Sourcing Robotic Systems

Because robotic laboratory systems can be customized for the user, there are a number of considerations in selecting a vendor for a robotic system for drug screening and suggestions to new users to improve the implementation process. Users have made a number of recommendations to improve the success of robotic systems [15]. When evaluating vendors, it is recommended to visit the vendor's references, see the system, and ask specific questions regarding the vendor's performance. It is also recommended to see a demonstration of the proposed system before purchasing and look for specific proof of the quality of their systems, software, training, and support.

Both vendors and users agree that often there is not enough discussion of the system details at the beginning of the systems building phase. Some of the items that should be discussed include the users' expectations, the system's acceptance criteria, the desired amount of flexibility and modularity, the specific assays that can be performed on the system, the sample throughput rate, and the form of the operator interface, to name a few items.

Experienced users have identified a number of improvements that they have instituted within their companies in order to improve the success of robotic systems. These improvements include having a stable assay before attempting robotic automation, developing a complete list of system specifications before soliciting quotations from vendors, closer communication with vendors during the build phase at the vendor's site, a need to train multiple operators, and assigning a support technician to the robotic system. Although users reported minor problems in the initial days of their robotic systems, virtually all companies recently surveyed plan to increase their rate of purchase of robotic systems, or at least to maintain the same rate of purchase.

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