We know how challenging 2020 was for many people, personally and professionally. In our industry, we saw testing laboratories slowing down their activity and fighting to maintain productivity while coping with social distancing requirements. “Moving Forward” became an emblematic motto last year for us, aiming to share testimonials and support analytical laboratories to overcome some of the difficulties of the pandemic emergency. However, figuring out exactly how to move forward can be particularly challenging.
We discussed how technology and advanced analytical solutions are key to open up new opportunities and enable different and more efficient ways to approach analytical workflows.
In a situation where social distance forced many to alternate their presence in the laboratory -- in some cases, to get external services -- the impact on sample throughput was significant due to fewer resources and likely longer downtime of the instrumentation. While searching for the silver lining, we did see how modern technology allows us to better organize lab activities and helped maintain the required productivity. This is possible by increasing the level of automation in the laboratory, increasing the remote control capabilities of the instruments and the data processing, and adopting technology which facilitates troubleshooting and reduces the need for service calls, as well as minimizing the time for maintenance and instrument downtime.
Having a GC or a GCMS system in the lab makes it possible to automate a lot of basic and more complex sample handling procedures which are typically done manually -- thanks to robotic autosampler like the Thermo Scientific TriPlus RSH. Just think about simple procedures like the preparation of calibration standards, or samples dilution, standard additions, and sample derivatization; these can now be automated.
Automation can provide several benefits. Automation, or unattended operations, is beneficial in optimizing the daily workload, especially in case of limited access to the lab. Automated workflows also allow to keep the instruments up and running overnight or over the weekend, making a better use of the analysts’ time. Finally, those laboratories involved in method development can benefit a greater flexibility to automatically switch between different injection techniques within the same run sequence. All of these capabilities represent a way to extend unattended operations to finally achieve better management of limited resources in the lab.
Automating workflows and sample preparation protocols can be even more impactful in emergency situations with the combined capability to manage all analytical processes remotely -- from instrument control to raw data storage and processing, right through to generating the final results.
The Chromeleon CDS software platform allows laboratories to be connected from a local network to a global enterprise solution. Cloud capabilities ensure data and applications are available to the users no matter where they are. So users working off-site can access their work just as easily at home or in any other place, as they do in the lab or in the office. In addition to workflow automation, facilitating maintenance and reducing instrument downtime is also critical when facing possible limited resources in the lab.
New technology and innovation characterizing the Thermo Scientific GC and GC-MS portfolio can support laboratories in not only to streamlining operations but also in minimizing user intervention on the instrument. Just think about smart tools like the GC-MS NeverVent or smart design like GC modularity, which are capable of maximizing uptime and optimizing lab efficiency.
The modularity concept of the TRACE 1300 series GC allows injectors and detectors to be swapped in a minute with a plug and play approach. This operation is so simple that everybody in the lab can do it, without requiring any technical skills or special tools. It revolutionizes the conventional use of a GC instrument, minimizing service calls and reducing the presence in the lab. Therefore, we can say that the modular design offers several benefits to the laboratory, especially when accessibility is limited. It also represents a valuable approach to limit the investment in periods of budget constraints.
If you would like to know more on how advanced technology can help in maintaining productivity in emergency situations, on-demand webinars are available at this link.
Even if challenges have not gone away, with the start of the new year we are all seeing brighter days on the horizon and hopes for a slow but steady return to normality, and possibly more. This new year will see all of us moving forward through new paths not previously considered, and new opportunities for productivity which only challenging times can catalyze.