Home Automation Automated Laboratory Systems: A Detailed Guide

Automated Laboratory Systems: A Detailed Guide

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Automated laboratory systems are a way of simplifying the process of lab work, allowing users to avoid tedious and costly lab work. They also reduce the operator burden, decrease costs, and increase productivity.

But when considering using automated laboratory systems in a serious setting, it is important to be able to understand how they operate so that you can use them most effectively with minimal impact on your own environment.

For example, if you are working in a laboratory that requires routine tests every week, you need to run the same tests on each sample. Using an automated system will help eliminate the risk of human error from performing these same tasks multiple times.

Automated systems are typically used in an industrial setting where large amounts of samples need to be analyzed. In most cases, these samples contain chemicals that must be tested for specific properties and characteristics, such as pH and acidity.

The majority of automated testing is performed with liquid samples and for this reason it is crucial for laboratories to have proper storage facilities for samples. Without secure storage and a way to ensure proper handling before testing can occur, results can be compromised.

Pre-analytical error has been estimated to occur up to 70% of the time and is caused by things like wrong amounts, poor storage, and labelling.

Automate systems can provide a more accurate analysis of samples when compared to manual techniques. Automation offers advantages of reduced costs, increased production, and the ability to conduct hundreds of analyses on the same sample at a time.

Importance Of Automation In Laboratory Systems

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Automation in laboratory systems can be implemented on a whole-facility basis or it can be used within small groups of instruments around specific areas of interest. In a whole facility approach, laboratories will have standardized and automated testing methods throughout their organization based on the types and numbers of tests that are performed on a regular basis.

The AutoAnalyzer, the first automated analyzer, was created in 1957 and used continuous flow analysis. Run-off automation systems are unique in the sense that they are set up to run samples on multiple instruments at once.

These automated systems can be used for testing samples with a variety of different parameters, which allows labs to run multiple tests on the same sample. Run-off automation systems typically have workstations that are designed for specific tests and can be connected together via a network, allowing these stations to communicate with each other and ensure that all data is transferred accurately.

A laboratory information system or LIS combines automation equipment with computer hardware and software to automate many of the important tasks involved in the technical analysis of samples within a chemical or physical lab setting.

Benefits Of Automation In Laboratory Systems

Clinical laboratories use sample tubes to collect clinical chemistry samples for testing. The results of these tests are used to diagnose and treat patients. To ensure consistent results, clinical laboratories must use the same type of tube for all tests.

1. Reduction In Operator Burden And Human Error

Laboratory specialists need to remain vigilant to ensure that their results and analyses are accurate. Mistakes can be costly and result in samples being discarded or insurance claims being rejected.

Automation helps prevent these errors by testing each sample the same way every time, eliminating the possibility for human error. The automation system also prevents failure to detect a problem by performing several tests on a single sample.

With the use of high-throughput technology, the AutoAnalyzer increased the number of samples that could be examined every hour (150). Automated laboratory systems frequently perform multiple tests on a single sample.

By running tests separately as well as in combination, automation systems can detect trends that may not be detectable using manual techniques alone.

2. Increased Productivity

Laboratory specialists can spend their time focusing on the tests that are most important to their workplace and business rather than routine or repetitive tasks. Automation allows you to use time more efficiently, as well as increase production.

To do this, it is important to make sure samples are properly stored and handled before they are run through an automated system.

3. Increased Test Accuracy

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Automated systems can help ensure that your results are accurate by testing multiple samples together in one run rather than assessing a single sample at a time.

Automation also offers advantages when testing is often interrupted. For example, many automated systems are able to handle tests that require a long incubation period without operator intervention. This allows for uninterrupted testing and improved accuracy.

Automated systems can also help laboratories confirm test accuracy by allowing them to run control samples alongside sample analysis.

4. Reduced Costs Of Maintaining Equipment

Laboratory automation can reduce the cost of purchasing new equipment because it can increase the efficiency of existing lab resources and reduce the amount of equipment needed in a laboratory.

Automation can also reduce costs related to maintenance; it does not suffer from errors that require expensive software updates or an extensive service contract.

Automation also helps reduce costs associated with refilling reagent supplies. Accurate systems require less of these supplies, which can be costly to replenish.

5. Increased Quality And Reduced Cycle Times

Automation systems generally produce more accurate results in a shorter amount of time than a human operator could accomplish by hand.

