Laboratory Automation in Mexico

Wed, 09/09/2015 - 15:55

Laboratory automation has various advantages including time optimization, increased efficiency and accuracy, and a reduction in human error. This strategy can be used in diagnostics, drug discovery, and research laboratories across several research areas. There are many reasons to automate a laboratory including a shortage of qualified technicians and economizing time for researchers, thus laboratory automation is becoming a trend in countries where labor costs are high. Laboratories with a limited budget may also decide to invest in automation to save costs over the long term. The firm Research and Markets expects the trend of automation to grow at a compound annual growth rate of 7.0% from 2014 to 2019. Driving the growth of this market are numerous factors including equipment miniaturization, higher reproducibility and accuracy, and a larger market.

There are currently two models for automation of clinical laboratories, known as the modular model and the complete automation model. The latter has the advantages of allowing an integral management of the sample, offering savings on disposable equipment, and a better optimization of equipment and human resources. On the other hand this model requires a strong initial investment, large infrastructure, and provides low flexibility to increase the number of samples over a certain point and to modify specific routines. Contrastingly, the modular model creates independent workcells that perform specific tests individually and samples must be transported among them by technicians. This model offers the advantages of requiring a smaller initial investment and smaller infrastructure while providing more flexibility and allowing users to prioritize tests and samples.

While laboratory automation seems to be advancing, Mexico has failed to follow the trend. Carlos Hernández Alvárez, Hispanic America Regional Director at Siemens Healthcare Diagnostics, considers that this trend is very contained in Mexico because a general perception is that the equipment is too expensive. Félix Valverde Espinoza, Regional Director of Quest Diagnostics Mexico, shares a similar point of view. In his opinion the high volume of tests needed to fully capitalize on the benefits of the technology is a likely restriction in the introduction of automation to Mexico. Another problem is labor costs, as Abelardo Perches, CEO of CTR Scientific, tells us that in Mexico labor is much cheaper than new equipment. Despite the difficulties, this area is growing in Mexico. Perches tells us that the automation of clinical chemistry is growing for many different tests. It is true that, being a convenient alternative, automation is here to stay.