Physical calendars for the reservation of an instrument or workspace, centralized locations for data on a server, or even the maintenance of instrument inventories using Microsoft Excel® are still the methods of choice in many laboratories. However, multiple different approaches are available which will help optimize workflows and improve the utilization of existing resources through digital applications. Tasks such as instrument monitoring, the keeping of maintenance schedules, or documentation of instruments and experiments can be accomplished much more efficiently using software applications with visualization.
Complete traceability of the protocols carried out and seamless documentation of laboratory processes are paramount when it comes to ensuring an efficient and productive laboratory environment.
Who in the laboratory is not regularly faced with time-consuming documentation of laboratory processes? Handwritten, loose-leaf protocols that are kept in a lab notebook impede reproducibility.
Even today, more and more scientists are saving their experimental data in an electronic laboratory notebook (ELN) or a laboratory information management system (LIMS) instead of using traditional paper lab notebooks. Switching to digital formats has brought many advantages as well as saved time.
In the case of a failed experiment, tracing the experiment and identifying potential sources of error have become much easier. Data from within as well as from outside the laboratory may be used and shared by multiple parties. The digital tools assist you in the tracing of your samples, and (in combination with a lab inventory management system) will support you in the management of your consumables, chemicals, and solvents.
“Unstoppable”: digitalization in the laboratory
Since more and more laboratory instruments are now suitable for networking, the use of efficient laboratory and inventory management systems will become ever more commonplace – particularly these days as laboratories all over the world are confronted with novel demands and challenges. These include new standards of social distancing and work-from-home regulations (which, in turn, translate to a more flexible workforce), limited access to laboratory workspaces, and virtual compliance audits.