Traditionally, laboratory processes involved these steps:
- Phlebotomists collect all their morning samples
- Samples brought back to the laboratory to be received
- Plasma/serum samples centrifuged in batches in high-volume centrifuges
- Racks of samples taken to the bench area for testing.
Batch processing creates waste through excess work in progress and excess waiting. While the batches are being processed, the instruments and equipment used in the subsequent steps are often idle.
Batch processing is more problem-prone than continuous processing. The sooner the execution of a process, the sooner a problem will be detected and corrected. Fewer samples will be affected if batching is not done and there is equipment malfunction (eg, unable to unlock/open centrifuge lid, pneumatic tube delivered to the wrong station, analyzer malfunction) or other problems occur (eg, expired calibration curve, inadequate reagent on-board).