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Lab Automation & What to Consider Prior to Implementation

The laboratory automation market has been growing in size and was estimated to be worth an eye-catching $4.67 billion in 2021.  The market size is expected to reach $6.66 billion by 2027. 

There are several factors driving this growth including but not limited to:

  • The benefits of lab automation
  • Miniaturization of processes
  • Progressing diagnostic markets
  • Increasing number of government investments in research and innovation

Breaking it down further, the largest share of the automation market is the automated workstation segment with liquid handling automation being the main driver.

Within the context therefore of the growing automation market as well as the clear benefits of automation (check out our blog on The Benefits of Lab Automation – MESLO Americas), you may have already decided that automation is the way to go for your lab.  Prior to implementing any decision, there are several points to consider to ensure a successful outcome.

What should labs take into consideration?

  1. Communication, communication, communication

Communication is so critical we had to mention it three times to ensure we stress it enough and we should also add the need for clarity and the frequency of communication.

It goes without saying but we’ll say it anyway – getting your team on board can be the single most important factor in ensuring the automation of your lab is done properly.  Change typically elicits a degree of fear or uneasiness because of the unknown.  The first action is therefore, to reassure your team that this step Is not to replace them but rather, that they will be one of the main beneficiaries of your lab automation plans.  Be explicit on how they may benefit.  For example, what would it free up their time to focus on?  Make sure your team is involved in building the implementation road map.  You may want to ask their opinion and get their feedback on the equipment for example. 

Putting in place a robust training and support system is an important component.  You may even want to consider appointing a “master” trainer from within the team who can answer any queries whilst also reducing your reliance from outside the lab.

Your team need to be cheerleaders of the automation plans and communication is a significant factor in gaining their support. 

  1. Know the outcome you want

The benefits of lab automation are obvious and plentiful, but you need to be clear on what exactly you want out of automating your lab.  Most labs know why they exist and what their purpose is and knowing the “why” of your automation plan is just as important. 

The clearer you are in regards to the outcome you envision and the expect, the easier it is to stay on course and track your progress.  It also helps build a consistent message for your team and in turn, further help generate support for your plan. 

Knowing your outcome also includes being clear on the degree of automation you plan to implement.  Are you planning to automate a particular process today or multiple ones?  What will you automate in the medium to long-term future?  Consideration for both budget and time has to be taken into account and they will determine the extent of your immediate automation plans.  

  1. Choose the right process(es) to automate

Prior to any automated implementation, you should look holistically at your overall processes.  What processes can you enhance?  What steps can you improve?  Optimization can help ensure you truly leverage the efficiency of the automated version you plan on implementing.  You don’t want to be making changes following implementation as that can lead to delays and lose support from the team. 

With that in mind, know what process is prime for automation.  As a general guide, tasks that are highly repetitive, time consuming and frequent, are prime candidates. 

  1. Don’t forget about the software

Software – and more importantly – compatible software is a key consideration.  You can opt for the very best automation instruments but if the software does not mesh well with your IT infrastructure or if it is highly complicated, it can negate the benefits you are seeking.  Speak with your automation partner(s) to ensure a smooth process.

There is a lot to consider when implementing an automation plan.  Just like with anything that is worth doing, having clear, defined goals coupled with a measurable and timed plan, is necessary.  At MESLO Americas we are here to help with a range of automation solutions.  Check out what we have to offer and we are looking forward to being your partner throughout your automation journey.  

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