If this year’s Arablab and the many conversations with our visitors has taught us anything, it is that keeping your laboratory practices running as smoothly as possible, is more important than ever. Could new technology, automated solutions and rapid laboratory methods such as NIR be the key to continuously improving your daily operations?
We were privileged to meet and greet so many of our customers and gain insight into the challenges that are faced by the global laboratory industry. Among these was Senior Laboratory Supervisor, Ms. Joy Tolentino from Grand Mills PJSC Agthia Group in the Philippines, who joined us for a chat about the value of automated operations and rapid methods in the laboratory.
The biggest challenges and trends for laboratories today
Ms. Tolentino was visiting Arablab to learn about the latest innovations for application in the flour milling laboratory. In her opinion, one predominant challenge that still has an impact on the current scenario is the pandemic. Many companies worldwide have been affected financially and even though companies such as Brand Mills are always trying to stay up to date with new technology, the pandemic has impacted their willingness to invest.
“In terms of money or capital, the company is no longer thinking of investing more in new equipment. So, for me working in the lab, I'm expecting to maximize the current equipment that we have. And if we can upgrade, it will really be helpful to us,” she explains.
For Ms. Tolentino, this could mean updating her NIR solution with new calibration models such as starch damage, that would make a real difference in the flour milling process.
“I recommend that if you can, to incorporate starch damage, because we are in the continuous process in our flour milling. It will help me a lot in less than one minute. I will have all these results and I can alert production to minimize waste and also to produce only good quality products.”
The value of automated chemical analysis methods
Automation is another key trend in the lab industry. As demands for high throughput and scarcity of trained staff continues to add pressure on busy labs, freeing up operator time with automated batch handling tools and safe, simple lab procedures will make all the difference. At the same time, automatic matching of test results from traditional methods, such as Kjeldahl, with NIR results, makes it possible to move away from manual methods, providing a new level of confidence in incoming results as well as improved documentation and traceability.
“The time will come when automation will be there, and it's already started,” says Joy, who currently uses both NIR, a FOSS Kjeltec and a Kjeltec Autosampler in her lab set-up. She is very excited about the new possibilities with the new Kjeltec 9.
“The new Kjeldahl can connect with NIR. This will give us simultaneous results. So, there will be a comparison of the difference of the results, and I think it will help us a lot in improving the calibration, achieving the goal of more accurate results. So, for me, it's a big thing because normally that is a struggle,” she explains. “It will be helpful and faster for us to recalibrate and improve our calibration. So, I'm into the automation,” she adds.
The future role of rapid methods in the lab
We asked Ms. Tolentino what role she sees for NIR in the future lab. “Just to set an example in flour, we’re dealing with a continuous process, with continuous batches. So, you cannot stop if there is anything out of spec,” she explains. Compared to NIR, testing of critical control parameters in flour milling using conventional testing methods takes hours. “But with the NIR, less than one minute,” she says, snapping her fingers. We get the production right and it reduces the waste also. So, we are more dependent now on NIR which is the best innovation that we have right now and we're enjoying it. So, we don't need to wait for the future. It's happening now,” she concludes.
Ms. Tolentino also highlights that a good lab solution is more than just an instrument. “We are happy, because it's not that you buy the equipment and that's it. The most important thing is the after-sale service. So, for example, if there is a breakdown, sometimes it will take two days, three days. But with you guys, especially your technician, I can call any time. Late night, early morning, he's always available.”
That being said, Grand Mills are still planning to implement new technology and new methods in the years to come. “There should be a continuous improvement, development and things like that. I'm looking forward to that,” she explains, concluding; “I hope that in the next few years we can buy new equipment, new technologies. It will help our business to improve and to produce only good quality products.”
For further inspiration about the solutions we had on show at Arablab, please find more information on our website: KjeltecTM 9, NIRSTM DS3, InfratecTM, MilkoScanTM FT3 and MilkoScanTM Mars.
If you have any questions about our solutions, please do not hesitate to contact us. Our people are always available to answer your questions and discuss your needs.