This is a companion article to the feature, “Tackling Evolving Market Challenges.”
Automation has been proven to improve operational efficiency by delivering on such performance targets as reduced errors and improved turnaround time, which can ultimately save time, reduce waste. and reduce costs. Informatics solutions that provide data and predictive analytics can also improve the bottom line through oversight, compliance management, and statistical reporting capabilities.
Automation using informatics has been shown to produce quality results for clinicians by eliminating manual steps and operator decision points, while also reducing process variations that can lead to errors. Automated labs have enabled valuable professionals to focus on driving better clinical outcomes—and spending less time managing operations—by reducing human errors and eliminating time-consuming, repetitive tasks.
The decision to automate creates a long-term relationship with the products and the people who support this sophisticated equipment. Therefore, having a strategic relationship with a company that has extensive experience with the process is essential for achieving long-term laboratory automation goals.
Expertise in Lean manufacturing principles and Six Sigma process improvements enables manufacturers to work with laboratories to design the optimal workflow for their unique needs. Before the installation begins, Lean consultants can help establish key performance indicators that will demonstrate that the project has been successful.
Consultants can help manage the installation and implementation process according to the project plan. As the installation progresses, consultants can help make adjustments, which may involve dissecting and rebuilding the current workflow processes and removing non-value-added steps.
Once the automation system is up and running, periodic system optimization reviews, or health checks, should be performed annually. Health checks designed to assess newly installed and existing automation processes help evaluate how the entire automation system is working, from the time the sample enters the laboratory until the result is generated and the sample is disposed.
Automation is meant to improve workflow efficiency, to improve turnaround time, and to reduce errors; health checks ensure these goals are met. When labs get it right, they realize the payoff in measurable improvements in workflow and clinical excellence from a true multidisciplinary solution.