Automation can enable good science, but not create it. Scale alone will not solve scientific problems. Science that does not work well and consistently when done manually will not improve when it is automated. On the same note, a nonexistent process is extremely problematic to automate.
Both situations happen more often than you can imagine and are typically caused by several issues. One such cause is from the time frames associated with capital budgets where labs typically request or obtain capital funding for a given fiscal year. The problem is that these capital dollars need to be spent during the current fiscal year or the funding is lost. Development of the science and/or process is ongoing but it is either not complete or not going well. The window of opportunity for spending is closing, so lab management makes the decision to buy automation without knowing potential outcomes. The rushed purchase of automation may or may not be the best solution or choice. This can leaving the lab with less than ideal equipment and instrumentation to efficiently and effectively automate the process.
”Automation can enable good science, not create it. Scale alone will not solve scientific problems.”
Another cause, somewhat like the first, is when the science, process, and software (LIMS) are being developed at the same time. The goal for implementation is aggressive and the only way to meet the timelines is to develop all three at the same time. Unfortunately, this typically results in a situation where all three (science, process, and software) will need to be done a second time.
A final cause, which is probably the most prevalent, is when lab management/staff decide to purchase automation instrumentation without full knowledge of what they bought, or what it can do. Their science and process may be great but they failed to ask the right questions of the vendor or did not adequately investigate the capabilities of the instrumentation. The satisfaction of the performance of the automation is often low and leads to failure of the project.