Revolutionizing Lab Work: How Automation Empowers Lab Technicians and Scientists and Reduces Manual Workload
Contributed Commentary by Mike Asham, Head of Application Sciences and Solutions, Automata
June 16, 2023 | As the life sciences industry continues to grow and innovate, it is critical for labs to leverage automation technology to reduce manual workload and unlock new avenues for scientific discovery. With breakthroughs in gene-editing, increased healthcare testing, and genomic surveillance due to the COVID-19 pandemic, labs cannot afford to have highly qualified scientists tied to their benches performing easily automatable tasks. Additionally, The US is currently at the center of the quickly expanding life sciences industry with the country considered the global leader in the space with more than a third of all life sciences companies headquartered in this country. And as this country continues to prioritize life sciences, it’s key for companies in the life sciences space from pharmaceutical companies through cell manufacturing and gene editing companies, to consider how automation will support their growth and efficiency.
While the past decade has seen significant progress in automation with the development of specialized benchtop instruments, such as liquid handlers and plate readers, lab workers still spend significant amounts of time on manual tasks and sample movement. The solution to this problem is open, integrated automation, an approach that involves digitally connecting multiple devices in a workflow. By doing so, lab staff can focus on the front line of discovery while also increasing the quality and quantity of samples processed.
The Power of Open, Integrated Automation
In most laboratories today, partial automation is already in play, with devices that automate a step in a scientist’s workflow. But as science looks to become faster, more efficient and more effective at making breakthrough discoveries, automation is evolving from just one part of a process, to connecting and automating the entire workflow—similar to what we see in automotive assembly lines today for example. This open, integrated approach to automation, combining hardware and software, empowers lab staff by eliminating the time-consuming task of moving samples between instruments and the associated dead time spent waiting on these instruments to complete processes. Here are some of the ways this powerful form of automation can help unlock the potential of scientists:
Improve data quality and repeatability
Pathology investigations play a significant role in healthcare decisions affecting diagnosis or treatment, but "unreliable results" were ranked as the number one factor impacting productivity in labs. Open, integrated automation is the best way to improve the quality of results while giving time back to scientists. Automated systems generate high volumes of accurate results, improving the quality of overall data. This can reduce repetitive tasks and free up scientists to focus on analysis, improving accuracy and repeatability of results and reducing wasted time spent redoing workflow steps.
Enhancing productivity and efficiency
Scientific discovery requires large datasets, often requiring labs to process high numbers of samples to gather enough data to prove or disprove a hypothesis. In a manual situation, processing these large sets of samples would require long hours for employees, especially if working to an external deadline. However, with automation, this process can be more productive without taking a toll on the workforce. Open, integrated automation within labs means that an entire workflow with multiple assays can be set up, with scientists being able to walk away. This also means workflows can operate 24/7, during evenings and weekends, eliminating the need for technicians to work overtime to complete tasks.
Investing in automation for the success of the lab
By embracing automation, labs can remove tedious work and add to the strength and capabilities of their teams, unlocking their power and giving back time to achieve more. Investing in automation not only empowers the lab team but also allows for true walk-away time so that they can focus on more complex and analytical work, including experiment planning and interpreting data—driving the success of the laboratory.
With the power to relieve stress, unlock precision, and empower lab teams, it is clear that automation technology is an essential tool for the life sciences industry.
Mike Asham joined Automata in 2022 as the Head of Applications Engineering. He has a diverse automation background with over 10+ years in the field using a variety of high throughput platforms and research experience specializing in Genomics & Molecular Oncology. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.