Bigger. Stronger. Faster. Those may be attributes John Lynch, General Manager of the San Francisco 49ers, looks for when deciding which player to draft at cornerback to compete with the Super Bowl Champion Los Angeles Ram’s wide receiver Cooper Kupp.
Smaller. Easier. Better. Those are the qualities laboratory managers and directors are searching for when it comes to their lab instruments and equipment.
According to ReportLinker’s Analytical Laboratory Instrument Global Market Report 20221, the laboratory instrument market is expected to grow 17.2 percent in 2022, from $92.2B in 2021 to $108.1B, and as high as $184.5B by 2026. The increase in spending is attributed to the post-COVID recovery, with businesses restructuring operations, people returning to the workplace, and organizations needing to be more competitive in a rebounding economy. All the while, labs will be looking for options that are smaller, easier, and better for their operations.
Space constraints are a problem in many laboratories. The increased cost of real estate has driven businesses to accept smaller-than-ideal spaces for their laboratory needs. Even large-scale labs are slowly outgrowing their spaces with the need for more materials, or requirements to keep tested samples for a longer time period. As such, these and other demands are reducing the space of the testing environment.
Lab equipment manufacturers are focused on decreasing the size of laboratory instruments. Devices that once took up over 100 square feet of floor space in a lab can now sit comfortably on a countertop. Even smaller, hand-held instrumentation is also becoming a reality. And where vendors can’t make instruments smaller, those vendors are combining multiple instruments into one piece of equipment to cut down on the number of instruments a laboratory needs to do its job.2
A typical laboratory uses five times as much energy per square foot compared to a regular office building, with some labs running 24 hours a day with heat-generating equipment requiring uninterrupted power supplies.3 Smaller instruments, powered with new technology, are also more eco-friendly, requiring less energy to operate without sacrificing performance. Reduced energy costs help the bottom-line return on investment and decrease the lab’s carbon footprint, which is a positive for the environment.
Forbes4 recently reported that the United States and Canada are short roughly one medical laboratory scientist for every 1,000 people in each country, with many other countries suffering worse shortages. A survey5 by the American Society for Clinical Pathology attributed the labor shortage primarily to burnout in the industry, with other responses ranging from too heavy a workload to lack of recognition.
A laboratory science degree takes, on average, five years to complete. Even with a degree, additional certifications may be required, depending on the field of science. However, a technician requires only a two-year associate’s medical laboratory technician’s degree. Lab instrument manufacturers have recognized the labor struggles and the decrease in highly skilled scientists in the laboratory and are attempting to produce devices that are easier to operate, making sample preps faster, with simpler methods and workflows, and full automation to lessen the level of skill and experience needed to run the tests and interpret the results.
In the mid-nineteenth century, your laboratory was considered top-of-the-line if you had a Bunsen burner. Modern labs have instruments that send data directly to the cloud and alert a scientist when something goes wrong. In the 1960s, a hospital could have processed up to 1,500 tests per day, whereas now there are new hospital labs processing over 30,000 tests each day using automation and robotics.6
The invention of better analytical laboratory instrumentation is also contributing to new discoveries, most recently in food and beverage testing labs. The new lines of liquid chromatograph mass spectrometers are detecting even the smallest amounts of pesticides and PFAS (per-and poly-fluoroalkyl substances) in foods and wrappings that make their way into the human body. Advances in inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometers recently helped detect heavy metals in infant formulas, causing the FDA to release a warning about high levels of arsenic in baby foods.7
Utilizing modern, advanced instrumentation in their labs can help producers avoid devastating recalls, as well as provide critical food safety knowledge to the public.
Smaller, easier, and better!
Why settle for one improvement when you can have all three? Refeyn Ltd., a biotechnology company in the United Kingdom, announced at the beginning of 2022 that a new mass photometer had been designed that would require a much smaller footprint than other mass photometers on the market, with low operational costs, the most basic necessary training, and the ability to provide accurate results in less than five minutes, from sample loading to results report. Refeyn’s new instrument is intended for use in adeno-associated virus (AAV) analytics, which leads the advancement in the treatment of genetic diseases.8
Instrument integration with LabLynx ELab LIMS
Regardless of whether your lab is full of all the latest innovations in instrumentation or still running with larger, more complicated, or dated devices, integrating those instruments with a laboratory information management system (LIMS) like LabLynx’s ELab LIMS software can add significant improvements to any type of lab. ELab can be set up to interface with any instrument (simple, uni-directional, bi-directional), allowing for seamless data transfer, whether it is through file exports, FTP, APIs, or serial or network connections.
ELab LIMS can improve turn-around time for results reporting, help reduce human error, improve quality control, create audit trails, store training and device manuals, and help meet the future growth of the lab. In addition, the LIMS can track maintenance history on all lab instruments and notify the lab of upcoming maintenance requirements, as well as schedule routine calibrations for all integrated instruments.