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By Severin Heynen
Improving lab procurement processes involves more than just putting e-procurement or lab management software in place. In most cases accessing, managing and analyzing the data that you use to support purchase decisions and feed into e-procurement tools is still a big challenge. In previous articles, we explored the value of automated collection of usage data from lab instruments and robotics. What capabilities and features should you look for when deciding which tools will best support your needs? Here are our top picks.
Introspect™ software automatically gathers instrument runtime, consumables usage, error rates and more directly from Freedom EVO® and Fluent® systems, with informative dashboard displays.
Lab asset management software: finding the perfect fit
If you’ve decided that you need a software solution to automatically monitor and analyze the way that your robotics equipment and associated lab supplies are being used, there’s no need to develop one from scratch. Commercial analytics software can help you get up and running sooner, saving you time, cost and effort in the process. The key is to invest in sufficiently powerful yet flexible software solutions that can be readily customized and adapted to suit different user roles and their varied requirements—both now, and in the future.
There are a number of commercial software packages emerging for collecting data about how lab instruments and robotics are used, and all come with their own set of pros and cons. To help you choose the asset management software tools that are right for your lab procurement needs, we’ve put together this checklist of must-have features and capabilities. Once you have them, you’ll wonder how your team ever got along without them:
Direct monitoring of current and historical usage
With live information gathered directly from deployed instruments—especially data about equipment usage and consumption of associated lab supplies—you can respond more quickly to changing levels of productivity and expenditure. An asset tracking software that gives you direct data access can be a significant step towards reducing risk in your procurement decisions. Informative dashboards and statistics provide you with an instant picture of current usage, and give you the insight needed to troubleshoot processes, redeploy instruments and staff to maximize up-time, spot cost-cutting opportunities, and more.
Combined tracking of instruments and consumables
Some asset tracking solutions are designed to gather instrument utilization data, while others focus on consumption of reagents and lab supplies. However, both sources of information are useful in supporting procurement, so it makes sense to choose software and compatible equipment that will enable you to monitor both at the same time. Combined tracking of instruments and associated consumables not only saves time and effort, it makes it easier to monitor each instrument’s consumption rate, which in turn helps with forecasting and efficient distribution lab supplies.
To make the most of asset utilization data and be able to act on the information quickly, on-board analytics are essential. Data files are useless unless you have the power to analyze them and interpret the results easily. Beware of software that only collects the data without providing any analysis, or that outputs data in a raw form, such as a spreadsheet or log file that requires further processing. These approaches impose an extra unnecessary layer of work between you and the results.
Customizable dashboards and web reports
The ability to customize tools and displays to specific roles and users can be crucial for effective decision-making, especially when sharing analytics software across different labs and functions. Ideally, users should be able to easily and quickly home in on exactly what they need and want to see and hide irrelevant data. The procurement officer will be interested in different metrics than the lab manager.
Cloud connectivity is a key requirement if you need to enable global access to instrument and consumables usage data. Especially for large organizations with multiple sites in different locations, managing performance across several robotic systems, a cloud-based solution is a must to provide instant access and help procurement teams and lab managers maintain an accurate and immediate overview of usage information, so that they can respond quickly and appropriately to changing needs.
Secure cloud connectivity makes it easy to monitor and analyze performance and utilization of instruments globally.
Security shortcomings and fear of non-compliance with safety regulations used to prevent labs from implementing cloud-based solutions, but strong encryption methods and anonymization now provide very high data security in the cloud. Of course, careful selection of products that support appropriate encryption is essential. For example, Introspect™software encrypts data with proven high-security connections and includes obfuscation measures such as hexadecimal coding to prevent unauthorized access.
Study the past. Understand the present. Predict the future.
If you are looking for more powerful analytics to support procurement and lab management decisions, Introspect software was designed with your needs in mind.
About the author
Dr Severin Heynen
Evaluating the quality of DNA for Next Generation Sequencing, genotyping, and other downstream applications