Ready for the smart laboratory of tomorrow
Getting analytical systems, biotech and laboratory technology fit for “Laboratory 4.0” is going to be a big challenge for the next few years.
- Workflow integration, connectivity and data integrity are paramount in the process, but the requirements of the industry are very different. Core elements of a fully digitised laboratory are:
- Standardised interfaces: smart devices need to be able to communicate unrestricted and operate independently. They should be integrated simply and intelligently in the laboratory environment of the customer, centrally controlled and deployed in flexibly configurable laboratory processes.
- Efficient automation and robotics solutions: laboratory processes are becoming more complex and customers want analytical systems that can adapt quickly and flexibly to changing requirements. These systems enable laboratory employees to spend less time in front of laboratory equipment. At the same time, more samples can be processed, with improved data quality and reduced consumption of resources.
- Analytical systems are getting ever more powerful, and the data generated offers vast information potential. If these data volumes can be harnessed intelligently through the use of optiised software systems and machine learning methods, big data becomes smart data.
- Customers expect flawless documentation and reproducibility. Laboratory equipment is supposed to simplify compliance and satisfy regulatory requirements.
- In the form of e.g. smart glasses and virtual laboratory planning and tracking systems, augmented reality is already making its way into laboratories at ideas and prototype level. We expect to see rapid developments in this area over the next few years.
But digitalisation does not stop at the implementation of new technology. In the laboratory of the future, processes and structures will need to be redesigned. Customers should be involved earlier, more closely and more consistently in the process of drawing up ideas and developing products. Methods such as design thinking can be used to make products better reflect the actual needs of customers.
Last but not least, digitalisation will also open up new business models. Although some smart services are already available for customers, these mostly take the form of information platforms for service parts, accessories and consumables along with digital manuals – and usually they are “for free” instead of “for a fee.” Evolving smart services into smart services business models, for which the customers are willing to pay, offers huge potential.
is Head of Analytical, Bio and Laboratory Technology at the German Industry Association