Back to blog
Unlocking Lab Efficiency: A Beginner’s Guide to IoT in Life Sciences
Life Sciences

Unlocking Lab Efficiency: A Beginner’s Guide to IoT in Life Sciences

Learn how IoT solutions revolutionize lab management, enhancing efficiency, cutting costs, and driving innovation life sciences. From real-time asset tracking to space utilization optimization, discover how IoT empowers lab managers to make data-driven decisions to unlock the full potential of their labs.

Lab managers in life sciences know that running a lab is complex – and expensive. It costs an estimated $100k/day to run a lab at a large pharmaceutical company. Responsible for overseeing various aspects of laboratory operations, lab managers can significantly impact the organization's financial and operational efficiency. However, the multifaceted nature of running a lab, coupled with relentless demand for driving cutting-edge research and development poses significant challenges.  

Driving groundbreaking scientific discoveries often hinge on optimizing limited resources. As lab managers strive to strike this delicate balance, the Internet of Things (IoT) solutions emerge as a powerful tool to enhance operational efficiency. By leveraging IoT, lab environments can unlock tangible opportunities to streamline processes, maximize productivity, and propel innovation forward. This article explores how IoT solutions can empower lab managers in four key areas of lab operations.

Gain Efficiency & Visibility with Real-Time Location Data

Replacing manual processes with IoT is low-hanging fruit for lab managers looking to gain workflow efficiencies. For example, consider the process of locating and managing lab assets. Today, many labs – even some of the most sophisticated ones – track assets manually in spreadsheets with quarterly or annual audits. As a result, inventory records are inaccurate and out of date, and there’s no visibility into the real-time location of assets. This lack of data transparency not only creates inefficiencies but can lead to lost or misplaced lab equipment, unnecessary asset purchases and research delays.  

IoT-based asset tracking solutions enable lab managers to streamline this critical process by providing enhanced visibility into asset quantities and locations. There are two primary approaches to choose from (passive RFID and real-time locations systems aka RTLS) and deciding on the best fit requires lab managers to clearly identify their requirements for location accuracy and reporting frequency, amongst other factors. To help lab managers navigate this decision (hint: we recommend a real-time location system), we’ve written numerous articles on this topic:

RTLS solutions represent the most mature phase of the asset tracking and management journey, enabling lab managers to continuously track and monitor lab assets as they move throughout laboratories, buildings, or campuses in real time. By providing accurate, real-time asset location data, RTLS helps lab managers reduce search times for equipment and supplies, streamline calibration and maintenance workflows (more on this below), and enhance resource utilization, ultimately contributing to increased productivity and operational effectiveness.

Optimize Calibration and Maintenance Programs

Maintenance and calibration are vital for lab equipment management and constitute a significant portion of the total cost of ownership (TCO). High-end equipment, like mass spectrometers, incur maintenance costs around 20% of TCO, while low-end equipment, such as material characterization tools, face maintenance costs of approximately 10% of TCO.  

Considering the significant investments made in calibration and maintenance activities, leveraging an RTLS solution makes it simple and efficient to locate and collect assets when these services are needed. Additionally, RTLS solutions can provide visibility into asset utilization, which can help labs optimize resource allocation. By understanding the usage patterns of equipment, lab managers can better plan for maintenance and calibration, avoiding unnecessary downtime and right size an asset fleet, ensuring maintenance contracts are truly required. In an industry where an hour of unplanned downtime can cost labs between $100,000 and $500,000, IoT presents a tremendous opportunity for lab managers to improve processes and save on unexpected costs.

Maximize Space & Asset Utilization

Optimizing laboratory space is crucial for enhancing productivity and workflow efficiency—especially for facilities managers who rely on the same equipment data that lab managers do. A survey by Agilent Technologies found that 1 in 5 lab managers say the size of their lab limits operations; 59% of them want to rearrange equipment to improve workflows.  

IoT-enabled occupancy monitoring solutions, for example, provide insights into space utilization patterns, enabling informed resource allocation and equipment distribution. These monitoring systems employ privacy-centric occupancy and people counting sensors that can measure both lab/room-level occupancy, as well as inform equipment and space utilization. Similarly, occupancy sensors placed near benches or equipment offer valuable data on equipment and space utilization. With real-time and historical occupancy data, lab managers can reorganize spaces and streamline workflows, or repurpose underutilized lab space, thereby maximizing productivity and reducing operational costs.  

Create Greener Labs

As consciousness about environmental effects expands, life sciences companies are proactively searching for methods to make their laboratory procedures more eco-friendly, while enhancing efficiency, reducing operational expenses, and establishing safer work environments. For instance, energy efficiency is highly suitable for IoT.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) states that life sciences companies use more energy per square foot than hospitals or commercial properties, making it crucial for laboratories to adopt technologies that can help effectively monitor and reduce consumption. IoT can assist in numerous ways.  

To begin with, lab managers and facilities teams can utilize privacy-focused occupancy sensors to track when and for how long lab spaces – and the equipment within them – are being used. This usage data allows for the implementation of conservation strategies, such as switching off energy-intensive assets like biosafety cabinets and fume hoods when not in use.  

Another opportunity for energy savings comes from energy-intensive ultra-low temperature (ULT) freezers. When set at -80°C, labs consume as much energy as a house in a single day. By simply increasing the temperature by 10° makes a significant impact towards energy reduction – approximately 30% reduction – and prolongs the life of the ULT freezer.

Unlock the Potential of IoT for Efficient Labs

Embracing IoT technology empowers lab managers and scientists to harness data-driven efficiencies, fostering collaboration and informed decision-making. By using IoT solutions, labs can improve operations and drive innovation to differentiate themselves in the competitive life sciences industry.

As you embark on your buyer's journey, consider the transformative potential of IoT technology in optimizing laboratory management and driving future innovation.

Enjoyed this read?

Stay up to date with the latest IoT insights sent straight to your inbox!

Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.