Lab Manager | Run Your Lab Like a Business

There's Gold in That Data

The time has come for lab managers to partner with their IT departments to find the best ways to mine their data "gold"

by Pamela Ahlberg
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In last month’s cover story, “Your Lab, Your Business,” we touched on the idea that business opportunities for many of today’s labs will come from their data. “The focus now is to be as operationally efficient as possible and to reassess the data being created in order to maximize value to the business,” said Trish Meek, director, product strategy, life sciences at Thermo Fisher Scientific. This month’s expert, David Patterson, PhD, professor of computer science at UC Berkeley, echoes that message, saying “The fundamental argument underlying big data is that, if only we have the right tools to process and analyze all the data that we have, then we can get “gold” (from the data) to drive future discoveries.” 

Obviously the time has come for lab managers to partner with their IT departments to begin developing ways to best mine that gold.

The idea of data mining as the next big business opportunity comes at a good time, especially in light of this month’s Sixth Annual Investment Confidence Report, which—not unsurprisingly—is less than cheery. Evaluating the results of this year’s survey, author Angelo DePalma says, “The business outlook for 2014 shows a persistent lack of optimism, a trend that has become familiar over the past several annual surveys. Most negativity appears related to the macroeconomic and political outlooks for the U.S. as a whole.” Turn to page 10 for the good, bad and ugly. I’d be curious to know if these results ring true for you.

Continuing the search for ways to add to growth and contain costs to sustain growth, author Paul McMinn in this month’s Business Management article, “Strategic Sourcing,” looks to the area of procurement. Making a case for outsourcing this important function, he says, “When it comes to procurement functions and support for the lab professional, many organizations have not made that leap, although there is a strong service segment of organizations expanding to provide those services as an outgrowth of business process outsourcing (BPO).” 

Another weapon in a lab manager’s arsenal to optimize laboratory operations is something called “Quality by Design,” or QbD. Author Zenaida Otero Gephardt describes the methodology and its benefits in this month’s Technology article. “QbD has its origins in product development and manufacturing. However, it has significant benefits for the laboratory. QbD can enhance the efficacy, robustness (tolerance to small changes in operating conditions), and ruggedness (sample test reproducibility for different standard test conditions—different analysts or instruments) of laboratory methods,” says Gephardt.

Despite the fact that 37 percent of this year’s survey respondents believe that funding for education and training in their labs will decrease (compared with 32 percent last year), this month’s Leadership & Staffing article, “Customized Training,” paints a brighter picture. Thanks in part to ever better and more efficient online training offerings, opportunities for keeping your staff up to speed in matters of technology and safety abound. And no one doubts the value. “Most effective lab managers, no matter the specific field, understand the need for continuing education and work through budgetary and time constraints to provide the required opportunities for their staff to grow,” says author Sara Goudarzi.

As for developments in laboratory technology, find out what’s new in analytical balances, automated liquid handlers, stirrers, and refractometers. And for everything you ever wanted to know about centrifuges, see this month’s INSIGHTS article.


Pamela Ahlberg