Managing the Lab | Supply Chain

5 Key Trends in Biotech Lab Operations for 2022

2021 was a transformative year for the world, and the biotech industry. Lab closures and the ongoing supply chain disruptions have led to R&D lab managers needing to get creative, and rely more and more on technology as a key part of lab operations.

Labs have also been impacted by the continued “Great Resignation,” which has caused leadership teams and lab managers to rethink lab operations, management, and team culture. Top biotechs are finding they need to provide access to the latest technology and streamlined workflows in order to hire and retain top talent.

Here’s how biotech labs are optimizing operations in 2022 and the key trends for lab managers to know as they plan for the year ahead.

Optimizing R&D Lab Operations in 2022

In such an already innovative industry, what are the latest trends in biotech and R&D lab operations for 2022? Labs now have the infrastructure to plan and track experiments using technology and to streamline lab supply purchasing and inventory management. Building on new technology, labs will further automate and streamline their experiments and research in 2022.

Lab managers — look for areas where you rely heavily on manual tasks, manual data entry or transfer, or even meetings to maintain a flow of information. A good tip is to look for areas that you’re currently using spreadsheets or manual tracking. Then, see how a software solution can replace these tedious steps to save your lab time, errors, and money.

When running a lean lab, lab employees have more time to focus on research, and better work-life balance.

Here are the key trends in biotechnology that lab managers can expect to see in 2022.

Biotech Lab Trends in 2022

The trends within the lab (in lab operations, management, and leadership) are heavily influenced by biotech industry trends, like a growing interest in AI and machine learning in scientific research.

To maximize research output and impact and take your lab into the future, explore the top trends for managing the lab this year.

1. Continued supply chain disruptions means smarter lab supply purchasing.

In 2021, scientists and lab managers changed their supply and equipment purchasing habits. Instead of ordering products when they were needed, researchers had to order ahead of time to account for lab supply backorder rates that were 5X higher than previous years.

Smart lab supply purchasing in 2022 looks like:

  • Pre-ordering lab supplies ahead of experiment start dates
  • Using lab supply marketplaces to track orders and plan research more efficiently
  • Expanding vendor lists
  • Using product alternatives
  • Choosing products based on quality and description, not name brand

2. Digital transformations in the lab are growing in importance as biotech businesses scale.

Biotech labs have digitally transformed and now incorporate more technology than they have before, largely driven by supply chain disruption and forced lab closures.

Top growing lab software solutions include:

  • Lab Inventory Management Systems
  • Lab Information Management Systems (LIMS)
  • Lab Supply Marketplaces
  • Research Project Management Tools
  • Digital Procurement and Document Management

With new access to reporting and analytics, lab managers can identify bottlenecks and areas for improvement in lab operations workflows. Look for systems in the lab that aren’t yet online and find ways to digitize them.

3. Technology systems in the lab will become more integrated and automated.

Building on the digital transformation, lab managers will use integrations between existing lab tools as more sophisticated and sustainable ways to increase efficiency in the lab. With cloud-based tools that have API access or the ability to be linked by tools like Zapier, lab managers can automate lab processes like inventory reminders, equipment maintenance management, experiment monitoring, and lab supply ordering approvals.

Remote collaboration tools will continue to help growing biotechs stay on track to hit research milestones while minimizing the need for lab square footage dedicated to workstations.

4. Biotechs will use more AI + machine learning in the lab for more accurate results, faster and real-time issue detection.

AI and machine learning can take large research data sets and process them more efficiently, giving scientists more results at a faster rate. Biotechs are developing machine learning algorithms to model experiments and run multiple scenarios to save time and resources.

AI and machine learning can help speed up research progress by enabling:

  • Smart monitoring setups and sensors to keep projects on track from afar.
  • Automated repetition of experiments, optimization, testing, and scaling research to help scientists quickly aggregate data.
  • Increased accuracy in experiment results and faster identification of issues.

5. Lab managers will invest in teambuilding and burnout prevention exercises.

During the pandemic, people have experienced more burnout and stress surrounding work, and labs have been part of that group. To combat burnout, managers are being more intentional about encouraging better work-life balance, providing more resources to support their teams, and hosting teambuilding activities to improve collaboration.

Here are ten tips to prevent burnout for scientists that you can use in your lab.

As labs continue to rely more on technology and digitized processes, research won’t look how it used to. Innovation can come from anywhere, whether it’s home, the lab, or the cloud, and the most important factor is how well your lab team can collaborate and communicate.

Keep up with the latest biotech lab management best practices, trends, and tips on the ZAGENO blog.

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