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Sustainability through Lab Optimization in the Digital Era

Asset performance management programs enable greater visibility and utilization of all lab assets

Philippe Desjardins

Scientific labs are experiencing an increasing demand for greater efficiency and productivity and, at the same time, a strong desire to maximize sustainability from the organization-wide level to daily operations. Combining new data intelligence technologies and better industry insight guidance allows for advancing lab operational efficiency through better asset utilization and increased sustainability in the digital lab era. 

The central premise for discussing sustainability and optimization together is that a lab running at maximum efficiency is a more sustainable one. The average lab consumes more energy per square foot than many hospitals or other commercial buildings1,2,3. In light of this, the combined impact imparted by the collective effect of all labs running at optimal levels of efficiency cannot be overstated. The EPA estimates that a 30 percent reduction in lab energy use translates to removing 1.3  million cars from highways per year3.

Most lab managers are mindful of both sustainability and optimization needs. A  global survey of lab managers highlighted a strong desire to meet sustainability goals and remain conscious of sustainability in their daily operations. Key takeaways from the survey included:

  • Sixty-eight percent of labs surveyed acknowledged that they require further work to improve sustainability4.
  • The most common sustainability expectations from instrument vendors are to reduce emissions and energy consumption. Sixty-eight percent of the respondents expected instrument vendors to help them reduce emissions, while 58 percent expected a reduction in energy5.
  • Increased efficiency and optimization are also factors, with the most critical concern being speed as demand for higher sample throughput increases dramatically. The importance that lab leaders place on improving speed, optimization, and efficiency was also highlighted in a pharmaceutical lab leaders survey5:
  • Of those surveyed, 83 percent believed their workflows needed optimization, and 63 percent would welcome innovations to increase efficiency4.

Asset performance management

The opportunity for lab optimization improvement is profound. On average, lab instruments are running only 35 percent of the time, and only four percent of labs employ data intelligence to ascertain fleet utilization6.

A holistic method of assuring lab-wide optimization and efficiency is required to address this gap effectively. Asset performance management provides the means of getting there, both in optimization and sustainability. Using advanced asset control with digital analytics and expert guidance, asset performance management allows greater visibility and utilization of all lab assets. Maximizing the availability and utilization of all assets will reduce a lab’s carbon footprint and enable more science to be done. A successful asset performance management program rests on four core capabilities: 

  1. Asset control: Taking control of lab assets requires a lab-wide approach with built-in operational agility. Maintaining an accurate inventory and having effective maintenance and  repair capabilities is fundamental.
  2. Digital services: A digitally-enabled lab using productivity intelligence is critical when optimizing  lab performance.
  3. Compliance assurance: Assuring the most stringent global data integrity and pharmaceutical regulatory requirements are met, while harmonizing protocols across the lab and reducing regulatory risk.
  4. Expert guidance: Experts who can help safely implement change to achieve a higher  level of operational excellence.

When applied appropriately, these core capabilities increase operational efficiency and productivity and positively impact lab sustainability. Reducing energy consumption through increased efficiency is a win-win, especially for the environment.

James Connelly, chief executive officer of My Green Lab agrees, "Lab equipment makes up a significant portion of the total plug load in any lab and can lead to high energy consumption. Optimization of lab equipment through solutions such as asset performance management can dramatically lower the overall energy consumption and be a significant step toward achieving lab sustainability.”

Data intelligence systems with real-time sensing technology and interconnectivity provide better visibility into lab operations and help drive decisions. By gaining clarity on asset utilization, more informed decisions can be made that advance lab operations to new levels of efficiency and productivity and also increase sustainability. Measuring asset utilization opens the door to appropriate fleet right-sizing and technology refresh, resulting in higher throughput, less power consumption, smaller workflow footprint, and redeployment of under-used or redundant instruments.

Using real-time digital data regarding lab instrument health and utilization, combined with expert analysis,      provides a performance profile of the critical lab assets and the lab function. This provides lab managers information to move beyond reactive, time-consuming lab operations reviews to proactively address lab performance and strategically plan more efficient, fit-for-purpose operations. Managing assets through the lens of lab performance affords the ability to proactively adjust to changing business conditions and grow lab operations in an organized manner, ensuring optimal  performance throughout all stages of development.

Asset performance management requires a higher operational understanding through lab-wide data intelligence to make better-informed decisions. Data intelligence helps inform how to best evolve lab facilities to changing conditions without negatives impacts. Asset monitoring and expert analysis of real-time instrument activity are essential components to understanding the health and usage of individual instruments and the entirety of lab operations.

Data intelligence and expert guidance

The question then arises as to how best to change operations to improve lab optimization and sustainability. Data intelligence is definitely a prerequisite for successfully advancing lab operations combined with expert guidance. A key component is monitoring all lab equipment to ensure maximum utilization to increase efficiency. Asset monitoring provides a comprehensive view of instrument utilization, enabling greater understanding and control over assets.

Expert guidance can assist with proper integration and interpretation of asset utilization data. Careful analysis of instrument utilization provides the basis for data-driven decisions, giving insight into fleet right-sizing and balancing scientific assets.

The process of lab optimization involves integrating utilization data with instrument service  histories and end-of-guaranteed support to measure the instrument health. Understanding instrument utilization and health can determine the optimal footprint and workflow composition. 

Asset performance management is a central operations strategy that can provide lab managers with profound insight into asset composition and health and the means to make data-driven decisions and optimize lab operations. The subsequent improvement of lab-wide efficiency not only increases productivity of the laboratory as a whole, but also lab sustainability by doing more science with less energy and resources. A win for both science and the environment.

References:

1.    Laboratories for the 21st Century. Updated 2017 ? Labs21 Benchmarking Tool. http://labs21benchmarking.lbl.gov

2.    Energy Information Administration (EiA) Commercial Buildings Energy Consumption Survey (CBECS). https://www.eia.gov/ consumption/commercial/about.php

3.    International Institute for Sustainable Laboratories. Laboratories for the 21st Century. Toolkit. http://www.i2sl.org/documents/toolkit/ lowenergy_508.pdf

4.    Lab Managers Survey. https://www.agilent.com/content/dam/about/newsroom/infograhics/pdf/fact-sheet-lab-manager.pdf

5.    Pharma Lab Leaders Survey. https://www.agilent.com/content/dam/about/newsroom/infograhics/pdf/pharma_lab_leaders_survey.pdf

6.    2019 Agilent asset management survey of US lab and operations managers, n=94