From Manual to Digital: Enhancing Lab Optimization Introduction Laboratories, products, and people must adapt to the fast-paced world we live in today, to increase productivity and to do so in a more sustainable, cost-effective way. We have noted that scientists and lab employees can spend up to 25% of their time manually entering data into inventory records on such consumables as solvents and reagents. Inefficient inventory management can lead to wastage, inaccuracy, and non-compliance. In turn, this can affect the company’s reputation and staff morale. This eBook presents a solution to this problem by showing how to attain faster, error-free, and less-wasteful production across several laboratory sectors. In particular, this goal can be achieved via digitalization and digital transformation, which in the 21st century have become necessary steps in the optimization of businesses. By improving business agility, a company stays competitive, improves the customer experience, and produces better data analytics. Data analytics yield better insights into which processes can be improved, changed, or even discontinued. In addition, digital transformation of the laboratory can improve internal communication and collaboration with external partners and scientists. The eBook summarizes the Wiley book Digital Transformation of the Lab, which discusses what the lab of the future looks like, considers people and cultures, takes process developments and optimization into consideration, discusses data management improvement, reviews lab environment and design, and, lastly, offers a practical guide for getting started. Included is an infographic on Merck’s LANEXO® Laboratory Inventory, Safety, and Compliance Management System. 3
The Lab of the Future The subject of digital transformation is actually about you. Your science, your everyday work environment, your partnerships and collaborations, and the impact of your work on the future of scientific progress. It is extremely challenging to organize data and keep everything traceable and reusable in the long term. The main criteria for lab digitalization and digital transformation is to answer one important question: Are we improving the quality, efficiency, and pace of innovation? Lab digitalization is a people-driven initiative that aims to address global challenges and provide solutions, backed by the unquestionable integrity of traceable and reproducible scientific data. Inspiration Steve Jobs once said, “The biggest innovations of the 21st century will be at the intersection of biology and technology.” In this (r)evolution, the laboratory environment will most definitely play a key role. When speculating on the future digital transformation of life sciences R&D, one must consider how the whole lab environment and the science that goes on in the lab will inevitably evolve and change1, 2. It is unlikely that an R&D lab in 2030, and certainly one in 2040, will look and feel like a comparable lab from 2020. People and cultural considerations The lab of the future (LotF) and the people who work in it will undoubtedly operate in an R&D world with an even greater emphasis on global working and cross-organization collaboration. Modern science is also becoming more social3, the most productive and successful researchers will be familiar with the substance and the methods of each other’s work, which will break down more and more barriers to collaboration. These collaborative approaches will foster and encourage individuals’ capacity to adopt new research methods as they become available; we saw this with the fast uptake of CRISPR technology4. “Open science”5 will grow ever more important to driving scientific discovery. Enabling this will be the increased use of Distributed Ledger Technology (DLT)6, a 4 cryptographic method that will massively reduce the risk of IP compromise7. The LotF will also enable more open, productive, and collaborative work via vastly improved communication technology (5G moving to 6G)8. By working in such labs, people will benefit from much more open attitudes, cultures, and mindsets, given the influence of technology, such as smartphones in their personal lives. Robotics and automation will be ubiquitous; however, with more automated assistance, the density of people in the lab will likely drop, allowing scientists to focus on key aspects and complex parts of experiments. Therefore, issues around safety and “lone working” – a term that refers to activities carried out in isolation from other workers, without close or direct supervision9 – will grow. A focus on the interaction points that scientists have with automation will develop to ensure that they are working properly in safe environments. The few remaining lab technicians will thus fall into the category of lone workers, and ensuring their safety in the workplace would require consideration of new guidelines and upgrades. Moreover, not only will safe working grow in importance, but the need for organizations to deliver a better “user experience” (UX) in their labs will become key to helping them attract smaller numbers of more expert technicians and to retain them. The lab technician’s UX will be massively boosted by many of the new technologies already starting to appear in the more forward-looking labs; e.g., voice recognition, augmented reality (AR), immersive lab experience, and a more intelligent lab environment. Process developments and optimization The lab processes, or “how” science gets done in the LotF, will be dominated by robotics and automation. But there will be another strong driver, which will force changes in lab processes and mindsets within the next 5–10 years: sustainability. “Labs use 10 times as much energy as a typical commercial office space and use three to five
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