written by Maree Stuart
What the future holds
It’s the latest fun thing to do whether it’s an article or an essay: ask ChatGPT for its answer!
Much has been publicised about the quality of these outputs. It’s been described as “fluent but not factual”.
We asked ChatGPT4 for it’s sage advice on future proofing your lab. And just like that old line from Family Feud, “And the survey said….” the answers the latest tech tool gave us are given below.
But this article has a twist! We’d like you to see if you can identify which parts were written by ChatGPT and which parts are from a real live human being. Here we go!
In today’s rapidly changing technological landscape, it’s more important than ever to future-proof your lab. Whether you’re a research lab, a testing lab, or a manufacturing lab, staying ahead of the curve can make all the difference in your ability to compete, innovate, and succeed. Here are some key strategies to consider as you work to future-proof your lab.
Stay up-to-date with technology
One of the most important ways to future-proof your lab is to stay up-to-date with the latest technology. This can include everything from hardware and software to new research tools and equipment. By staying on top of the latest developments in your field, you’ll be better equipped to anticipate emerging trends, identify new opportunities, and innovate more effectively.
To stay up-to-date, consider attending industry conferences and events, subscribing to relevant publications and newsletters, and following thought leaders and influencers in your field on social media. You may also want to invest in ongoing training and professional development opportunities for yourself and your team.
These days, you might not have to walk out of the lab to get to those industry conferences and events. With more webinars and on-line learning opportunities available, you can stay up-to-date without the need to travel. The local instrument sales person is also a great source of information on what’s new in technology.
A word of warning. Not all learning opportunities are the same in terms of the quality of outcomes. It’s hard to know what’s good and what’s not so good. The 5 minute You-Tube or Udemy course can be a good introduction, but it should not be where the education on the capabilities of new technology ends.
Invest in flexible equipment and infrastructure
Another key aspect of future-proofing your lab is investing in flexible equipment and infrastructure. This can include things like modular lab furniture, adaptable HVAC systems, and versatile lab equipment that can be easily reconfigured to accommodate changing needs.
Since COVID-19 hit the world, there have been a lot of new products to help us deal with working safely in a communal workspace. From robots that clean a workspace to the use of robots to minimise sample pipetting, all of these innovations lead us to a more hygienic workspace that can improve productivity.
By investing in flexible infrastructure, you’ll be better able to adapt to new technologies, changing research priorities, and evolving regulatory requirements. You’ll also be able to more easily scale your operations up or down as needed, without having to worry about the cost or time required to replace or retrofit outdated equipment.
Embrace automation and digitization
As digital technologies continue to evolve, automation and digitization will become increasingly important for labs of all types. By embracing these tools and techniques, you’ll be able to streamline workflows, reduce errors, and increase efficiency. These things all contribute to improving quality in lab work.
Examples of automation and digitization in the lab might include things like automated sample handling and processing, digitized record-keeping and data management, and the use of artificial intelligence and machine learning to analyze data and identify patterns.
Like any new process, it’s important to understand the costs and benefits of change. For example, if you were to automate some of the ample handling and processing activities, would this compromise the flexibility from human oversight for handling different types of samples, for example, those that look or smell differently to the routine samples? That might create unnecessary rework.
The good news is that most of the work we do is boring and repetitive so the use of automation and digitization can help us to do the things we do well as humans, which is to think. But then along comes AI and perhaps we are out of a job entirely. Hmmmmm.
As labs become increasingly reliant on digital technologies, cybersecurity will become a critical concern. To future-proof your lab, it’s important to prioritize cybersecurity and take steps to protect your data and infrastructure from cyber threats.
This might include things like implementing strong access controls and password policies, investing in secure cloud storage and backup solutions, and regularly conducting security audits and vulnerability assessments. You may also want to consider working with a third-party cybersecurity provider to help you develop and implement a comprehensive cybersecurity strategy.
The first thing you should do is understand your risks. Have you really thought about these and added them to your risk register? That can be difficult to do objectively, especially if you’re not all that IT savvy. Ask Optus and Medicare- hindsight can be a wonderful thing with perfect vision.
Foster a culture of innovation
Finally, to future-proof your lab, it’s important to foster a culture of innovation. This means encouraging creativity, risk-taking, and experimentation, and creating an environment where new ideas can be freely shared and tested.
If you’re working in a lab, establishing this kind of culture should be almost a fait accompli. After all, aren’t we all into tech and innovation because we’re working in a lab? Maybe so, but let’s take a look at what such a culture might look like.
To foster innovation, consider creating dedicated spaces for brainstorming and collaboration, establishing regular innovation challenges or hackathons, and providing opportunities for employees to work on passion projects or explore new technologies and techniques.
Creativity and brainstorming are the very essence of the start of identifying small changes and innovations like process improvements. Is this something your lab regularly does, or are you too busy just following the current procedures or methods? It can be an uncomfortable space for some, especially those who don’t feel especially creative.
We are all creative in our own way. That doesn’t mean we create musical or artistic masterpieces. It means we turn ideas over in our mind, and look for new and better ways of doing things. We are humans, not robots, with the ability to think!
A lab with a culture of innovation is one that does root cause analysis and corrective action well. We’ve written previously on these aspects of quality in a lab. So if you want to tap into your creative side, take a look at our articles on our website.
By future-proofing your lab, you’ll be better positioned to thrive in an increasingly competitive and rapidly changing landscape. It’s not always just enough to have accreditation or certification to cement your place in the market. Whether you’re a research lab, a testing lab, or a manufacturing lab, these strategies can help you stay ahead of the curve and continue to innovate and succeed.