Overcoming Workforce Shortage in Laboratories


Many labs have experienced a considerable workforce shortage throughout the past decade. This tendency has prevented e.g., small companies from accelerating growth.

It is estimated that there are only 335,500 active medical laboratory professionals in the United States, serving a population of just over 330 million people, as of 2020. This culminates in an unemployment rate of around 2 percent for medical laboratory professionals[1][2].

Reason for workforce shortage

2020 and 2021 were both record-breaking years for biotech IPOs, and healthcare investments reached an all-time high. The investments were mainly driven by the threat a pandemic brings and the demand of personalized medicine, such as commercialization of gene and cell therapies.[3]

The venture capital interest and a growing number of smaller startups made hiring more competitive while simultaneously creating a need for more laboratory resources.

Other reasons for the workforce shortage including:

  • The retirement of the aging workforce
  • Vacancy rates that exceed the number of graduates
  • An increase in demand for laboratory services due to population growth. [4]

In addition, the clinical laboratory is a high-stress environment with a lot of physical hard routine work, if unautomated, which makes it less desirable than other similar positions.

But fortunately, there are plenty of other workforce resources – they just happen to be made of metal.

Utilizing technology to grow a business

In this day and age, laboratory resources do not necessarily need to be human. In fact, robots can make up for the staff shortage by handling heavy and time-consuming common tasks such as pipetting. This makes robots not just a convenience but absolutely vital for growing a lab and, subsequently, a business.

To bring a lab into this new era, it is fundamental to create an environment where humans and robots can work in effortless parallel. A prerequisite for that is having robots that are flexible, affordable, and easy to work with.

It is up to robot vendors to provide this solution and, by doing so, bridge the gap between labs and robots. Difficult robots could quickly become bottlenecks as existing lab technicians would have to acquire new technological skillsets.

With an intuitive and flexible robot, that anyone can use, it is perfectly possible to integrate automation as a solid foundation for accelerating and growing a business. It is therefore no longer a question of when robots will become mainstream but rather a question of how soon.

Another prerequisite is changing how people think about robots – without a good working relationship between humans and robots, it will be hard to get full value of the prospects that they hold. The premise for any good relationship is trust. Trust in the technology and trust in the process.

It is important to note that lab robots do not replace the staff. Instead, they make their work more desirable by carrying the heavy lifting. This means they can focus on more valuable things, use their time better and overall increase the throughput in the lab.

How flowbot® ONE increases productivity

The vision behind the pipetting robot, flowbot® ONE, is to make automation accessible to labs of all shapes and sizes. When small companies have access to automation, that their existing staff can easily use, the workforce shortage becomes practically irrelevant to the productivity in the lab.

The flowbot® ONE is a flexible plug n’ play solution that can easily integrate with various devices such as temperature controllers, shakers, and magnetic decks on any of the 12 available positions on the deck. Its intuitive software that can be used in any browser and connects directly to the robot’s Wi-Fi. Whenever a procedure changes in the lab there is no  need for advanced programming.

The user-friendliness of the robot makes it ideal for labs taking their first steps towards automation but also adjusts easily into an existing automation setup. It fits neatly into small labs and is compatible with standard tips and racks.

If you want to know more, our specialists are standing by to answer your questions.

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