Chemicals and Equipment Supplies

The chemicals required for use in the laboratory fall into the following basic categories.

• Fine Chemicals, from suppliers

• Bulk Chemicals, including solvents

• Samples from the Manufacturing Plant

• Samples produced in the laboratory

The first three of these categories are readily available from local suppliers, whose catalogues are available in a variety of formats, hard copy, on CD-ROM or on-line, including on-line ordering. Therefore only minimal buffer stocks of these supplies need to be held in the laboratory, and to operate a "just in time" system. Fine chemicals in particular are expensive and overstocking is an unnecessary financial burden on the R&D budget. From the practical point of view, the control and monitoring of expenditure by laboratory staff, is most easily done if an individual is identified to carry out the ordering on behalf of the group. In addition, an identified individual is more likely to strike up a good relationship and understanding with the suppliers.

Manufacturing samples, by their very nature are often large and bulky and the provision of adequate and safe storage space in a convenient location can present problems that are not associated with fine chemicals.

The storage and retrieval of laboratory samples, on a longer-term basis, has already been discussed in Section B, 2.4.1. However, many of these samples will be in regular use and therefore will require storage space either in or close to the laboratory. Systems have been devised to assist in locating these locally stored materials and so making them more readily available to the occupants of other laboratories in the building. The simplest of these systems uses a bar coding system. Each bottle or vial containing a chemical is given a bar code designated to its contents. The location of the chemical is then entered into the database on the network using a bar code reader. The bar code reader is then used to record into the computer when the chemical is moved to another location. A user can check the location of a particular chemical from the computer database. These systems only work when everybody follows the procedures. Properly used, these methods can rapidly pay back the investment in the savings made from the reduced purchases of fine chemicals. All chemicals need to be handled in a safe manner and this is discussed in Section B, 3.2. In order to comply with the regulatory authorities (see Section B, 3.3), it has become imperative to track the movement of samples around the laboratory and inventory management systems to do this are available commercially.

The equipment used in R&D laboratories covers a wide range, from simple, cheap glassware to sophisticated and expensive automated synthesis rigs, analytical machines, testing equipment and pilot plant items. It is one of the jobs of an R&D Manager to determine the equipment required by the group and to plan for its acquisition. All laboratory equipment has a finite lifetime and as well as a process of planned maintenance, a plan for its replacement is required. It is usually better to leave the purchase and even the choice of supplier, to a person charged with a purchasing and supply responsibility for the department or company (see also Section B, 3.1.1)

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