Where will the Industry be in 5 Years?
• Working as teams in the planning and implementation of lab automation projects. Lab management, lab staff, and support groups need to understand their roles in the process.
We are moving from the use of a collection of isolated technologies into a phase where cooperative/collaborative programs are becoming important, as is the need to streamline lab operations to achieve increased productivity. There is also more emphasis on managing the lab’s intellectual property. We have to move up a level on how we use technology and that requires a change in how lab workflows are planned and implemented. It also requires more effective use of corporate financial resources. All of that requires teamwork, better planning and technology management, and expanding the roles of key players in the team partnership:
• Lab managers have to understand the lab’s workflows and plan for the use and management of technologies and products. The end result should be systems-level thinking that moves in the direction of integration as the technology permits. Managers have to guide the use of technology lab-wide instead of just addressing isolated problems.
• Lab staff’s role will change from executing lab work to overseeing, managing, and optimizing the use of lab systems. They would also provide recommendations for improving the way systems function.
• IT support would be responsible for project planning, management and implementation. This moves beyond basic information technology support to understanding how lab systems function and the use of computer-based systems and technologies to advance lab work.
The early phases of lab automation development were focused on technologies and equipment. When questions like the one in the title of this piece were posed, they were answered with glowing predictions of what might be possible. Many of those predictions have yet to be realized. None of them addressed the basic issue of people’s ability to fully understand and apply the products offered by vendors. Any progress we want to make is going to be predicated on a workforce well educated in the use of the tools, and possessing the ability to look beyond what is currently available to what is needed next.