Having automated processes in the lab can increase productivity and ensure consistent, reproducible results. Additionally, automation improves safety and allows the team to focus their energy on new issues in the lab.
While many labs worldwide have utilized lab scheduling software to automate their processes, there are still many, especially smaller labs that have yet to make a move. Below, we discuss how to automate your lab with lab scheduling software and its benefits.
Applications That Can Benefit From Automated Processes
The lab’s various processes and tests can be automated with the right lab scheduling software and connected instruments. Below are how some applications can benefit from automation in the lab.
- Liquid Handling: Liquid handling is a significant part of any lab, and there are various liquid handling robots available for specific applications. You can automate everything from reagent dispensing and serial diluting to increasing throughput and relieving your staff of repetitive work.
- Colony Picking: When performed manually, bacterial and fungal colony picking is a very time-consuming process and is prone to error. An automated colony picking robot uses a camera and advanced image analysis to detect and select the desired bacterial or fungal colony based on programmed criteria, greatly increasing the colony picking accuracy.
- Immunoassays: Assays such as ELISAs require multiple incubation and washing steps, which make them labor-intensive and complicated to run. Using a microplate handler and washer with lab scheduling software ensures that each step’s timing and dispensing and aspiration rates are correct and consistent. This gives higher accuracy, precision, and throughput.
- PCR and qPCR: PCR and qPCR have multiple steps that can be automated. Nucleic acid extraction can be handled by an automated magnetic bead nest or positive pressure filter plate, while there are automated thermocyclers that can significantly simplify the PCR process. All these steps can be connected with a robotic arm for a fully hands-off PCR and qPCR process.
Automating Lab Processes
Automating your lab processes requires detailed planning. Below are the steps you can take to ensure a smooth and impactful upgrade to automation with lab scheduling software.
- First, understand your entire workflow. This helps you to identify which steps can benefit from automation, where the bottlenecks are, and identify your goals.
- You can then know which steps can benefit the most from automation and automate those steps instead of revamping the whole lab. This way, you can keep your costs down while you gradually automate your lab.
- Identify your budget, available space, and how much downtime you can expect to have while you install the new instruments and lab scheduling software. Based on these, create a detailed road map to minimize disruption to your operations.
- Check with your vendors to ensure that the instruments, robots, and software are compatible with each other and other instruments you already have. Most lab scheduling software supports automation for a long list of instruments and have plugins for instruments from different manufacturers.
Features of Good Lab Scheduling Software
Lab scheduling software is a critical component in any lab automation as it allows you to oversee and control all automated processes.
Here are some features you should consider when deciding on lab scheduling software.
- Scheduling: The scheduling feature enables the various instruments in your lab to run different workflows simultaneously. It can also deploy individual robots differently depending on the state of the system.
- Methods Development Interface: The user interface should be intuitive to use. Software such as the SoftLinx Lab Automation Software uses a drag-and-drop graphical flow chart interface, which gives an easy learning curve.
- Workflow customization: Customizable lab scheduling software helps you create new protocols that aren’t already available in the software.
- Data Handling: For optimal efficiency, lab scheduling software should link to and record data in your LIMS and database system such as Oracle.
- Security and Compliance: Make sure that your software complies with 21CFR Part 11 and other regulatory requirements.
All labs, even small ones, can adopt automated processes. As automated robots and lab scheduling software become more accessible, labs should take advantage of them to increase their output and minimize errors.
Contact Hudson Robotics today for a wide range of lab instruments, robotics, and automation software.