Case study: Analytical Lab Automation

BSSN Software harmonises lab instrument data and digitises workflows to increase analysed samples by 20 per cent

The Global Analytical Services team operates as a core lab

to the healthcare, life science and electronics divisions of Merck, based in Darmstadt, Germany. They are unique in the diversity of specialised services they provide to their clients, supporting more than 220 different analytical methods and processing more than 100,000 samples per year. Given the complexity and quantity of customised workflows, and the resulting strain placed on analysts to transcribe and report on everything, the group initiated a digital transformation project designed to harmonise and automate their various data processes using cloud- based SaaS tools from BSSN Software.

The fundamental challenge the Global Analytical Services group faced was that different instruments in the lab are not set up to communicate with one another out-of-the box – in other words, the software in lab instruments does not natively support a standardised, bidirectional flow of information with different types of instruments from different manufacturers. This places enormous

burden on the analysts to manually maintain data continuity and accuracy. Even with reliable lab information management systems (LIMS) and chromatography data systems (CDS), numerous workflow steps involved

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human intervention, such as printing or manually transcribing instructions from the LIMS into the lab notebook, linking mother-daughter sample IDs, programming the desired method and experiment parameters for each instrument (for example, HPLC), transforming raw data into results, and manually uploading the results back into the LIMS. Merck’s Global Analytical

Service team identified three lab facilities to serve as the testing ground for their digital transformation initiative, called Lab Automation, and selected BSSN Software to address the root cause of their data management and automation challenges. Building on the open- source Analytical Information Markup Language (AnIML) data standard, BSSN Software facilitates analytical and biological data interoperability across all types of measurement techniques, including GC, IR, mass spectroscopy and more. By harmonising experiment

data from disparate formats and sources into a universal data standard through software APIs and data converters, the data management is enhanced to automatically contextualise results with relevant metadata and enable remote collaboration with clients and partner labs. The centerpiece to making

the Lab Automation project a reality is BSSN’s library of more than 300 ready-to-use instrument connectors. These connectors establish a link between the instrument (the

origin) and the place where the data is stored and accessed. All the instruments’ proprietary data formats are automatically converted to the open AnIML data standard and collected in a central, cloud-acccessible database. Additionally, all kinds of valuable metadata (sample- related, static, transactional and instrument-related) are extracted and stored. This allows a fully automated data flow, automated report generation, seamless LIMS integration and external data visualisations. The BSSN solution involved AnIML data converters for more than 20 scientific instruments and balances, as well as bidirectional software integrations with four leading systems and 11 measurement interfaces, including Agilent OpenLab, SAP QM, Thermo Scientific Chromeleon, Waters Empower and more. This connected lab solution means that individual workflows can be created on the fly

“Merck’s Global Analytical Service team identified three lab facilities to serve as the testing ground for their digital transformation initiative called Lab Automation”

and tailored to the scientists’ specific needs, guaranteeing a seamless data workflow. All data is captured digitally where it is generated, made accessible where it is needed, and centrally stored with the BSSN Hub application, which supports cloud, local, or hybrid storage. The evaluation of the results takes place in the device software, with interactive data visualisations and analyses enabled via the BSSN Workbench application. The integration of lab instruments, systems and enterprise applications increased the overall degree of process automation in the lab facilities, while reducing the technical burden of IT- supported process steps. By simplifying and standardising forms, procedures and the data flow between connected systems and devices, the Global Analytical Services group experienced a significant and measured improvement in overall efficiency. Most remarkably, they

calculated a combined 3,386 working hours saved across all three participating labs, or the equivalent of two full-time employees, which meant more time could now be devoted to more value-added and creative problem-solving tasks. This new capacity enabled a 20% increase in samples processed year-over-year, along with an estimated return on investment of nearly €400,000 thanks to the BSSN-enabled workflow and data automation.

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