The laboratory environment is a highly complex, structured environment comprised of isolated, expensive machinery that ensures precision, traceability and replicability. These features are what makes the laboratory the perfect setting for a laboratory execution system.
This is a relatively new term describing a type of laboratory automation that allows existing laboratory instruments and devices to be connected to the cloud or local server. It is an inexpensive, efficient way of integrating connective software into the laboratory. It facilitates greater accessibility and flexibility of devices whilst overall ensuring Standard Operating Procedures (SOP’s) are met in the laboratory.
Here are 5 ways a laboratory execution system will revolutionise laboratory practices:
Reduce the risk of error
In the laboratory environment, scientists need to ensure that the risk of error is minimised to produce accurate and replicable results. A laboratory execution system enables researchers to significantly reduce the risk of human error. The system allows devices and laboratory equipment to stream equipment data output directly onto a scientist’s electronic laboratory notebook (a digitised version of the paper lab notebook).
Previously, scientists had to manually write out all output data from machines, this repetitive task not only took the researcher substantial time and effort, but it also carried a large risk of human error. However, by integrating a laboratory execution system into the laboratory it ensures that all data generated by the equipment is collected in moments. This data is then backed up with a designated full audit trail ensuring that data is always secure and retrievable.
Reducing human error risk improves the quality and reliability of the research conducted. A laboratory execution system promotes greater precision and accuracy in the laboratory by relying on devices’ abilities to perform repetitive tasks to a high level.
Save researcher time and effort
Implementing a laboratory execution system also saves a researcher substantial time and effort. Understandably, time is an incredibly valuable asset for a researcher; if they have to devote a large proportion of their time carrying out repetitive tasks, productivity in the laboratory will decrease, affecting the yield of discoveries. The laboratory execution system solution involves the transfer of repetitive tasks into the domain of software (which excels at categorising data), liberating the researcher from the burden of tasks which don’t require any innovative thought.
In this way, a laboratory execution system reduces the workload for scientists. By relying on devices, (which excel at these tasks) it frees up a researchers time so they can spend it on harder tasks which will facilitate further research progression.
Unify Laboratory Devices
Internet of Things (IoT) solutions such as the laboratory execution system connect devices, equipment and researchers, unifying the laboratory environment. In the current system, instruments are detached and isolated, it is a system that does not maximise device nor researcher potential. Implementing a laboratory execution system, however, allows researchers to connect with laboratory devices and for those devices to communicate with one another.
Under this system laboratory equipment can be controlled remotely, giving researchers access to the laboratory at any time facilitating a more efficient, flexible approach to conducting research. Moreover, researchers are able to define time intervals for experiments to be monitored by devices, they will receive notifications of the experiment progression in real-time. Having one central platform for researchers to store data and control laboratory equipment allows individual tasks to be coordinated more efficiently and allows data documentation to become fully automated.
By unifying the laboratory environment, researchers will be able to monitor and control laboratory equipment with ease, streamlining laboratory processes and increasing the productivity of the laboratory.
Maximise all data generated
Data collection becomes much simpler with a laboratory execution system, and it’s not just the data relating to an experiment. Currently, a lot of data generated by equipment isn’t processed as it would simply take too much time to record all machine output. With a laboratory execution system, researchers are able to easily harness all data the laboratory equipment generates, on usability, ideal conditions, etc.. A scientist could define that a machine should continue collecting even after the culmination of the experiment, and the machine would oblige, giving the researcher extra information they can use to maximise laboratory equipment and materials.
The system allows one to connect instrument sensors (fridges, incubators, amongst others) and passively monitor parameters so they can function at any time, even when the researcher is absent. A researcher will receive updates on their experiment through any connective device, whether it be a phone, tablet or laptop. With this, they can monitor every aspect of the experiment from its inception to its conclusion.
There has been a lot of talk at the moment of the importance of data, questions of how to maximise information to improve yield and achieve targets. A laboratory execution system allows scientists to utilise all information generated by laboratory devices, which will aid scientists with important decisions regarding expensive materials.
Save researcher money
Research laboratories are under constant pressure to produce accurate and replicable results, yet this can be difficult with financial constraints. Researchers are often supportive of the moves to automate the laboratory but don’t implement the system themselves due to the large cost which is linked to it. Researcher budgets are already stretched, often researchers rely solely on grants to cover the costs of a functioning research laboratory.
As a consequence scientists have in most cases prioritised purchasing materials for the laboratory over implementing IoT and automation into the laboratory. Yet, there is a way to implement IoT into the lab without enormous costs. A laboratory execution system gives scientists complete control over their methods and standard operating procedures (SOPs), without them having to purchase, integrate, and validate software from multiple vendors. This means that a scientist can connect the system to current equipment, ensuring that they don’t have to spend astronomical amounts replacing functioning laboratory equipment. Instead, scientists just buy a device that connects laboratory equipment to the laboratory cloud or server.
A laboratory execution system is a cheap alternative to spending lots of money updating the entire laboratory. It is a worthwhile investment that will change how the laboratory operates for the better. By ensuring that the laboratory is more productive at cheaper costs, discovery yield is likely to increase as a result of the improved efficiency and productivity of the laboratory.
IoT has already begun to revolutionise laboratory practices. IoT enabling technologies are being quickly assimilated into the industry laboratory environment. However, the adoption of research academics has been slow in comparison. This is largely due to the perceived cost of integrating a full-scale laboratory automation system, which typically involves updating all equipment.
A laboratory execution system would be a good investment as it achieves a more connected laboratory without the large costs that usually come with automation. The laboratory execution system offers opportunities that should be seized by research laboratories globally, it facilitates greater accessibility, connectivity and flexibility of devices creating a more productive, unified laboratory.
Written by Phoebe Chubb