Lab automation is a phrase that many individuals within the life sciences use to describe their work or a specific solution. Over my 20-plus years in the life science industry, I have heard many ways individuals describe laboratory automation. My colleagues at HighRes have shared similar stories with me.
You may encounter a different meaning, depending upon the individual or company that you are communicating with. Some people will use liquid handler, liquid handling workstation, robotics, work cell, and many other terms interchangeably as a way to describe their lab automation solution.
If you are speaking with a pure liquid handling instrument provider, you may encounter language such as ‘the size of your deck matters’, or that ‘the liquid handler is the most critical component for your workflow.’ They may even mention that their solutions are modular.
True modularity must incorporate device, componentry, and sample distribution. True modular automation adapts and re-adapts to your science, your technology, and your organization. When considering hardware, you need to remember that hardware is a tool. It’s up to you to determine the best tool or tools that will help you further your scientific discovery. The majority of statements that hardware companies make focus purely on hardware, and hardware only makes up one pillar of how we define lab automation.
For the past three years, the life science industry has gone through and will continue to go through a digital transformation revolution. What occurred in the high-tech industry fifteen years ago has finally arrived in the life science industry, and we at HighRes welcome it with open arms.
This digital transformation will help propel scientific discovery by making scientific data FAIR, connecting software tools via the cloud thus allowing data streams to flow across your organization, tuning lab automation to become data factories and so much more. Some companies will say that software is the driving force behind lab automation and tell you that you can perform your do-it-yourself automation project via their software. They may even say their software can orchestrate your lab for you.
True lab automation software must move beyond mere workflow scheduling and process management to create data factories that can produce more data more quickly and reliably for better decisions faster. We agree that software is a critical component of lab automation, however, it makes up the second pillar of how we define lab automation.
To design, build, test, retest, and prepare hardware and software solutions for the life science industry, we need people. People fathom the original product idea. People write the AI algorithm to perform the analysis. People collaborate to develop and deploy solutions that help further your science. Hardware and software are key pillars to advancing lab automation, but people make it all happen. People are the third pillar in how we define lab automation.
Hardware, software, and people compose the three pillars of how we define lab automation. Hardware represents the tools for your lab to complete its work.
The software creates interconnectivity across your lab and organization for your people to make better decisions faster. These two pillars alone do not provide a holistic solution. People are required to complete real lab automation solutions. These three pillars must work harmoniously in a symbiotic relationship for scientists to truly embrace and use lab automation to its maximum potential.