The choice to implement a laboratory automation system can significantly impact the efficiency, accuracy, and productivity of a lab. A well-designed and executed automation system can improve sample throughput, reduce errors and variability, and free up lab personnel to focus on more critical tasks. On the other hand, a poorly designed system or a supplier who is unable to deliver on their promises can lead to project delays, equipment malfunctions, and reduced lab efficiency.
Taking the time upfront to understand and thoroughly evaluate your potential automation partners can help you avoid unnecessary problems and lead to the successful implementation of your lab automation system. At the same time, choosing a poor supplier can lead to issues such as questionable equipment quality, inadequate customer support or training, or a failure to deliver on commitments that impact the overall success of your lab.
To set your automation project up for success, here are some essential factors to consider:
- System functionality: The system should meet your laboratory’s unique needs and requirements, such as handling a particular type of sample or analysis, and integrate with your existing laboratory infrastructure.
- System reliability: The system should be reliable and operate consistently over time, with minimal downtime or maintenance requirements.
- Regulatory compliance: The system should meet relevant regulatory requirements, such as Good Laboratory Practices (GLP), Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP), and other applicable standards and guidelines.
- Cost-effectiveness: The supplier should provide a cost-effective solution that fits your budget without compromising quality or functionality.
- Technical support: The supplier should offer technical support, training, and maintenance services to ensure that the system is used effectively and efficiently.
- System validation: The supplier should provide a validation plan and documentation to ensure the system is validated and compliant with relevant regulatory requirements.
- Service level agreement (SLA): The supplier should provide a service level agreement outlining the level of support and service that you can expect from the supplier over the system’s life.
- Reputation: The supplier should have a good reputation in the industry, with a track record of providing high-quality systems and good customer service.
During the evaluation process, asking a few key questions to help determine if they are the right fit for your laboratory can be useful. Some helpful questions to ask might include the following:
- What experience do you have in the industry, and how long have you been in business?
- What types of laboratory automation systems do you offer, and can these machines adapt over time to suit our lab’s future and ongoing needs?
- What is the quality and reliability of your equipment, and what is the support period?
- What is your customer service and support like, and how quickly can you respond to our inquiries or issues?
- Can you provide references or case studies from other labs that have used your equipment, and can we speak with them?
- What is the pricing and payment structure, and are there any additional fees or costs we should know upfront?
- What is the timeline for delivery and installation, and what is the process for training and support after installation?
By taking the time to evaluate potential automation partners and asking relevant questions at the outset of the process, you can make a well-informed decision and select the lab automation partner that is best suited to help your lab achieve its goals and thrive in the future.