Quality control (QC) labs, such as pharma or medical research institutions, are going on a digital journey with the intention of integrating digital technologies to improve employee and patient experience. Some labs are at different stages of this journey than others and significant challenges in delivering a digital transformation strategy exist.
Through working with a trusted technology partner, QC labs can overcome these challenges and access an enormous scale of opportunities. This guide will look at the current digital landscape for QC labs looking to transform, the challenges in doing so and the opportunities that arise from a successful digital journey.
What QC labs do
QC labs are key for any life sciences companies that might produce medical devices or implants for patients. QC lab leaders are responsible for putting measures into place to eliminate the risks of non-conforming outcomes. Lab systems also safeguard the accuracy, reliability and timeliness of lab results.
According to Joseph Laraichi, Director and EU Lead for Life Sciences and Healthcare IoT at HCLTech, by entering early detection results or measurement errors, lab results are even further safeguarded.
“It should be performed regularly, and the quality control materials should be treated the same as a sample from the beginning to the end of the run,” says Laraichi. “These quality control labs ensure that the lab processes and operations run efficiently and guarantee the production of accurate and reproducible results.”
In addition to ensuring the veracity of lab results, QC labs are responsible for dealing with suppliers and ensuring whatever is produced is done so according to quality standards. Further, they are responsible for testing samples for clinical trials.
The QC lab digital landscape
According to Laraichi, the digital maturity of pharma quality control labs will evolve in three categories: to become more digitized, become more automated and become more distributed. The end goal of this digital maturity is to move into online, real-time testing on the shop floor, along with automated transcriptions and AI enablement.
QC labs aren’t quite there yet, says Laraichi, but each customer is at a different maturity level along this journey. As part of this digitization journey, QC labs must identify digital mature use cases.
“At HCLTech, we have a motto of ‘business first and technology next’,” continues Laraichi. “So, we don’t do technology unless we find out business case value for our customers.”
Challenges in embracing digital in this environment
Several challenges have cropped up in recent years for QC labs embracing digital, including challenges in building quality culture and keeping employees.
Retaining employees has proven difficult as many are doing manual activities, and this is preventing them from doing the science for which they were hired.
“When you go and apply to a job in the quality control labs, it’s because you are a scientist and you want to practice science,” says Laraichi. “But at the end, if you are there and you are not trained efficiently—and you don’t get any motivation because the whole day you are fixing problems of devices not working—you are not motivated to continue.”
In some cases, HCLTech supports clients define their lab vision and strategy and then select the right use cases with the highest ROI for them to scale.
Additionally, QC labs find it challenging to track and trace devices that they help produce as these labs run in shifts, which makes it very difficult to track.
Implementing a successful digital transformation strategy
Implementing a successful strategy depends on the level of maturity of the customer, but HCLTech provides assistance on the journey to help with routine tasks and free up time for lab engineers. This will help them focus on improvements and define the possible use cases that can be supported by the digital transformation.
The first step in this journey is discussing with customers in the QC labs their priorities and gain an understanding of their ecosystem.
The second will be to discuss defining a clear vision of what the situation should be and how to get there.
“In order to accompany a successful digital transformation in the quality control lab of a customer, we ensure first that automation is aided to optimize capabilities to bring value,” adds Laraichi. “Because automation without visibility and mixing it into optimization will not bring value.”
Benefits in embarking on this digitization journey
The benefits of a digitally transformed QC lab include reducing the costs of repairs, improving accuracy and reliability of results and improving large and increasing sample outputs.
“In the inefficient workflow, we can help reduce required sample driven volume, reduce liquid and solid waste and reduce the error rate because we drive automation, helping lab engineers avoid carrying out manual tasks,” says Laraichi.
Further, QC labs can benefit from improving the management of shared data to help with compliance requirements and increase production efficiency.
Customers also have the opportunity to monetize their data and business strategy through understanding the role and value of data in the business. Good data management, Laraichi says, is about making sure you have the proper data to support your business and improve performance.
“A partner like HCLTech can play a big role to bring this data business value to customers,” explains Laraichi. “Once you understand the quality of data and have tied it to your business strategy, you can then put the right structure in place to monetize it.”