Quality embedded: the convergence of process automation and IT

15th Jul 2015

For many scientific operations, day-to-day processes revolve around running assays, getting results and verifying that everything was completed according to the protocol. The challenge inherent in this has been the retrospective approach to quality control (QC). Today’s forward-thinking bioanalytical (BA) laboratories are starting to shift away from this mentality, looking at how they can embed quality into everything they do.

Scientists need a system that ensures they are employing the right processes. An electronic laboratory notebook (ELN) offers a digitized approach to paper control, but there is so much more that can be done when you integrate powerful process automation capabilities too. In fact, the research industry stands to learn from the manufacturing sector, where quality is absolutely embedded into processes at every stage of research and production.

For the BA lab, it comes down to a blend of rigidity and flexibility. Scientists must contend with strictly defined processes – e.g. 5,000 samples which all have to be handled in exactly the same way – but also method development procedures which require more versatility. Scientists need a platform which can deliver both. They don’t want a system that gets in the way of their valuable work.

The higher value lies in actually driving processes with a layer of quality built in so that it’s embedded at the core and in real-time. A high-value system will ensure scientists do the right thing in terms of process, above and beyond simply capturing what was done. It will also provide monitoring around the order in which steps are taken. Lastly, the application should also prevent deviations so that, for example, if the wrong instrument has been selected, the analyst is alerted.

Streamlining quality assurance (QA) in this way delivers significant benefits in the BA lab. Scientists save time for research and data reporting, boosting speed to market and also innovation. Most importantly, perhaps, quality becomes an embedded feature of everything the lab does, rather than an afterthought.