Automating Lab Research Shouldn’t Be Automatic

two workers at production line in plant

(DGIwire) — Technology has proved to be a game-changer in most if not all industries. Medical research laboratories are part of this trend, and their managers are fully aware of the advantages of increasing automation. Over the past decade, countless institutions with research facilities have taken the plunge, to various degrees, and for those who have not yet done so, it’s only a matter of time.

Research institutions, hospitals, pharmaceutical and biomedical companies alike find that automation can reduce the turnaround time needed to produce test results, improve staff productivity and dramatically reduce costs. Not only is laboratory automation essential to accelerating possible medical discoveries and even breakthroughs—it also allows them to remain competitive. With state-of-the-art automation, researchers, technicians, pathologists and other professionals have many more options for testing new research methods and for problem solving.

Despite these obvious advantages, clinical laboratory managers and other stakeholders often fail to look before they leap. “The oldest and most violated axiom is ‘you don’t want to automate a bad process,’” says MIT-trained engineer and pathologist John Crissman, M.D., in an interview on the clinical lab news website DARK Daily. “Simply replacing current manual processes in the laboratory with automated instruments is unlikely to achieve the full extent of efficiencies and savings that produce a good return on investment. Today’s savvy pathologist and clinical laboratory manager wants to use process mapping and work flow redesign methods to streamline processes in the laboratory as an integrated approach to introducing total laboratory automation.”

Crissman and other experts say the most important thing to consider when automating a lab is how to measure the existing physical plant and resources against the benchmarks one wants to accomplish. This should include a careful evaluation of finances, the availability of staff members able participate in planning and implementing the automation, and what equipment to use.

“In order to remain relevant, staying competitive in today’s medical research world with automation is essential,” says Jeffrey A. Duchemin, President and CEO of Harvard Bioscience, a Holliston, MA-based global developer, manufacturer and marketer of a broad range of research instrumentation devices and technologies.

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