Many innovative companies in pharma, biotech, and oil & gas, are experiencing tremendous growth in the size of their laboratories and the quantity of capital equipment. A consequence of this growth is a strain on resources (e.g. maintenance staff, real estate, etc.). To remedy this challenge, labs are beginning to explore how often instruments are used in order to optimize their current and future capital equipment expenditures.
One strategy to quantifying instrument utilization is to monitor, in various ways, the computer attached to a given instrument. Several companies produce software that allows labs to monitor the PC and collate different metrics that are related to utilization.
Approach #1: Application Tracking
The first approach our customers have attempted to use is operating system-level monitoring of individual software applications. Operating systems, like Microsoft Windows, have the ability to examine how often a given software application is running and the computational resources an application can draw. Using these statistics, the lab manager can estimate how often an instrument’s software is running and, as a consequence, infer the usage of the instrument itself.
Approach #2: Tracking data Files
Recently, vendors of single-source instrument servicing have developed software that analyzes data files and log files produced by individual instruments. Every time an instrument performs a run, the corresponding data files can be parsed to determine utilization and run-specific metrics, like the number of injections in a mass spectrometer.
Pros & Cons
- These approaches enable a purely digitized method of quantifying utilization.
- Reports can be generated periodically without much manual intervention from the lab manager/user.
- For approach #1, a major pitfall is that many scientists do not close the software that runs the instrument itself because of cumbersome shutdown and startup procedures. As a consequence, utilization estimations would be highly inaccurate.
- For approach #2, a piece of software needs to be installed on each computer. This solution requires substantial investment on behalf of labs and IT staff.
- Real-time views of utilization and availability are unavailable to researchers.
- Overall, both of these solutions only work for instruments that have PCs which only amounts to about 30% of the laboratory. The remainder are still inaccessible by such methods.
When exploring how to quantify instrument utilization, monitoring applications or data files are prominent solutions. However, as lab managers consider the variety of approaches, including TetraScience, we recommend that managers consider that the approach influences the accuracy, reliability, and breadth of the data. After all, the quality of the data captured also impacts the integrity of decisions that are being made.