User Persona Breakdown: Lab Schedulers vs. Orchestrators

By Paul Berning

By Paul Berning

Lab Personas

In our last blog post, we discussed the differences between two types of lab execution software (LES) in life science laboratories: schedulers and orchestrators. Understanding these differences can help you choose the type of LES that best fits your lab’s needs and goals. Software is an emerging tool in laboratories and it can be a major challenge to get the users up to speed on how to use these tools. But that brings another question: who uses these products and how might they leverage an LES to its full potential?

In general, there are four lab personas that may use these software platforms during their day-to-day activities.  Below, you’ll find an overview of each of their perspectives when it comes to their work.

  1. Dr. Scientist: Defines and runs assays to achieve the desired biological goal. Most assays are highly manual. Interested in leveraging automation only when it is simple to do so.
  2. Savvy Automation Engineer: Programs and calibrates laboratory instruments to run scientific assays at scale. Interested in reliability, repeatability, and accuracy of the results.
  3. Professional Lab Manager: Oversees day-to-day operations of the lab. Interested in painless instrument installation and maintenance as well as maximizing throughput and instrument utilization.
  4. Intuitive Lab Tech: Runs validated protocols on lab instruments and collects the results. Interested in an easy-to-use UI and granular error/exception handling.

Now that we have an understanding of which personas utilize these software solutions, let’s address how an orchestrator or scheduler might add value to their day-to-day activities.

 

Orchestrator – Genie LabOS

Schedulers

ScientistAutomation becomes accessible to scientists, allowing them to offload manual tasks to lab instruments. Scientists focus on smaller automation protocols and continue to delegate the more complex protocols to the automation engineering team.Scientists would never set up a scheduler themselves. Only very well-defined, high throughput assays are moved to the scheduler, and the work cell setup is done by an automation engineer or an external vendor.
Automation Engineer
  • Automation engineers write higher-complexity protocols and collaborate with their scientist counterparts on the platform. 
  • LabOS centralizes instrument access and any data retrieved from the instruments.
  • Schedulers often are programmed by an external vendor and maintained by the automation team. Sometimes they are programmed and maintained by the automation team.
Lab Manager
  • Lab managers review instrument status and usage from a single UI.
  • Instrument utilization increases because it becomes accessible to more users.
Lab managers get the benefit of high throughput and lessened reliance on manual labor (Lab Techs), but work cells automated by schedulers cannot be reused for new workflows without an expensive re-engagement with the vendor.
Lab Tech
  • Lab techs run protocols from an easy-to-use UI. Training time is reduced because many of the instruments are accessed from a single platform.
  • Granular, easy-to-use error handling.
Lab techs don’t use schedulers. Fully automated work cells don’t require much human interaction and most runtime errors require the expertise of an automation engineer to resolve.

One other way to think about the usage of these software solutions is to address it based on use cases.  If the task at hand is one of the following, then an orchestrator would be the proper solution: 

  • Low throughput (1-10 plates a day) of a routine assay
  • Agile or evolving assays
  • LES (Lab Execution Software) platform for the digital lab, especially when integrating with an ELN like Benchling or eLabNext
  • Increase Lab Tech productivity and accuracy when rolling out new assays

If the task at hand is the integration of 10+ instruments in large work cells to process assays with a high number of plates (50+) per day, then a scheduler is definitely the way to go.

Understanding and choosing a software solution for laboratories can be a major challenge with high stakes, given the level of investment required.  I do not envy those of you who have been tasked with this challenge.  Hopefully, these insights and the resources offered by Genie Life Sciences can help you make the right decisions.

Genie LabOS is our cloud-based lab orchestration software that enables users to design, manage, and execute end-to-end scientific applications. LabOS is designed for all levels of automation, from novice to expert. Whether you’re authoring your protocol on our user-friendly interface, or executing command sets using Python, LabOS allows you to execute your protocols exactly to your needs while managing everything in one place. To learn more, schedule a call with me here.

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