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Leveraging IoT to Streamline Facility Operations in Life Sciences: From the Laboratory to the Lavatory
Enterprise IoT

Leveraging IoT to Streamline Facility Operations in Life Sciences: From the Laboratory to the Lavatory

Intelligent technologies like the Internet of Things (IoT) create smart laboratories, fueling innovation, research, development, and manufacturing, while protecting fragile environments in the life sciences industry.

Innovation is the heartbeat of operations in life sciences. In a 2021 global study of scientific research productivity, 85% of 3,500 scientists surveyed said carrying out research is increasingly complex. The question becomes, how can technology work to simplify, streamline, and improve operations to make life easier for scientists?  

The answer lies within the Internet of Things (IoT), which connects people, processes, and things to deliver powerful business outcomes. IoT has grown exponentially in recent years and looks to keep growing – with the IoT market in healthcare expected to grow at a 30% Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR), reaching $188B by 2024. By creating smart, connected lab facilities, IoT fuels innovation and empowers scientists in the following ways.

Smarter Labs with Real Time Location Systems (RTLS)

Keeping track of lab assets across a vast campus isn’t easy since multiple laboratories and testing facilities share equipment - forcing staff to search for items, which often get misplaced, detracting them from core duties and hurting productivity. IoT-backed Real Time Location Systems (RTLS) delivers up-to-the-minute equipment location data with sub-room-level accuracy. It provides transparent views via desktop or mobile devices – enhancing equipment availability, increasing utilization, and expediting staff ability to retrieve supplies and equipment when and where they’re needed.  

RTLS technology can also reduce maintenance costs, drive ROI, and help to digitize and automate manual processes. It can automate logging processes typically done by staff using spreadsheets to record the location of equipment – critical for locating assets when they’re in need of calibration or servicing, and eliminating the need for repeated, costly visits by specialty crews. According to a report by McKinsey, labs that embrace digital and automation technologies can reduce investigation workloads by as much as 90% and improve productivity by eliminating up to 80% of manual documentation work.  

Automate Temperature Monitoring and Mitigate Risk

In laboratory ecosystems, innumerable items must be stored at specific temperatures for the preservation and safety of sensitive, costly inventory. Cold storage is vital for preserving materials like vaccines, embryos, blood, research samples, RNA/DNA, plasma, reagents, and enzymes - primarily at ultra-low temperatures like -80°C freezers. Refrigerator/freezer doors left ajar, malfunctioning units, or simple human error can result in millions of dollars wasted and decades of research lost.  

It's no wonder the global temperature monitoring systems market size is expected to reach $6B in 2028. IoT environmental monitoring leverages durable, strategically placed sensors that automatically track and record temperatures. Operators can view each refrigeration unit’s location and current temperatures on a floor plan while receiving real-time alerts and notifications if temperatures fall outside of predetermined thresholds, enabling timely responses and mitigating potential losses. Further, ambient temperature monitoring ensures optimal environmental conditions for equipment usage and research viability. It delivers real-time transparency into temperature and humidity data within laboratory facilities, triggering alerts if conditions fall outside of normal levels, while maintaining historical data for compliance purposes​.

Lab environments are undeniably fragile. Sensitive equipment, research, products, chemicals, testing components, and the people managing them require stable environments with proactive risk mitigation to safeguard all working parts. Incidents like water leaks can bear devastating consequences in the form of damage to facilities, equipment, research, and financial losses, while posing dangers to lab staff. IoT-backed sensors work to detect and prevent disastrous scenarios by actively monitoring utility systems – reporting anomalies in facility infrastructures in real-time – even more pressing for unfrequented areas where incidents like leaks or malfunctioning HVAC units can go unnoticed, such as utility closets, boiler rooms, basements, or storage annexes. Along the same vein, with utilities monitoring in place, life sciences companies can achieve ESG and sustainability by helping to better understand and reduce water and energy consumption rates.

Create a Modern, Efficient Workplace

Improving the quality of work environments and making life easier for scientists can profoundly impact productivity, with research showing that workers are 13% more productive when happy, demonstrating the tangible ROI IoT can provide. Take occupancy monitoring, for example, which employs sensors to utilize anonymous, non-video-based, privacy-centric sources of data to inform lab managers of the baseline utilization of existing lab facilities and other ancillary spaces. This provides a foundation to determine the most efficient space usage protocols for scientists. Data is accurately gathered while preserving employee privacy using a “people counting” solution that assesses main ingress and egress paths – indicating how many people are in a room rather than whom. This answers questions such as: How many people are in this lab now? What about historically? Is this lab over or underutilized?  

Further, it helps break down important variables such as peak occupancy times, occupancy percentages between business hours, the number of people on a floor or building within monitored spaces, and the maximum amount of people a lab can capacitate. By placing additional sensors near equipment, it can also provide other relevant lab utilization metrics, such as the dwell time in front of assets and the number of lab staff who visited the equipment per day. This data can be helpful for understanding equipment utilization, capacity planning purposes, driving more efficient supply/consumables restocking, and creating cleaning best practices and protocols.  

Since cleanliness is a priority for life sciences facilities, rigorous custodial practices are paramount. Connected dispensers, for example, deliver powerful automation, benefiting scientists and custodial crews with automated distributions of resources like paper towels, toilet paper, soap, and sanitizer. Driving this further are connected flush valves and faucets that promote water and cost savings by reducing water consumption through remote and automatic shutoff valves. Smart restrooms ensure peak efficiency, hygiene, and custodial productivity by identifying optimal periods for cleaning, restocking, and/or repairs, while contributing to a positive employee experience that helps retain talent. Sensor-triggered alerts are sent to staff to handle issues that require immediate attention, like full waste bins or empty paper dispensers, while empowering janitorial teams by helping them maximize their time and the availability of resources.

Futureproof Lab Facilities with MachineQ

Contact us today to learn how harnessing the power of IoT drives ROI, reduces costs, and empowers staff with affordable, proven innovation.

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