Relocating a Live Lab that Runs 24/7 – at the Height of a Pandemic

As if maintaining 24/7 availability for 10 departments at a hospital laboratory isn’t enough, social distancing and PPE mid-summer certainly adds a new dimension to relocations

The Challenge

Bronson Health’s Methodist Hospital Lab in Kalamazoo serves all of southwest Michigan with a wide range of testing and diagnostics. It’s a 24/7 operation and many of the thousands of specimens incubated on site cannot be disrupted. VOC Associates was brought in to plan and manage a highly sensitive relocation.

Why Move?

The lab had outgrown its existing space and, alongside that troublesome restriction, was experiencing facilities-related issues. While the number of staff to be relocated to the new building wasn’t huge – 85 – the need to maintain 24-hour provision of key services and equipment required precise planning. Ten departments in total – Pathology, Microbiology, Blood Bank, Hematology, Chemistry, Cytology, Histology and LIS, plus Registration and Couriers – needed to be relocated.

Key Services Rendered:

  • Activation Planning
  • Transition Planning

Our Approach

The VOC team was brought in midway through design on the recommendation of the project architect. Our approach with lab projects is to dive in and get data generated and gathered as fast as possible. Only with a full assessment of all the current and required equipment in a lab is it possible to map out all the mechanical, electrical, and plumbing requirements, in addition to confirming the space each piece of equipment needs. We worked hand-in-hand with the various lab teams to build existing equipment lists, vendor requirements for current and future equipment, setting out qualification plans, confirming relocation requirements, coordination of multiple move teams and guiding the change management process.

Long lead times for vendors to carry out equipment relocation and installation meant early planning was of the essence. Locking them in gives certainty. Of course, with a new build this also means working closely with the owner’s rep and contractor to keep the build on track. Any delay could mean losing relocation vendors, with potentially disastrous financial consequences.

Managing the Move

With the lab requiring continuous uptime for various departments planned for moving, our priority was to keep everything functioning – and no equipment damage or specimens lost – during the move itself. COVID-19 did its utmost to disrupt, arriving around two months before the planned move. We faced multiple challenges, including vendors who weren’t allowed to travel, construction teams hit with COVID and material lag issues, and non-employees were not allowed on campus. We had no choice but to postpone the move by several months.

This meant consulting with all vendors, lab teams, and every other stakeholder to redo all our plans and schedules. When the move days came, in the middle of summer, we carried out the move, implementation and training in full PPE while observing safe social distancing.

Our comprehensive understanding of the lab’s needs meant there was no downtime beyond what had been planned in advance, which involved sending some tests to our client’s other lab during the move. All equipment and systems went live as anticipated and we needed none of the backup plans we’d painstakingly put in place.

VOC’s equipment validation process guaranteed that there was little need for change orders or rework and, using Readiness Rounds, we caught various issues ahead of time that would have stopped the move in its tracks on move day. In the end, the move took place over ten days with the bulk happening during a 17-hour Sunday to maintain operations.

The Results

10 departments and 85 people moved

300+ pieces of highly sensitive equipment moved

100s of boxes of contents relocated

1000s of specimens slides safely moved

Zero unplanned downtime transition