The global market for Modular Laboratory Automation is projected to reach US$4.2 billion by 2025, driven by the growing value of a modular and integrated approach to automation. Benefits of modular concepts in automation include greater process flexibility such as effortless scaling up and scaling down of processes to meet changing workload needs; greater ability to redeploy or reposition key operational assets; investment flexibility as the automation process can be segmented and implemented in a piecemeal basis; lower costs associated with standardized maintenance; development of additional modules can be carried out seamlessly and in a cost effective; increased efficiency and productivity and lesser time-to-market. For laboratories, automation is a critical survival technology against the backdrop of intensifying competition as clinical diagnostics increasingly becomes a key component in the healthcare value game. As the starting point for effective treatment, medical diagnostics play a key role in the provision of healthcare services. The sector therefore faces intense challenges of delivering and demonstrating value to the wider healthcare system. Margin pressure as a result is increasing by the day. Also, given that in the new value based care model, reimbursement is based on quality of service offered to patients and the resulting patient outcome, laboratories are coming under pressure to find new ways to enhance productivity and to gain greater recognition for their contribution towards improving patient outcomes and reducing treatment costs. Budgetary outlays for automation is therefore increasing. However complete automation remains expensive and in the United States alone, only less than 15% of laboratories can afford total laboratory automation systems.
The scenario sets the stage for ‘modular automation' to take flight. Modular automation is defined as a viable hardware configuration for automation comprising consolidated analyzers, integrated analyzers, modular workcells, and pre- and post-analytical automation. Modular automation makes automation more viable for laboratories of all sizes. A key benefit of the modular design is that it allows the laboratory to choose functions such as centrifugation, sorting, aliquoting, and storage as per need. Modular systems also have an open architecture that eliminate the drawbacks associated with vendor lock-ins. Process control software is additionally independent of instruments and analyzes and provides unrivalled flexibility in developing interfacing designs with instruments and analyzers. The different modules of an automated laboratory system include sample specimen loading module; barcode reading stations to track specimens and ensure proper routing; transport system module such as conveyor belt line for moving specimens; high-level sorting or routing devices; automated centrifugation of specimens; volume level detection and evaluation of specimen; decapping station; Aliquoter; sorter; recapping station; take-out stations; and storage and retrieval system. All of these modules and their hardware under a modular automation architecture can be flexibly matched to laboratory needs. Also, the modules can be recombined in a wide range of permutations and combinations as per need. Automation can thus be implemented in a task targeted manner. Modular automation is taking over pre-analytical phase, analytical phase and post-analytical phase workflows, largely because over 55% of laboratory costs are associated with pre-analytical and post-analytical errors in processing of specimens. Typical errors include specimen mislabeling, misidentification, missorting, and improper routing, all of which has the potential to put patient safety at risk. Automation helps eliminate this challenge. A modular strategy helps align automation solutions with a laboratory's assay and throughput requirements. The United States and Europe represent large markets worldwide with a combined share of 77.6% of the market. China ranks as the fastest growing market with a CAGR of 9.3% over the analysis period supported by the country's rapidly developing drug R&D and healthcare system and the ensuing value of sophisticated instrumentation.
Competitors identified in this market include, among others, Agilent Technologies Inc., Beckman Coulter Inc., Becton, Dickinson and Company, Bio-Rad Laboratories Inc., Eppendorf AG, F. Hoffmann-La Roche Ltd, Honeywell International Inc., Hudson Robotics Inc., PerkinElmer Inc., QIAGEN N.V., Shimadzu Scientific Instruments, Siemens Healthineers, Synchron Lab Automation, Tecan Group Ltd., Thermo Fisher Scientific Inc.