for end-of-year tax deductions. The Section 179 tax rule gives businesses an opportunity to write off as much as $500,000 in new and used equipment costs. Equipment or software purchased and put into service by December 31st is deducted from your business’s gross income – it’s as simple as that. And depreciation boosts the total tax reduction even more.
The tax experts at Section179.org provide in-depth information on this valuable tax strategy, and the calculator from Crest Capital shows the savings.
The key phrase in Section 179 is “put into service.” With only a month left in 2016, many kinds of business equipment simply can’t be delivered and put into service before the end of the year. The good news: There’s a wide variety of high density storage, RFID systems, and modular furnishings on a quick-order program. Talk to your tax advisor, then talk to your local storage professional to find out which new and efficient storage systems can help your business qualify for this attractive deduction. Don’t waste a minute!
We all know the old saying: “Failure to plan is planning to fail.” When you’re getting ready to invest in new lab space, the failure to plan can turn into expensive cost overruns.
A good checklist is a vital planning aid. Lab Design News has developed a space planning checklist to help determine your spatial requirements, including:
Current and future headcounts
Existing equipment inventory and future purchases
Venting and mechanical needs
Clean room requirements
Another way to guard against planning failures is to build flexibility into your space plan. Modular casework is a highly effective hedge against unanticipated demands on lab space. These cabinets can be reconfigured in dozens of ways, saving the cost of expensive new casework. This video demonstrates how one institution used modular casework to adapt to new space plans.
Plan ahead, avoid costly surprises, and talk to a storage specialist about maximizing flexibility in your casework design.