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Preserving the scientific process by controlling variables in the lab

Preserving the scientific process by controlling variables in the lab

In the age of information technology, nearly every aspect of our daily lives is influenced by data innovations. Scientific labs are no exception. While the goal of many technology innovations is to eliminate the human factor, at Elemental Machines, our platform is designed to place teams at the center of laboratory operations (LabOps) and empower them to bring massive value to their organizations. 


This was the topic of discussion with Founder and CEO, Sridhar Iyengar during his presentation at Future Labs Live EU on June 7 in Basel, Switzerland. The presentation was titled “Beyond Results: How Scientific Metadata Impacts the Lab of the Future.”


What is LabOps?


Operations teams are essential to every business and come in many shapes and sizes. LabOps play a vital role in the health and function of all kinds of labs spanning the scientific spectrum from academic research labs to quality assurance labs – and everything in between. 


Unlike business operations, LabOps work in a specific environment that requires scientific expertise, business acumen, and technology. To understand the scope of LabOps, it can be helpful to use the analogy of the progression of IT systems administrators to DevOps engineers, according to Iyengar in his presentation. 


Where systems administrators are responsible for computers and servers, DevOps professionals are responsible for the automation and integration of processes between software development and IT teams. Importantly, these individuals play a strategic role in helping organizations meet their operational goals and can influence many different aspects of a business. 


In labs, lab managers are responsible for scheduling, ordering supplies, and upkeeping all protocols and standards within the lab. The evolution of LabOps entails the elevation of lab managers and LabOps teams to be responsible for all support work in the lab, including financial and quality outputs and how labs interface with the rest of the business. In the age of the internet, this of course includes technology integration. 


So how can technology tools impact LabOps? 


Iyengar explained that computational tools in the lab can be used to: 

  • uncover hidden variables
  • eliminate irrelevant variables
  • Improve overall efficiency & costs
  • automate compliance overhead


Labs are full of metadata that can impact results and more. As evidence of this, Iyengar shared several real-life anecdotes about the influence of metadata. One company was experiencing inconsistent results from a specific HPLC machine in a lab. Digging into the situation, the LabOps team found that airflow from a vent in the ceiling was impacting the machine and causing variability. As a result, the team moved the equipment to the other side of the room to eliminate the impact of airflow. 


In another example, a facilities manager noticed one lab had a spike of light compared to other labs on the premises. Light is a tricky factor as it can damage or deactivate many lab reagents and impact light-sensitive protocols. By applying temperature mapping in the space, the manager discovered that the lab was warmer near the windows and the cause of the spike was sun reflection from a glass building across the street. Insights from ambient temperature monitoring informed the team's decision to change the location of where they handle photo-sensitive samples.  


Another problem that many labs face is space constraints, with lab space costing as much as five times as much as normal office space. This is in large part due to high energy-consumptive equipment that is not being utilized efficiently. By monitoring energy usage and evaluating utilization, labs can identify if certain instruments or assets that are less often used or inefficiently used can be decommissioned. 


In each of the scenarios, technology was able to provide data and context that LabOps teams needed to make impactful changes in their facilities. In the first two examples, ambient temperature monitoring was able to help identify the root cause of variability and the actionable insight restored confidence in assay results. In the last case, lab managers can make better asset management decisions based on specific equipment utilization and energy usage, providing huge value to the facility and business. 


Elemental Machines’ LabOps Intelligence Platform can provide you with these actionable insights and much more! 

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