Laboratory Automation: Your Guide to Spooky-good Analysis!

5a2c90bb7498b9.8662204015128700754776 (small).pngIt’s Halloween. Dark falls upon the day sooner, cold winds are more prevalent, and something eerie is creaking in your laboratory. Could it be manual, labor-intensive analysis tools and techniques? Shriek!!!

Laboratory automation is a must these days for good reason, as switching to automated lab instrumentation:

  • Increases productivity
  • Improves accuracy
  • Creates a safer work environment
  • Decreases training time

Now that we’ve identified the major “cobwebs” in your laboratory and what you can achieve by sweeping them away, let’s take a closer look at each to help you brew up the perfect potion to update your laboratory from spooky to spooky-good!

Increase Lab Productivity

Replacing old, manual laboratory tools and techniques with automation is a sure-fire way to speed up analysis, therefore increasing overall productivity. What used to take several grueling hours or even days, can typically be done in a fraction of the time. Not only will most automated instrumentation provide more rapid results, it will also offer a hands-off approach. While the analysis is taking place, the technician is freed up for other tasks. An example of this is YSI’s 2900 Biochemistry Analyzer Series.  The models utilizing an OLM system (2940/2960/2980) have been linked to an increase in productivity. A tenfold increase in yield was specifically observed from controlling the glutamine and glucose concentrations in a particular CHO culture. Click here to see the poster Impact of Dynamic Online Fed-Batch Strategies on Metabolism, Productivity and N-Glycosylation Quality in CHO Cell Cultures showing the results.

Improve Analysis Accuracy

Fast isn’t always better. For instance, most barbecue restaurants boast slow-cooked meats because there is an element of time in the cooking process expected to yield a delicious and “perfect” outcome. Luckily for laboratories, a quicker turnaround time through means of automation, also means a higher level of accuracy in the analyses. Titration, for example, is an old technique that began manually and is used across thousands of applications daily. Autotitrators such as SI Analytics’ TL7000 Series eliminate human error particularly in the dosing aspect of titration. Burettes have a resolution of 0.001ml and dosing accuracy of ~0.05%.  Manual dosing burettes have an accuracy of 0.15%...autotitrators are 3 times more accurate!   

Create a Safer Environment

The U.S. Department of Labor Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) has an entire web page dedicated to “Hazardous Chemicals in Labs,” identifying rules that limit exposures to approximately 400 substances. This page also covers monitoring employee exposures, steps for a chemical hygiene plan, training expected of employers, and a number of other relevant topics. It’s safe to conclude that the topic of chemical safety is one that is taken extremely seriously by the government and employers alike. Automated laboratory instrumentation minimizes exposure to these dangerous substances, making employees feel safer in their work, and it also provides reassurance to employers in their monitoring procedures and reporting to OSHA.

Gerhardt Analytical Systems, a German-based instrumentation company, has a number of automated solutions geared at improving safety within the lab. In Gerhardt’s Hydrotherm, Fibretherm, Vapodest 50s and Vapodest 50s Carousel, the systems automatically handle the input, boiling, condensing and filtering of corrosive chemicals, and deliver the used reagents to waste collection.       

Decrease Training Time

kisspng-frankenstein-s-monster-clip-art-frankenstein-cliparts (small).pngEmployee training is (or at least should be) pertinent to all jobs. Feeling confident in completing assigned tasks enables employees to do them well. However, it always seems there is never enough time in the day to provide all-encompassing training. Automation simplifies complex, difficult analyses, which decreases laboratory training time and instills a sense of confidence in new employees.   Many automated lab instruments are so easy that Frankenstein could run samples!

Refractometer and polarimeter specialist Bellingham + Stanley offer several series of automated instrumentation (such as the RFM300 and RFM900 refractometers and ADP400 polarimeters) that feature built-in RFID tags allowing users to identify themselves by simply swiping a tag across the top of the instrument to enable measurement and method configuration. This capability allows for electronic signatures and audit trails that facilitate use in an FDA-regulated environment (21 CFR part 11).

Another automated instrument exemplifying ease of use is OI Analytical’s new 1080 Total Organic Carbon (TOC) Analyzer. The software for this system encompasses built-in video training tutorials on setting up the calibration and method, creating a sequence, and starting a run. This TOC system also includes patented features that simplify (and decrease) instrument maintenance. Read more on this particular topic here.

Time for Lab Magic!

Whether your reason is productivity, accuracy, safety or training, consider the major benefits of automated analysis in your own laboratory, set a plan in place and prepare to work your own wonders of lab magic.

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