Today still most of the development and production laboratories in the pharmaceutical industry are operated in a manual/semi-automatic way and burdened with tedious paper-based documentation. The frontrunners in the industry have however started a digital transformation of lab operations to increase efficiency and decrease lead time in laboratories. The potential benefits are huge.
Manually operated instruments are replaced by computer-controlled instruments where plans for what to analyze are automatically fed to the instruments before execution and test results automatically sent to central systems for documentation or further analysis.
Instruments may be combined in laboratory cells with a limited number of related analytical instruments and where robots may be used to transfer samples from one instrument to another.
Transfer of samples between such cells may be handled by automated guided vehicles and tracking of samples may be handled by matrix codes or RFID chips.
To optimize the utilization of the highly automated lab instruments the lab may be supported by an advanced finite scheduling system
The analytical results may be uploaded to a central data repository where advanced data analytical tools may exploit recent developments within artificial intelligence.
A typical example of a system architecture for advanced digital operation of development labs is shown below:
Automated and integrated lab solutions can increase faster launch of products and cut down cost for development/production of products.
However, the actual solution must be adapted and aligned with company specific business objectives and strategies.
This can be ensured by development of a digital transformation strategy for lab operation as shown in fig. 2 below: