The road to laboratory connectivity: Expectations, challenges & opportunities

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This paid-for advertorial by Labforward appeared in DDW Volume 24 – Issue 1, Winter 2022/2023

Organisation leaders are facing ever-increasing pressures to digitise and future-proof their laboratories. The journey, however, to connecting a laboratory’s data, devices and people can be convoluted, particularly without the careful selection of solutions and tools that best-fit each laboratory’s specific requirements. Furthermore, the change management required to implement these solutions should also be carefully considered. In the absence of comprehensive change management, laboratories run the risk of creating the opposite of the desired outcome: a disconnected set of silos that only amount to wasted time, resources and effort. Yet, the digitalisation of laboratory processes is vital to ensuring that research groups are able to meet their strategic goals, growth and scalability in an increasingly competitive environment. Digital solutions offer opportunities to modernise a laboratory’s infrastructure to accelerate its processes while also improving efficiency, standardisation and accuracy of research. All of these benefits are simply too good to pass on – so how can laboratory leaders ensure that their connectivity journey is one which yields positive, meaningful and – most importantly – long-term change? 

A vital first step is establishing a blueprint for what comprehensive connectivity will look like. Not only does this include technical aspects, but also making sure the entire laboratory team is on-board and committed to the connectivity plan. For example, laboratory leaders need to decide early on what approach they will take to connectivity: a monolithic approach where they opt for one provider that offers a full suite of connected devices, or an agile, heterogeneous approach that can integrate multiple existing laboratory devices to a connected network. 

Once a vision has been set out, laboratory leaders can converse with both their IT staff and researchers to find a solution (or multiple solutions) that can help them deliver on their connectivity objectives. At this stage, it’s especially important to factor in unique research requirements. For example, if a laboratory relies heavily on the storage of valuable samples using cold storage methods, it is important that the solution selected is able to integrate sensors into their connected network of devices. One such solution is Labforward’s Laboratory Execution System, Laboperator, which is able to connect with a range of devices including sensors that monitor environmental parameters, then collects and transmits data back to a central platform. 

The vast opportunities of comprehensive connectivity can only be fully embraced with a shift in the roles and responsibilities of scientists in this new, connected system. Change, after all, will ultimately be driven by the laboratory users. While there are some organisations that opt to pursue a route of connectivity that limits human involvement in the R&D process, combining the strengths of human (innovative and creative power) and digital solutions (analytical power and automation)will have the greatest competitive advantage. Labforward’s approach is rooted in establishing long-lasting connectivity in a way which gives more power to the laboratory users alongside the flexibility to achieve the desired result with their existing infrastructure. 

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