This is especially true when testing samples that are processed in bulk or samples that need to be incubated for an extended period of time without human intervention. Dr. Masahide Sasaki demonstrated that a basic version of complete lab automation was feasible in 1984.

Automation will also help reduce cycle times by eliminating the need for laboratory specialists to perform repetitive tasks that can include documentation and reporting on results before passing them on for further review and analysis.

6. Improved Testing Capabilities

Automation systems can test different types of samples by combining multiple tests into a single run. This allows for testing of samples that are being developed for drug development and other fields where product stability may be an issue.

7. Minimized Impact On The Environment

Laboratory automation may require the use of chemicals and reagents that will remain in the environment after testing is completed. Some automated systems include environmentally friendly methods for disposing of expired chemicals and for collecting waste, although these methods are not always effective or safe to use.

8. Flexibility For Future Testing

Automated systems are typically more efficient than manual testing and can reduce the amount of equipment needed within a lab. These same systems are also able to accommodate new tests as they become available.

For example, new tests could be added temporarily or permanently based on need, eliminating the need to purchase an entirely new system if you will only be using them occasionally.

Risks Of Automation In Laboratory Systems

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The size of the global lab automation market was assessed to be USD 4.8 billion in 2020, and it is anticipated to increase at a CAGR of 8.1% from 2021 to 2028.

Consistent turnaround times are essential for manual steps and integration between devices. Solutions that allow for this kind of consistency are necessary for efficient workflows.

1. Downsizing

Many laboratory professionals have been trained to perform tests in a specific way. As the use of automated systems increases in a laboratory, there is the possibility that fewer lab specialists will exist who are capable of testing new samples.

With fewer lab specialists, it will become more difficult to provide standardization and quality control for your tests.

2. Higher Costs

As automation systems become more widely used, their cost will increase as their production and upkeep continue to increase. In addition, wages for workers may need to be upgraded if manual labor will no longer be necessary after specialized equipment is installed within the lab.

3. Lack Of Training In New Technologies And Procedures

Laboratory professionals who have been performing automated testing for a long time may not be well-versed in the use of newer equipment. Training will be needed for lab professionals to learn how to use new systems, as well as how to troubleshoot issues that may arise.

4. Software Issues

Laboratories need to make sure they purchase software that can easily integrate with existing systems and equipment, so that employees are able to come in and run tests quickly without taking time away from their other responsibilities. This is especially true if your laboratory runs multiple tests on any given sample.

5. Lack Of Space For New Equipment

With automated systems, more equipment may be needed in your lab. If you do not have enough space to accommodate new equipment, you can expect longer wait times as labs attempt to fit more samples into their existing structure.

6. Difficulty In Interpreting Results

With automated systems, it becomes much easier for lab technicians to identify trends or patterns in test results that may need additional research from experts within the organization.

Unfortunately, many lab specialists will not be able to interpret the results obtained by automated testing, so it is imperative that you are able to find and hire individuals who are capable of performing this task competently.

7. Increased Workload For Lab Analysts

Due to the widespread usage of continuous flow in laboratories for the provision of high-quality services, the continuous flow segment dominated the total market and accounted for the biggest revenue share of 57.5% in 2020.

Many laboratories that have implemented a laboratory automation system have found that the number of samples processed has increased dramatically. This may in turn increase the workload of lab analysts, who will need to find additional time to process all of these samples.

8. Decrease In Accuracy

In some cases, automated systems can be less accurate than manual testing. This is not only due to human error, but also because automated systems do not offer the same precision as manual testing due to factors related to the equipment used and sample preparation.

In addition, automated systems may produce more false positives or negatives than hand-tested samples because automated systems are not 100% reliable in their ability to properly process and analyze any given sample.

Final Note

There are a large number of benefits to replacing human workers with automated laboratory systems. The biggest benefit is that the equipment can perform a more thorough and reliable analysis.

With automated systems, much less time will be spent by the lab analyst reading results and interpreting them. The amount of time saved that could be used to apply these results in other tasks will also increase, reducing costs associated with manual labor. These increased savings can translate into more profit for any company that utilizes these automated tests.

However, there are some concerns with proprietary software being utilized by these automated systems. Many of these programs require licensing fees, which can add up quickly if the labs use proprietary software on a regular basis.

Last Updated on October 10, 2023 by Priyanshi Sharma

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