Research labs have ensured food safety and produced some of the most important drug therapies, products, and scientific discoveries in human history. However, in order for these exciting developments to take place, researchers must perform a number of every day, often tedious tasks in order to run successful experiments. In the past, these tasks have been time-consuming and have required hands-on attention from a number of individuals. Now, automation is changing the landscape of the research laboratory.
When it comes to a lab, the term “automation” refers to a number of different strategies for incorporating technology and software into everyday workflows. In general, automation usually involves utilizing software or machine learning to undertake a particular lab task or conduct data analysis once performed exclusively by humans. Techniques such as high throughput screening – the use of automation to test large numbers of chemical or biological samples – and other automated analysis tools can help researchers make better use of lab time by improving the time it takes to do a set of tasks.
Benefits of Lab Automation
Many tasks in the lab are time-consuming or require constant monitoring for optimal results. With the use of lab automation, researchers have discovered many improvements in the day to day operations of the lab, including:
- Greater efficiency – Instead of spending extended amounts of time monitoring such processes as exotherms, which involve careful monitoring of slight temperature changes, lab automation allows researchers to fulfill this task through computer software. Fewer human resources needed will help improve overall efficiency and output.
- Improved productivity – With automated software performing the more tedious tasks of running a lab, researchers are able to ease the mentally strenuous effects of performing multiple operations at one time. This also allows a lab to focus attention on other components of the same research. In addition, researchers can work creatively and pursue innovations that would previously have been eclipsed by other everyday duties.
- Better use of data – Most lab research produces a wealth of experimental data that, in the past, may have gone unrecorded or unanalyzed. With the use of software automation, all data is recorded, producing a comprehensive report for detailed analysis.
- Improved results – The automated data capture offered by most lab software systems provides a more detailed look at experimental results than ever before. This data is presented in a number of formats for easy interpretation, allowing researchers to identify trends, potential issues, and outlying statistics to use for further improvement of the research process.
- Better safety – While automation allows a more hands-off approach to many of the everyday functions of a lab, it actually allows researchers more control over these processes. Many potentially dangerous procedures occur in labs on a daily basis, and through automation, researchers can implement safety protocols that prevent mistakes normally caused by human error.
As the need for lab research continues to increase – especially in the field of drug discovery – the importance of maintaining an efficient, productive lab has become more and more apparent. The use of automation to increase efficiency and productivity – all while improving upon the actual results produced by the lab – is one of the most crucial developments in the history of lab technology. In the future, as automation improves, lab workflows and results will continue to improve as well, further hastening our access to the remarkable achievements research will accomplish.