Labs of the 21st Century: The Age of Digital Transformation

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The life sciences industry is rapidly changing and always seeking to research and innovate in the most efficient and accurate way possible. The development of digital technologies opened the door to a world of possibilities for many scientific industries, especially those that are data-driven and rely on the testing and manufacturing of products.

Automated Technology and Digital Data Management

There are a variety of new technologies on the market available for laboratories to use including robotics, automated systems, and digital data management. Although expensive at the outset, robotic systems and automated sampling machines can drastically cut the costs of a laboratory by streamlining product manufacturing and sampling. Additionally, they have the opportunity to reduce manual labor by 30-40%[1] allowing laboratories to dedicate more time and manpower to research and development rather than manufacturing and record keeping. These systems can also significantly reduce human error and possible contamination in the case of sterile samples and products. On the data management side, there are a number of services that can be offered through a laboratory information management system (LIMS).

A LIMS provides a laboratory with a wide variety of data management options including cloud storage, sample management, specialized instrument programming operations, easy electronic data exchange, quality assurance/quality control programs, audit management, calibration maintenance, and most importantly, data processing and reporting. All of these functions are vital to the survival of any biological lab, from pharmaceuticals to environmental facilities to food and beverage services to government agencies.

Making the Transition

According to the 2020 Market Research Report on LIMS provided by Astrix[2], over 75% of the participants surveyed from a wide variety of life science facilities reported using at least one LIMS within their laboratory. The cumbersome tracking of data via paper trail is fast becoming a thing of the past. Companies are noticing an increase in data management efficiency as they switch from hand-recorded to digital. Integration into the digital world however can be slow and most companies still employ a hybrid system of having one foot in digital records and the other still in the manual world. This can cause a multitude of issues which reveal missing records and data silos.

In light of the difficulty of switching over to the digital age, most companies are recognizing the growing necessity for it, citing that their number one reason for choosing to utilize a LIMS is because it is the best fit for their laboratory’s needs. The top three uses reported for employing a LIMS include sample management, data reporting, and quality control/quality assurance. A bonus for clinical trial laboratories is that most LIMS adhere to HIPAA regulations. However, there are other government regulations that are not met by LIMS and this is an area of the field that needs to be addressed. Once the issues of ease of transition and meeting government regulations are resolved, the use of LIMS has the potential to reach its full capacity and be utilized by every research and manufacturing laboratory.

Unexpected Benefits Amid a Pandemic

The benefits of adapting a laboratory information management system are beyond belief and have been fully recognized in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. Productivity of almost 50% of the surveyed companies from the Astrix Market Research Report increased significantly in 2020 despite the global pandemic that was taking place. With an accessible data management system coupled with automated sampling and robotic manufacturing, the necessity for in-person personnel has been drastically reduced. Production and research can continue in spite of emergencies that may force employees to stay home. Access to the cloud of data can be made securely so that private information and unpublished data may remain within the sphere of influence of the laboratory and not risk untimely exposure to the public.

The Advantages and Growing Popularity of LIMS

The popularity of turning to a digital LIMS is made evident by the outcome of Astrix’s Market Research Report which reported that over 60% of companies utilizing at least one LIMS employs over 500 people and over 35% of these laboratories have more than 50 users on one system. Most of the LIMS managers are lab managers or LIMS administrators, which promotes a new market for a specialized position to handle the running and maintenance of the LIMS. This can be made possible due to all the time and money freed up by converting from a time-consuming manual and paper system to a streamlined digital system and still save the company money in the long run. Most companies also have their own internal IT department to install, troubleshoot, and provide maintenance for the LIMS which lends credit to the ease with which the systems can be used.

Most biological laboratories are seeking a system that enables their research and production to be the most efficient and the best quality possible. They are specifically searching for a system that provides a smooth transition with little to no loss of time and archived data, easy sample tracking through generated barcodes or RFID tracking, predictive data tracking to help single out data trends and suggest new avenues to sample or process data, and voice control systems to promote hands-free data recording and allow even more efficient use of time in the lab.

Choose STARLIMS for All Your Laboratory’s Digital Management Needs

There are dozens of companies on the market which offer LIMS in a variety of packages with multiple options for optimizing a laboratory’s sampling, processing, manufacturing, and data management. With all of the available options for LIMS on the market, how do you know which one is right for your laboratory’s needs? STARLIMS was reported as one of the top ten purchased LIMS solutions for 2020 according to the Astrix Market Research Report and G2, the largest technology marketplace.

STARLIMS provides laboratory informatics systems for top-rated companies such as Douglas Pharmaceuticals and Medline Industries and offers multiple options for their products. Equipped to provide a fully functional laboratory information management system or simply provide cloud data storage, a scientific data management system or electronic laboratory notebooks, STARLIMS is flexible and will work with your lab to fill your needs and upgrade your current system to the best fit for this digital age.

[1] MarketsandMarkets Lab Automation Crystal Ball event. June 17, 2021.

[2] Astrix Technology Group. (2020). (rep.). 2020 LIMS Market Research Survey Report (pp. 2). Red Bank, NJ.