There are a variety of reasons why a dairy lab might need to scale up testing. Expanding production, reacting to a food safety issue, or even market-based pressure from consumers can create new testing demands for the dairy industry. Efforts to meet such demands may require increases in testing volume.
For example, milk contamination, whether intentional or not, can come seemingly out of nowhere and create an immediate need for deeper testing. Scaling up testing before a crisis hits is sound groundwork in a litigious world.
Scaling your dairy testing will include different approaches depending on whether your priority is increased automation, improved efficiency or increased upstream testing.
Here are four considerations to scale up your testing capabilities whilst minimizing disruption to your current processes.
1) Adopt rapid testing
Time is always a critical factor in the dairy industry. Throughout the supply chain, different types of testing are required… meanwhile any increase in demand eventually puts the maximal testing capacity of your business to a stress test. Adjusting the capacity of your lab would mean increasing the dimensions of the technologies and solutions used, generating the flexibility to grow the overall throughput.
Specific testing needs flexibility - depending on your where milk product is currently in the dairy supply chain. Determining the points at where these tests can be inserted to scale up is an important option to consider as that can lessen the burden on centralized testing requirements.
For example, one lab might need to conduct their testing in a static, pre-determined environment while another mandates that truck drivers perform the tests. This flexibility also opens up innovative ways of optimizing the workflow when scaling up dairy testing. Remote, driver-performed reports of whether a sample tests positive for antibiotics prevents that truckful of milk ending up at the dairy facility, which would trigger more testing, the quarantine of trucks and the time lost sending samples to a third-party lab.
2) Implement digital readers
To optimize processing workflows while scaling up, it is important for dairy plants to understand their anticipated testing needs. This helps to ensure the implementation of advanced technologies coupled with intuitive data analysis software.
- A 96-well plate can be imaged in approximately 12 seconds followed by equally responsive data acquisition and analysis software.
- Lateral flow test strips are designed for the detection of a broad range of antibiotics in raw, commingled cow’s milk. These rapid, state-of-the-art tests use novel methods to enable safer and easier sampling and remove the need for incubators and centrifuges during analysis.
3) Get close to your equipment provider
To ensure the scalability of dairy testing, creating a future-forward and “science-smart” relationship with the provider of your testing technologies is a good option. Their experience and knowledge will assure the new efficacy to scale up: increasing the volume and capabilities of your instrumentation.
The more you scale up, the more you should talk to your provider about automation upgrades to existing instruments, new high throughput solutions and evolving technologies.
4) Automate more
Automating even part of a process may free up capacity and improve efficiency when demand is high. Automation also helps by minimizing errors and increasing reproducibility. Pipetting tasks, plate washing and result reading are all tasks that can be automated. Some sample preparation procedures are also perfectly amenable to automation.
In the future, instrument connectivity will enable remote monitoring, diagnostics and service of critical equipment in high-throughput labs so researchers can spend less time on maintenance and more time on science and innovation. By connecting various labs, farms and even those on the road, real-time testing results could pave the way for real-time decision making.