Introducing automation to a lab can feel daunting. When you spend time implementing and optimizing protocols by hand, it can be difficult to imagine relinquishing that control over to a robot. However, the benefits to switching over far outweigh any lingering hesitation. Here are some ways automation can improve your lab.
1. Frees up staff
Introducing an instrument like a robotic liquid handler vastly reduces the amount of time spent on menial task like pipetting and plate transfers. Let’s be real, you didn’t go to school and earn a degree to just stand around filling plate after plate. Using a robotic workstation lets you walk away and really use your brain for more specialized task. That paper you meant to read, the data/results you meant to analyze, well now you have the time to do it.
2. Save Your Wrist
Notice how you can’t pull your right sleeve as far up as your left? Are the muscles on the right looking bit bigger than the left? You can thank all the pipetting action for that. You may think that this quirk is no big deal, but in the long run can cause health problems. One common side effect of pipetting every day is carpal tunnel syndrome. Carpal tunnel is the repeated compression of the median nerve which eventually causes numbing and or pain in the fingers. The ensuing physiotherapy is not fun. In addition, working while suffering from carpal tunnel syndrome increases the likelihood of human error.
3. Increase accuracy and repeatability of experiments
Do you ever look at a well in a 96 or 384 well plate in front of you and just wonder, did I already pipette into this yet? This thought crosses people’s minds more often than you would think. Your mind just starts to wander after standing there for so long; you are after all only human. Using a robotic liquid handler you can be assured that everything is in the right well and you will have an electronic record to prove it. Try as you might, you can’t always protect your work from cross-contamination, humans are not perfect after all. Results collected from these experiments could result in misleading conclusions. If mistakes like this aren’t caught early, you may have to redo the entire experiment. The use of automation can increase confidence in results, knowing that each step of the experiment was carried out in a consistent manner. With an automated workstation, human error is removed and the risk of contamination is greatly reduced.
4. Save Money
There are three ways automation can help a lab save money. The first is saving money on consumables and reagents. The precision of a liquid handler will reduce the amount of reagents that are wasted, simply because the reagent is stuck inside the tip. With expensive reagents, you can’t afford many costly mistakes. The second, the reduced need to repeat experiments decreases the cost associated with a project. Third and less obvious way automation saves money is that the workstation doesn’t need to take time off. An automated liquid handler can be used overnight and on the weekends. This allows the lab to increase the productivity, without any increased cost.