eLabBlog

How to Increase Your Lab’s Walkaway Time

By Zareh Zurabyan 4 min read 22 Aug 2023

The goal for anyone working in laboratory automation is to “set it and forget it.”

In a perfect world, we could set up an assay on an instrument of our choosing, start the program, and walk away to do one of the other thousands of things on our “to-do” list. 

Even though automation has gotten more powerful and precise, the amount of time you can walk away from a machine without worry – appropriately called walkaway time – requires trust and confidence in your instrument, infrastructure, and yourself. It also requires some optimization.

There are many ways to increase your walkaway time. In the following blog, we’ll talk about the top brands in laboratory automation and some strategies to increase your walkaway time. 

Top 10 Laboratory Automation Brands

Several top brands have established themselves as leaders in lab automation, offering cutting-edge solutions to streamline laboratory workflows and enhance efficiency. These brands shape the future of lab automation, enabling scientists to achieve higher productivity and reproducibility in their research endeavors.

Here are the top 10 lab automation brands:

  1. Eppendorf: Eppendorf is known for its wide range of laboratory equipment, including the epMotion® series of automated liquid handlers that improve pipetting accuracy and precision for reproducible results.
  2. Promega: Promega offers automation solutions for various applications, including nucleic acid extraction, DNA quantification, and genotyping. Their Maxwell series of instruments is well-regarded in the field.
  3. Hamilton Robotics: Hamilton Robotics specializes in advanced robotic systems for liquid handling, sample preparation, and plate handling. Their Microlab series and STAR workstations are widely used in biotech labs. Check out this case study to see how these instruments were used to build an automated COVID-19 testing facility at Boston University.
  4. Beckman Coulter: Known for their Biomek series of liquid handling robots, Beckman Coulter offers versatile and reliable automation solutions for various laboratory workflows.
  5. Tecan: Tecan is a leading provider of laboratory automation solutions, including liquid handling systems, plate handlers, and integrated workstations such as the Fluent and Freedom EVO platforms.
  6. Thermo Fisher Scientific: Thermo Fisher Scientific offers a comprehensive range of laboratory automation solutions, including plate handlers, liquid handling systems, and integrated workstations like the Cytomat and Orbitor series.
  7. QIAGEN: QIAGEN provides various automated nucleic acid extraction and purification solutions, such as the QIAcube and QIAxtractor systems, broadly used in molecular biology and genomics research.
  8. Agilent Technologies: Agilent Technologies offers a diverse portfolio of laboratory automation solutions, including liquid chromatography systems, sample preparation platforms, and robotic workstations like the Bravo and VWorks series.
  9. PerkinElmer: PerkinElmer provides various automation solutions for high-throughput screening, imaging, and data analysis. Their Janus and Opera systems are used in drug discovery and genomics research.
  10. Illumina: Illumina, a leader in next-generation sequencing (NGS) technologies, offers automation solutions for library preparation and sequencing, including the NovaSeq Prep System and the iSeq library prep kits.

Personally, I like GenieLife and OpenTrons. They are newer players in the lab automation game, but I highly recommend looking into them. 

6 Strategies For Increasing Your Walkaway Time

Everyone could do for a few more minutes in their day. By increasing your walkaway time, you and your team can reclaim some of your precious time to take care of important tasks.

Here are some ways to optimize your lab’s workflows and increase your walkaway time.

Process in Batches

Optimize the use of robotics by performing tasks in batches. Group similar experiments or assays together and schedule them to run sequentially or in parallel, allowing the robot to perform multiple tasks in a single run. This approach can minimize downtime and maximize the use of resources, increasing your walkaway time.

Optimize Resources

Ensure that all necessary resources, such as consumables, reagents, and samples, are readily available before initiating automated processes. Stock up on commonly used items to minimize interruptions. Implement automated inventory management systems to track and replenish supplies as needed, reducing the need for manual intervention.

Monitor and Maintain

Regularly monitor the performance of your robotic systems and automation equipment to identify potential issues or errors. Implement preventive maintenance schedules to keep the equipment in optimal condition. This proactive approach can reduce unexpected downtimes.

Create Redundant and Failover System

Implement redundant systems and failover mechanisms where possible to minimize the impact of equipment failures or malfunctions. Having backup robotic systems or spare parts readily available can help ensure continuous operation and increase the walkaway time.

Manage Data Efficiently

Implement a robust data management and analysis system to handle the large volumes of data generated during automated processes. Utilize bioinformatics pipelines and software tools to automate data processing, analysis, and reporting. This reduces the need for manual data handling.

Ensure that your digital lab platform of choice has an Open API and SDK to allow you to connect your robots and software systems. This enables you to perform complicated tasks in a multi-dimensional ecosystem and utilize AI/ML to access the data for analysis.

Get Digital…

…but do it strategically. Implementing a digital lab strategy is essential to keep your software and instruments in a connected web that drives efficient experimentation, data analysis, collaboration, and accessibility. All of this enhances the walkaway time for your instruments and facilitates the removal of manual activities like exporting data, processing raw data, and more.

Conclusion

What’s your walkaway time? If you’d like to increase it and be more efficient, try some of the steps above to make your lab more streamlined. And don’t forget about other important aspects of lab operations, including quality and precision. After all, even if your walkaway time is high, you’re just wasting time and money if you’re generating low-quality, inaccurate data.

To explore how you can increase and optimize your walkaway time, schedule a free personal demo today!

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