In the past, laboratory personnel had to simply trust that everything would run smoothly in their absence. Inevitably, things would go wrong, and detectable issues would be dealt with upon arrival at the lab. This could result in lost time and wasted resources. There was also the element of the unknown, as without monitoring you wouldn’t know, for example, how temperatures or humidity levels may have fluctuated overnight. Such changes could lead to sample degradation and unreliable results.
Thankfully, modern laboratories have a wealth of options when it comes to monitoring systems. Scientists can remotely monitor experiments, receive real-time notifications, monitor the performance of instruments and equipment, and more. As Salvatore Savo, PhD, co-founder, TetraScience, notes, “The ultimate goal of a lab monitoring system is to provide peace of mind to lab operators who need them to keep samples safe and improve operational efficiency.”
Monitoring has now become the norm and helps with not only ensuring the integrity of samples and products, but also with remaining compliant with industry standards and regulations. With huge corporations utilizing laboratory monitoring systems, this begs the question of how scalable these processes are. We look at the importance of lab monitoring systems and the challenges faced in implementing scalable systems.
Scalable lab monitoring systems have many benefits to offer
Laboratory monitoring systems can have a large impact on the integrity of work completed and often represent huge cost savings for organizations. For example, Savo explains, “By using a remote monitoring system, life science organizations can prevent significant material and financial losses that can have a serious impact on their ability to take a drug to market.”
Joe LaPorte, director of Cold Chain, Projects, and Regulatory, PHC Corporation, notes that “the largest value comes from being able to determine when your critical products fall outside their measured parameters when nobody is around to witness it.”
There is also the compliance component. Lab monitoring systems are often vital to proving the integrity of research, development, and production processes. “The best systems have audit trail capability to meet compliance requirements and provide a method for analysis to help implement best practices,” says LaPorte.
Implementation of scalable systems presents challenges
While small-scale systems are broadly implemented, as an increasing number of parameters are measured across facilities, there is demand for organizations to implement large-scale solutions. Aside from enabling comprehensive monitoring, they need to deliver other features such as synchronization of data, customizable alerts, and maintenance tracking.
These systems are available, but there are some roadblocks. One of the biggest issues is the large amount of data that must be transferred and stored. Savo notes that larger systems must support a nearly unlimited number of data streams. There’s also the issue of compatibility as so many different types of equipment and systems must be integrated. To overcome these challenges, providers offer cloud-based systems that are instrument agnostic and have superior integration capabilities.
LaPorte discusses reliability issues inherent in some systems, including dropped signals due to electrical interference or loss of internet connection, as well as human error problems such as failure to change or charge batteries in Wi-Fi systems. These issues are trickier to fix, but there is an understanding that while no system is infallible, the benefits certainly outweigh the risks.