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Unlocking the power of your people with true walkaway automation

Divya Vijay Pratheek: How to make the most of the automation in your lab to reduce manual workload and unlock innovation


21st February 2023 Divya Vijay Pratheek

The life sciences industry is expanding rapidly, with new innovations for processes and products increasing by the day. As the industry evolves and in the wake COVID-19 there has been a significant growth in genomic surveillance, breakthroughs in gene-editing, and increased testing in healthcare, to name just a few examples. 

With this current level of growth and innovation, a lab can no longer afford to be a space where highly educated and intelligent scientists are locked to their benches to perform easily automatable tasks.

Scientists today are often locked to their benches performing easily automatable tasks

These highly qualified lab staff need to be on the front line of discovery, and lab automation is the way to give them back valuable time while also increasing the quality and quantity of samples that can be processed. However, the way we have approached automation over the last decade has been focused on highly-specialised benchtop instruments, such as liquid handlers or plate readers. While this has relieved some of the repetitive tasks lab workers conduct every day, they are still spending hours doing manual steps in between and moving samples between instruments.

In order to empower the people in today’s labs – the people who will be ushering in a new era of scientific innovation – there needs to be a new approach to automation: Open, integrated automation. 

Empowering your people with open, integrated automation

Open, integrated automation is an approach to automation that involves robotically and digitally connecting multiple devices in a workflow. This relieves lab staff of the time consuming and often thankless task of moving samples between instruments and the associated dead time spent waiting on these instruments to complete processes.At Automata, we apply open, integrated automation in the form of a fully-automated lab bench.

Here are some of the ways this powerful form of automation can be the key to unlocking the power of scientists.

Relieving the stress of high-pressure lab situations

Scientific discovery requires large data sets, and this means that labs are often required 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, in a lab with an open, integrated automation system, this process can be more productive without taking a toll on the workforce. While scientists are able to clock off as needed, automated labs can get to work during even the most anti-social of hours. By automating entire workflows this way, systems have the ability to operate 24/7 – during evenings and weekends – eliminating the need for technicians to work overtime to complete tasks. 

With Automata’s LINQ system, technology like this can be used to dramatically reduce manual touchpoints. For a genomics lab we worked with on automating their quality control process, we reduced the time needed for manual setup for 200 samples from 6 hours 10 minutes to just 15 minutes, for example.

Unlocking precision with ease

It is estimated that 70-80% of all health care decisions affecting diagnosis or treatment involve a pathology investigation. Yet, in a recent Agilent survey, ‘unreliable results’ were ranked as the number one factor impacting productivity in labs. No two people will perform an action in exactly the same way, but when it comes to scientific testing and development, repeatability and standardisation are essential to maintaining a controlled environment. Even slight variations could lead to further errors down the line and render the experiment unreliable. 

Automation is the best way to improve the quality of results while giving time back to scientists, as robots are able to continuously perform the same task without variation. Having an automated system in place means that workflows can generate a high volume of accurate results to help improve the quality of the overall data. Automata’s solutions have helped a number of labs reduce their manual set-up time, and in one scenario reduced touchpoints from 1,388 to just 7. Not only does this reduce repetitive tasks and reclaim this time unlocks room for scientists to think and analyse, it improves accuracy and repeatability of results, reducing wasted time spent redoing steps in the workflow.

Open, integrated automation not only empowers the lab team, it also allows them to focus on more complex and analytical work, fundamentally driving the success of the laboratory.

Empowering labs to change the world

The heart of a lab is ultimately the scientists who work there. In an industry where accuracy and efficiency are paramount, open, integrated automation can help relieve scientists of the burden of manual processes by taking on these tasks, leaving them free to focus on other aspects of their role. By embracing automation, labs can only add to the strength and capabilities of their teams – helping them to unlock their power and give back time to achieve more. 

Investing in automation not only empowers the lab team, it also allows them to focus on more complex and analytical work, fundamentally driving the success of the laboratory.