Goals for the Lab of the Future
When I think about the lab of the future, there's a big opportunity. I've talked to a number of very large pharmaceutical companies over the years. And, generally speaking, customers are trying to reach a different level of scientific productivity or efficiency. As I think through the various conversations, there are really, I'd say, maybe three key themes that have come out as we've spoken to those customers:
- The first is connectivity. The laboratory's become a more and more connected environment. And customers are looking to gain more information from those connected instruments... connected workflows. And as that information is pushed to the cloud in some kind of a data lake, they're looking for the ability to action or use direct insights from that data.
- The second is around collaboration. Our customers in the lab of the future are looking outside their own four walls. They could be looking to work with a CRO, they could look to an academic, or they could be working with a lab located in another country. Ultimately, they are looking for the ability to share information globally in a more meaningful way.
- And finally, the last is security. With more things connected, with more partners in the R&D process, the ability to securely exchange of information is becoming more and more important.
I'd say those are really the three key themes that we hear from our customers to enable the lab of the future.
Key Technologies to Support the Lab of the Future
The other thing that's interesting is that the more we learn about the lab of the future, the more we see it's not a destination-- it's more of a journey. When I think about the lab of the future, there are some key technologies that we get pretty excited about that we think will accelerate the journey.
The first is really around IOT or internet of things... or as we define it...the internet of laboratory things. With the IoLT, all the machines in the laboratory are sending information, both operational data and scientific data to a cloud... that then can be used to deliver actionable insights to our customers.
The second is... really once you have that consolidated data... how do you apply machine learning and artificial intelligence to really provide actionable insights to customers... enabling them to optimize their research --globally? With what platforms? With what reagents? So we see a significant opportunity to really leverage machine learning and artificial intelligence.
The third is augmented reality. And that's pretty cool. Think about technology like Google Glasses or Alexa or Siri in the laboratory... things that really bring a different level of productivity to our customers and to scientists.
When I think about the technology I just mentioned, and how it’s bring brought to life, as a part of the journey our customers are taking to the lab of the future, I think about simplifying. Companies want to simplify the complexities within their lab and implement tools that will enable actionable insights. Mobile Service applications and visualization tools are great technologies in use now that help achieve these goals.
For example, with a mobile service app, you can open up a service call, from a phone or tablet, within a few seconds right at the instrument by scanning the instrument bar code. You’ve automated a process that normally would take minutes of a scientist’s time throughout the day. Multiplying that time throughout your lab ecosystem, you can see where it would be a tremendous time saver.
Pushing operational data into a cloud-based infrastructure and then using very powerful visualization tools on top of that helps companies gain insights into what equipment they have and where it is throughout their lab organization. Visualization tools, or dashboards, utilize reports, tables, graphs, charts, or images to depict operational information, such as equipment uptime, response time, asset density by manufacturer and model, along with a distribution of age, etc. and make that information available across your network.
|Key Performance Indicators|
|Inventory by Year|
For instance, what happens if there was a safety recall and you need to locate equipment from a specific OEM? How quickly could you identify all the locations where this equipment resides in your global lab infrastructure? How accurately would you be able to identify these assets and take corrective action to minimize exposing your people to unnecessary risk? Asset management software, with visualization capabilities, would be an example of a tool that can provide this information in minutes.
|Census and Density Report|
Visualization tools provide a variety of different insights to improve your costs and operating expenses. Companies rely on them to help spot opportunities to reduce capital expenditures and operational costs within their lab environment. In a decommissioning scenario, for example, you want to identify systems or assets that are not utilized very much, that have a relatively high repair rate, and that may be on the far end of the age scale. Those are usually prime candidates for decommissioning, which can lead to operational savings. But do you know if you have opportunities to save a large amount of capital expense for new equipment requisitions by identifying “good systems” or “good assets”? Instead of procuring a new, expensive LC/MS unit, maybe you can identify systems that are not well utilized in your global footprint, that have a very good low repair footprint and are relatively young. A sophisticated asset management system can provide these types of actionable insights.
RFID is another technology that provides insights into where your assets are and how they move across your business. For example, a scientist may go to look for a particular instrument for a high priority experiment and they can’t find it. They may be looking in lab 1 when it’s actually in lab 2. Time is lost and frustration is high. RFID technology enables your team to quickly locate the instrument and get back to work.
Refocusing Your Lab on Productivity
Key to enabling the lab of the future or the outcome of the lab of the future is really to increase scientific efficiency output or productivity. You need to distinguish between activities and expenditures within the lab that are value-add versus non-value-add. For anything that's non-value-add, you may want to consider finding a strategic partner or a trusted advisor to help you with those activities. What we see trending in the market is more requests for what we call XAAS, or X-as-a-service, where X could be a product as a service or instrument as a service or sample as a service or even lab as a service. Organizations are looking for a partner to provide everything from sample-in to data- out. And that's providing some really unique opportunities for innovation beyond the technology, although the technology will absolutely help enable that as well as the data.
So, the lab of the future is undefined for a lot of people, but we're very excited about where it's going and we see a lot of opportunity for companies to harness theses specific technologies. In a recent survey from Pharma IQ, 94% pharmaceutical executives believe intelligent automation technologies will make an impact, helping them to streamline processes, save time, stay ahead of competitors, modernize business and cut costs.
And that sounds like a good thing.