Automation 101: The Challenges of Laboratory Automation Implementation

November 3, 2021  |  Technology

When researchers make the decision to automate their lab processes, the next steps are deciding what solutions they need and then making the investment. It sounds simple, but there are several considerations that automation newcomers should be aware of during this process. To help researchers take their first steps in automation, we highlight some of the challenges of implementation.

Where do we begin?

This is a basic problem for many labs that are new to automation. It can be hard to know which automation solutions to trust or to understand what all the buzzwords mean. Lab teams also need to figure out which platforms match their needs and fit their budget. That means they have to think through exactly what they want in automation — and that can be a complex process. We recommend consulting with colleagues who have gone through the process or with vendors like Biosero, which can provide strategic counsel to help people select and deploy automation tools.

The learning curve

Implementing new technologies in the lab often requires specialized expertise and training; the same is true for automation. Getting different lab systems to work together seamlessly takes time and requires input from many different people. For lab members who are unfamiliar with automation, learning to use the new solution can seem daunting. And it’s important to train a wide range of staff to use the solution so that even if one person changes jobs or leaves, there are still employees in the lab who know how to run the robots. Another challenge can be convincing researchers to try a new way of working. We suggest a team-oriented approach to implementation that lets all lab members know they’re valued and that becoming familiar with automation can create new opportunities in their careers.

Budget constraints

Cost is likely one of the biggest challenges for labs in need of automation. Besides the cost of purchasing and implementing the system, there are also costs associated with training employees as well as any customizations needed. Automation solutions ultimately pay for themselves, but upfront costs can be steep. It can also be difficult to predict the return on investment, in part because it is hard to put a number on benefits such as safer working conditions and greater employee satisfaction. Longer-term costs to consider include maintaining the solution, system updates, and making changes as needs evolve. A good vendor should be able to provide prospective customers with detailed information about all of these factors.

It’s always best to be prepared. Thinking about these challenges ahead of time will prevent frustration down the road. At Biosero, we work closely with our customers to make sure they have automation solutions that fit their needs and stay on budget. We can also make changes as our customers’ needs evolve.

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