What is lab automation?

Laboratory or lab automation uses any lab device, software, process, or general automation lab technology to improve a lab's efficiency and streamline workflows. Lab automation enhances the accuracy and repeatability of analytical results.

Tools used in lab automation include conveyors, sample changers, software, machine vision, robots, automated dosing equipment, autosamplers, and other liquid handling automation systems. The tools can be used in one or more workflows. Some lab automation equipment can automate a measurement or workflow already built in, while others blend with manual systems for flexibility and control.

These enabling technologies can be added to or paired with existing lab equipment such as balances, titrators, pH sensors, other electrochemical and testing equipment, gravimetric dosing systems, pipettes, UV Vis spectroscopy equipment, thermal analysis equipment, and more.

Why use lab automation?

Throughout the last several decades, the impact of lab automation systems and principles has been felt across nearly every industry. Automated lab equipment has played a big role in saving time, reducing costs, eliminating human error, and improving lab efficiency worldwide.

Acknowledging ever-increasing market pressure and the need to minimize time-to-results, METTLER TOLEDO was a pioneer in making important innovations in lab automation. Automation technologies have become a must for modern laboratories to keep up with industry evolution and consumer demand, particularly in highly competitive and/or regulated industries such as chemicals, pharmaceuticals, and food and beverage.

How to improve laboratory productivity using automation?

Workflows enabled by automated lab equipment may include one or more instruments and will be driven by standard operating procedures (SOPs). These SOPs may be programmed into laboratory software that may archive the resulting data sets directly or integrate into a LIMS (Laboratory Information Management System), which can help to enhance compliance and ensure crucial experimental details are not lost. Protocols can also be designed to standardize mixing and cleaning steps between assessments, providing an additional layer of reproducibility and freeing lab operators to focus on value-added tasks.

Lab automation systems that enable fast, consistent processing are well-suited to repetitive actions. For example, adding an autosampler that supplies many samples to the same instrument for identical or similar assays may produce significant savings in terms of time and waste reduction and rework.

The advantages of laboratory automation can be of particular benefit in optimizing synthesis procedures. Unattended reactors that run experiments 24 hours a day can accelerate researchers' understanding of reactions and processes, as well as assist in planning and scale-up.

Should I automate solution preparation?

The preparation of solutions and standards is simpler with automated devices that dispense a substance of interest with high accuracy. This can help to conserve samples, speed up processes, and enhance reproducibility.

A sensitive analytical balance must produce repeatable results when working with milligrams of solids or liquids. Alternatively, a quality lab automation system such as the XPR Automatic Balance allows you to handle various substances and doses to various vessels. Fine, fluffy, electrostatically charged, compacted, granular, and heterogeneous solids, nanoparticles, mixtures, and viscous liquids can all be dispensed with pristine accuracy in seconds, helping to ensure accurate solution preparation.

How does lab automation affect activities after analysis?

The impact of chemistry lab automation on industry has been far-reaching. Increasing laboratory automation adoption has helped maximize experimental accuracy and save time in research, quality control, and production labs. Heightened process efficiency and productivity are helping labs to develop higher-quality products, get them to market faster, and reduce or eliminate potentially dangerous or reputation-damaging outcomes. This can help quality and lab managers to ensure efficacy. It can also assist them in avoiding regulatory fines and minimizing expensive recall activities.

Can lab automation equipment help me ensure regulatory compliance?

Yes. Laboratories subject to auditing ensure compliant results through tight control over their analytical workflows. The instruments themselves are selected and installed with care using automated laboratory instrumentation, and their history of use, routine testing, and service is typically tracked in detail.

Accompanying software is monitored with similar rigor to verify that it meets regulations concerning the completeness and security of data records. It also fulfills other applicable requirements, e.g., restricting users' access to an assigned set of devices and/or methods.

METTLER TOLEDO supports compliance by offering guidance on instrument choice, installation location, setup, and appropriate service packages. We also provide traceable weights and certified reference substances for routine testing, modular software packages that secure data and accommodate new processes, and SOP creation that can help reinforce results quality.

Learn more about service and routine testing solutions such as CarePacs®, CertiRef™, and LinSets, or review our Good Measuring Practices to assess current process accuracy and more.

How does lab automation augment productivity?

Automation can optimize the use of lab space and resources. It can speed up individual processes, or it can speed up entire workflows. Holistic automation across your lab's functions will improve productivity. It can also improve safety and simplify processes for compliance and audits.

What are other advantages of lab automation in R&D?

Lab automation, which combines instruments with software solutions, offers richer datasets in a shorter time than those available using manual processes. Automated instruments and software also enable safe and unattended experiments 24 hours daily. They accelerate researchers understanding of reactions and processes and enable continuous monitoring of key reaction species. Chemists and engineers alike can simultaneously interrogate potential influences across multiple parameters.

How does lab automation improve safety and protect operators?

Repeated actions can produce fatigue and, over time, even promote injuries. Automating lab functions can help to prevent repetitive motion injuries. Automated instruments and systems can also be placed in protective environments, limiting exposure to hazardous materials and environmental conditions.

Spectroscopic Automation Guide

Spectroscopic Automation

Learn more about possible UV Vis automation, how to choose the right automation solution and receive...

Titration Automation Guide - Reasons for Automation and Examples of Proven Solutions

Titration Automation Guide

Increased productivity due to reproducible and automated processes by titration automation options....

​Guide: Automation for Karl Fischer Titration​

Guide: Automation in Karl Fischer Titration

The guide explores comprehensive solutions to automate Karl Fischer titration that can simplify your...

Thermal Analysis Automation Solutions

Thermal Analysis Automation

Learn how our thermal analysis automation solutions can reduce the effort and improve the efficiency...

Thermal Analysis Automation

Thermal Analysis Automation Application

Prevent changes in sample moisture content before analysis with the automatic lid piercing technique...

On Demand Webinar – Automated pH Measurements

pH Calibration and Measurement Using an Automated System

Join our webinar to learn how using pH automation in the lab can improve the quality of results and...

Beverage Analysis with Density and Refractive Index Measurement

Beverage Analysis with Density and Refractive Index Measurement

Determination of Brix, pH and acidity and automatic degassing of carbonated beverages. Acid correcte...

Automation at AbbVie

Automation at AbbVie

This presentation describes how AbbVie adopted and leveraged new automation technologies to advance...

Leveraging Automation and PAT in the Next Normal

Leveraging Automation and PAT in the Next Normal

Shane Grosser, Ph.D., Senior Principal Scientist at Merck in Rahway, NJ, presents, “Leveraging Autom...

COVID-19 Recovery in Chemical R&D

COVID-19 Recovery in Chemical R&D

This white paper discusses the implications of the COVID-19 global pandemic, as well as how scientis...

Liquid Handling Options for ELISA Protocols

Liquid Handling Options for ELISA Protocols

Liquid Handling Options for ELISA Protocols is a guide that discusses how to perform enzyme-linked i...

Laboratory Software Solutions

Laboratory Software Solutions

Lab software solutions enhance your lab instruments' performance with electronic data management, ce...

multiparameter system

Multiparameter System

Measure density, refractive index, pH, color, titration, and more with our multiparameter system. In...

Laboratory Instruments

Laboratory Instruments

Achieve your lab goals with our wide selection of lab instruments. Our devices are built for optimal...

Good Measuring Practices

Good Measuring Practices

Good Measuring Practices provide you advice and training on how to operate, calibrate and maintain y...