Optimum Data Management: The Paperless Lab At Work
To thrive in an environment of constant change, companies must rethink how they address R&D investment, international expansion, human resources and other critical drivers of growth. Fortunately, many elite enterprises have spent years investing in new technology and processes that, at least in theory, position them for growth. Yet all this investment may be worthless to some companies if they fail to strategically align non-integrated, often dissimilar resources in ways that enable maximum responsiveness. And for science-based companies relying on laboratory data for management metrics, a great place to start doing this is in the lab.
Many labs are now discovering that advanced instruments with greater and greater sensitivities and accuracies are only part of the advancing technology equation. Mobile and cloud computing technologies, for example, are driving equally important changes that dramatically increase business velocity, but also lower barriers to entry, encouraging and equipping new entrants. While technology is undeniably an enabler, it’s also a catalyst of equal opportunity, spurring competition that places even more pressure on CIOs and IT teams to stay ahead of the curve.
While the role of new technology is clearly understood, the importance of data is often underappreciated. Nonetheless, it’s now the new currency of business, and nearly every business, especially one with a high-throughput lab, must have a plan to manage it. True business transformation —the kind that enables rapid response to competitive threats and market externalities, is inescapably linked to effective data management. A laboratory may have the latest instruments and information technology infrastructure in place, but winning the instrument arms race or having a mature ERP system is certainly a false security if data management isn’t world class as well. Without full transparency into laboratory operations and outputs, there are no early warning systems and, even worse, no visibility into what’s possible.
What’s needed is more agile decisionmaking, informed by data that can be represented enterprise-wide. This is why best-in-class enterprises regard a Laboratory Information Management System (LIMS) as much more than just a data management or even a workflow solution for the lab; when utilized to its fullest potential, a LIMS becomes an operating system for enterprisewide knowledge sharing and an enabler of business transformation.
Since LIMS are tightly integrated with other enterprise systems, insights from the lab can—and must—be central to any business that seeks true enterprise-wide agility. Smart businesses don’t simply capture and collect data; they are making data actionable across the enterprise, putting management in a position to operate their companies as flexible organizations. This means they’re capable of responding quickly to market trends or new regulations and agile enough to identify and capitalize on cost-saving or margin-growing opportunities in the future.
Four Pillars of Transformation
For the agile enterprise, one that is truly business-transformation ready, there are four drivers: integration, innovation, automation and business intelligence. The good news is that many companies already have some facet of these already in place, so final alignment is less burdensome than most realize. But the time to get started is now.
- Integration – When people, processes, technology (and data) are stuck in silos, business agility is impossible. True visibility— to inform business decisions—is only possible when an executive dashboard is built from comprehensive, near real-time data in open digital formats.
- Innovation – From accelerated drug discovery to more efficient ways to manufacture product, liberating laboratory data in dashboard form can be a new catalyst for continuous change. And the ability to recognize and exploit pathways for innovation is as much cultural as it is process-oriented.
- Automation – Automating time-consuming tasks such as instrument calibration, compliance, user training and maintenance liberates more time for science, investing this perishable intellectual capital back into business transformation.
- Business Intelligence (BI) – In many enterprises, if a manager or executive wants to see laboratory progress or productivity reports, the IT department has to step in. Today, however, thanks to more mature BI approaches enabled by cloud computing, lab personnel can create real-time dashboard reports that are accessible to managers and executives 24/7 via desktop, tablet or mobile devices.
These four pillars provide a technological roadmap to build a business transformation- ready organization. The first step is to liberate information that is often isolated in laboratories where it does little good. Once that lab data is free to circulate across the organization, employees at every level are empowered to do more with vast stores of knowledge and apply it in innovative, new, and optimally, more profitable ways. When all four of the drivers listed are in sync, business transformation isn’t just an aspiration anymore—it’s a reality.
Kim Shah is the Director of Marketing and New Business Development, Informatics, Thermo Fisher Scientific. For more information, please visit www.thermoscientific.com/informatics or contact firstname.lastname@example.org
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