November 15, 2022
Digital Transformation Exposes the Need for Streamlined Processes and Data Integrity
From the switch to paperless digital lab technologies such as electronic laboratory notebooks (ELN) and the integration of instruments to connect disparate systems, the path towards digital transformation is complex and the endpoints can change based on an organization’s requirements. The road to fully automated experiments, cloud-based data storage, and seamless connectivity between collaborators and data systems is long and requires a methodical approach to managing change in the laboratory.
The steps toward achieving a Lab of the Future (LoF) are numerous and involve changes at both the organizational and individual levels that can take many months or even years to complete. But the investment of both time and resources can deliver substantial gains leading to impactful innovation.
Laboratory informatics software services provider Astrix’s annual market research report has delivered a wide array of statistics that help to shed some light on current digital transformation activities. The report also highlights what it is laboratory managers are looking for when adopting digital technologies.
The data is based on a survey conducted by Astrix in March 2022. The survey was completed by laboratory professionals from a wide cross-section of science-based industries including professionals from at least 20 sectors, representing business, government, and academic laboratories.
Through the process of evaluating survey responses, Astrix has established that the movement towards the LoF is evolving in a non-linear path. The company has determined several steps that are key to the digital transformation journey; Awareness, Interest, Consideration, Investigation, Information Gathering (Shopping and Selection), Acquisition (Purchase), Installation, Training, Adoption/ Conversion, Implementation, and Prevalence. These stages describe the process of modernizing an operation and, irrespective of size, appear to be common to laboratories across the spectrum of type, function, and setting represented in this snapshot.
The report notes that early adopters of LoF technologies, sometimes driven by economic necessity, are predominantly enjoying real and positive impacts on their operations thanks to continuous technological innovation.
However, even professionals in the most sophisticated and well-funded laboratories are aware that progress is needed to fully capitalize on the breadth of capabilities afforded by tools designed to deliver on the promise of a LoF.
In an aim to streamline the process of digital transformation, laboratory informatics providers are developing integration software and making it easier for scientists to connect their instruments and data systems. However, there are still differences in these platforms and so the right choice for one organization may not be the same for others.
Integration of digital systems
In a blog post written by Matt Hazlewood, Senior Director, Global Chromatography Data Systems at Thermo Fisher Scientific, he noted the idea of eliminating data silos through seamless integration data standardization.
‘Data standardization has long been a challenge for pharmaceutical companies, resulting from a historic lack of standardized data formats used across the informatics industry,’ states Hazlewood.
Astrix survey results have helped to quantify some of the drivers that are most cited by the respondents. They found that organizational priorities have changed, or requirements increased, for achieving or maintaining compliance.
For example, data integrity was highlighted by 63% of respondents. This reflects the need to initially obtain and record error-free, reliable data for use in the automation and digitization of key functional and reporting processes.
Good Laboratory Practice (GLP) guidelines (44%), Regulatory Requirements (38%), and Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP) guidelines (35%) represent the second tranche of organizational priorities – by prevalence – that survey participants report having changed. Astrix also found that of its respondents actively engaged in LoF initiatives – which accounts for 76% of total survey respondents – IoT and Artificial Intelligence (AI) or Machine Learning (ML) were the most prevalent investment activities. Smart technology is the most popular area of investment among 62% of respondents. Although fewer survey participants report investment in AI/ML (48%), it represents a rapidly growing field among lab professionals.