How to Tell When You Need to Automate Your Lab

Managing and operating a lab can be a complicated task. With so many moving parts to manage and keep track of, it can be hard to understand when to make changes to long-existing workflows/processes.  The pace of scientific research and subsequent publications over the past 5 years only increased with the Covid-19 pandemic.  This pace only looks to continue in the future.  This will put additional pressure on both academic and industry scientists to expand their research and development capabilities.  Whether your focus is on small or large molecule entity research, you may be asking yourself some of the following questions: what are my or my team’s current pain points?  How can my team improve sample uniformity across the multitude of assays being performed in our lab? Are these temporary roadblocks or symptoms of underlying issues with our processes?  

When it comes to addressing these production bottlenecks and improving lab output, few tools are as useful as laboratory automation. Robotic solutions can not only alleviate some of the workload constraints that you and your team are facing, but also may allow your personnel to automate simple tasks today and, as your research expands over time, evolve your automation solution to meet future demands of your science and/or organization.    

At HighRes Biosolutions, we have decades of experience working with small to large multinational organizations to manage their lab operations and workflows. We’ve outlined here the most common signs we’ve seen that your lab is outgrowing its current workflows and could be helped by the introduction of automation.  

1. Expanding Sample Consumption 

Over the past 7 years, we have seen a trend in the market towards smaller more focused assays.  Though these focused assays may require fewer samples to be run during a specific workflow, we have seen an increase in the demand to perform several workflows simultaneously, which results in increased sample consumption.  This increase in assay demand increases the workload on your scientists.  This increase in workload can lead to errors and false positives. 

If you see this trend occurring within your team or organization, observe the commonly repeated tasks and the recurring errors. If your data points to an increase in errors due to repeatable tasks, it may be time for you to evaluate and consider implementing automation across your lab. 

2. Inconsistent Results with Experiments 

As your team’s assay workload increases, you may encounter varying results and issues in sample uniformity across your experiments.  This could be a sign that your team is struggling to keep pace with your research demand.  This can be incredibly detrimental to your operations, as precision is critical when measuring your lab’s performance. One of the single largest contributors to lab inconsistencies is human error. This is easy to understand when you see the full scale of what lab technicians are often asked to do.  

Manually preparing tens of thousands of samples by hand can be a tedious and painstaking process. Attempting to maintain a standard level of accuracy can make this even more difficult. Fortunately, lab automation can convert manual tasks into automated workflows that rapidly complete tasks with a high degree of accuracy and consistency.  

3. High Labor Costs 

One of the clearest signs of when it’s time to automate your lab is realizing your labor costs are too high. Your budget is a careful balance of staff resourcing, equipment and lab supplies, and other important variables. Lab automation can be a cost-saving solution if you find yourself consistently overspending on labor. Robots can run and operate with minimal human supervision, automating a workflow can allow you to increase the number of experiments your lab performs whilst minimizing actual FTE labor costs. The cost savings realized long term from automated workflows can be tremendous.   

Knowing When You Need to Automate Your Lab 

Only you can know for sure when it’s time to automate your lab. However, if you’re experiencing issues with results consistency, difficult to manage spikes in assay demand, or increased labor costs, it might be time to implement automation.  

Lab Automation can accelerate an extremely wide range of application areas, from Compound Management, High Throughput Screening, Cell Culture, Cell-based and biochemical assays, genomics, and beyond. Regardless of where you begin, HighRes has the experience and expertise to start your automation on the right foot.  

As one of the most experienced lab automation partners in the industry, our engineers, developers, and application specialists work closely with you to develop solutions that bring measurable results and improved productivity to your workflows. We invite you to learn more to understand how we can help with your next automation project.  

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