Updating laboratory equipment requires careful planning to execute with minimal disruptions. There are several challenges one will encounter during the process, including challenges related to the installation and programing of automation software.
Replacing equipment without disrupting workflow
In a busy lab environment, there may not be time or resources available to completely shut down the lab while the old equipment is removed and the new equipment is installed. If this is the case, careful planning is required to minimize workflow disruption. Many device manufacturers allow you to test and validate your assays prior to the system installation. Additionally, you could simulate your workflow runs using your scheduling software to identify possible deadlocks in the system. Addressing this from the beginning will result in an optimized platform that will handle your desired throughput effectively.
Unplanned construction work
When replacing old laboratory equipment, be sure to take the time to inspect the area surrounding the equipment. With the old equipment out of the way, this is a good time to address any building issues that may have, until this point, been hidden behind the equipment. It is important to list the functionality requirements of your equipment such as electrical, water, air or connectivity. Addressing these requirements before installing the new equipment will reduce the chances of future problems in performance of your device.
Hardware and software security issues
When installing new equipment and the associated process automation software, problems may make themselves known in the form of incompatibilities and other issues. For example, the equipment manufacturer or software developer may have a security or workflow solution that does not meet the requirements of your laboratory and its associated system of software and hardware.
In this case, the solution is to work closely with the supplier representatives and their technical support team to develop solutions. While there will undoubtedly be challenges, keep in mind that your supplier wants you to succeed and for their equipment to be an integral part of that success, and they should be willing to do what it takes to ensure that success.
Questions surrounding new equipment
As technology evolves, there are many new devices in the market that are coming to tackle specific needs in the laboratory. Testing and validation are key factors when it comes to new technologies. Establishing a relationship with your account representative or technical support person is key. Building a partnership approach will help you both solve specific needs and to meet performance targets. If your goal is to integrate this equipment into an automated platform, you will want to look into the availability of an API that will allow integrators to develop a driver to control the device from their scheduling software.
The challenges faced in lab automation are that many users fear extra time and effort that testing new technologies add to their workload. That is why partnering with an integrator consultant can help mitigate the amount of work by letting them do the validation work.