Less Time Managing Inventory, More Time at the Bench? Yes Please
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Lab efficiency is critical to speeding up development processes, yet many researchers find they spend more time managing consumables data than working at the bench. Lab informatics is one solution to this problem. Recently launched, Merck’s new LANEXOTM system is designed to address such issues by drastically reducing the time spent on inventory management as well as experimental setup and documentation.
Intrigued, we spoke with Jean-Charles Wirth, head of Applied Solutions, Life Science, at Merck to find out more about the company’s new digital laboratory informatics solution.
Ash Board [AB]: What was the main driver for creating the LANEXO™ System?
Jean-Charles Wirth [JCW]: At the Life Science business of Merck, we are passionate about solving the toughest problems in life science in collaboration with the global scientific community in order to accelerate access to health. In line with this commitment, our LANEXO™ System was born in response to the customer survey statistics, detailing the excessive amount of time and reagents wasted in the lab. This is time and resources that could be used at the bench for research, ultimately leading to faster drug development. Merck’s LANEXO™ system was created with a clear vision of supporting customers in the management of the entire consumables lifecycle in an efficient and safe manner that helps them maintain their high standards in quality and compliance.
AB: During development, were you surprised by the current workflow inefficiencies of labs and facilities?
JCW: Today, nearly 85 percent of labs are using paper or Excel to manage consumables data, and 25 percent of the time is spent managing these data — taking scientists away from bench research. Manual repetitive tasks in consumables management are time-consuming and prone to transcription errors which are carried over to the complete workflow. The safety and quality risks in the existing workflow leads to decreased efficiency and longer throughput time. Lab efficiency is critical as it gives scientists more time to focus on their research and analytics work and less on administrative tasks, which ultimately leads to faster drug development.
AB: How does the LANEXO™ System enable users to address these issues?
JCW: Through digital data capture and RFID labels, Merck’s LANEXO™ system provides rapid access to information like open dates and expiry dates of consumables and documents lab reagent data in real time. This reduces human error and safety risks and improves the reliability and traceability of compliance documentation with a digital inventory. Ultimately, each reagent can be instantly matched to a full audit report. Within an experimental workflow, the system allows for easy reagent identity checks and provides automatic alerts, helping scientists to avoid using expired reagents and minimizing experimental error.
AB: The LANEXO™ System is vendor-neutral, so how easy will it be for users to incorporate non-Merck products and, for example, use-by information into the system?
JCW: Our LANEXO™ System is a vendor-neutral solution which offers complete lab coverage in-terms of inventory, safety, and compliance management.
Merck’s custom-developed LANEXO™ RFID labels are applied to the entire inventory of consumable reagents in the lab, whether sold by us or other vendors in the market. The system holds a broad consumables database with 700,000 MilliporeSigma articles and 53 million third-party articles. The non-Merck article details are pulled into the software and linked to the unique RFID Label on the consumables. Using RFID Label on the consumables, the users can digitally manage their whole inventory in a safe and compliant way.
AB: What efficiency savings have labs using the LANEXO™ System seen?
JCW: Through preliminary trials with customers, we have found that the annual time required to manage inventory by hours can be reduced by 97 percent, from 100 hours manually, to only three hours a year using our LANEXO™ app. Similarly, the time required to check, find and document consumables per experiment is reduced from 50 minutes to four.
AB: Implementing the LANEXO™ Systems will not be an overnight process. What do you foresee will be the greatest challenges to the adoption of the new system?
JCW: Of course, the initial challenge to move the existing inventory information to Merck’s LANEXO™ System will take some time. One of the advantages of the system is easy to use and simple to integrate into the existing workflow. The LANEXO™ System uses an intuitive web application coupled with a mobile app, which makes the system easy and straightforward to adopt and understand for all users.
Jean-Charles Wirth was speaking to Ash Board PhD, Editorial Director, Technology Networks.