A transformative partnership in high-volume sample processing

Sampled utilised Labman's expertise in creating custom projects in order to create a novel solution that was urgently required.
6 min read
Featuring comments from
Chris PiccirilloDirector of Laboratory Automation, Sampled
Sampled, a large biorepository and human diagnostics R&D company with operations in Piscataway, NJ and Glasgow, UK, was facing a monumental challenge during the COVID-19 pandemic; the need to process a very high volume of incoming saliva samples efficiently to meet the demands of the situation.
Sampled turned to Labman Automation for an innovative solution. Labman designed, built, and commissioned an automated system in record time in order to streamline the processing of saliva samples in Spectrum saliva tubes, allowing for high throughput and reducing the need for manual handling.
The implementation of Labman's automated system had an immediate impact on Sampled's operations. They were able to increase their sample processing throughput by up to an additional 20,000 samples a day. This not only improved efficiency but also reduced the need for extensive manual labour. The Labman system proved to be a reliable and robust solution, providing Sampled with a significant ROI. Additionally, the strong partnership and excellent customer support from Labman made the entire experience a success.


Samples processed per dayMarked increase in throughput over humans having to manually process vials.


Less temporary staff requiredHuge reduction in overheads and reduced risk of human interaction with Covid.


Sampled, a leading biorepository and human diagnostics R&D company with operations in Piscataway, NJ and Glasgow, UK, was confronted with a monumental challenge as the world grappled with the COVID-19 pandemic. With a daily influx of tens of thousands of saliva samples for processing, they urgently needed an innovative solution to enhance their sample processing capabilities. In their quest to find an automation partner, Sampled turned to Labman to develop a unique solution that would fit their exact needs.

An overwhelming volume of manual work

For Sampled, the manual accessioning and registration process was an arduous, slow, and painful task. As Chris Piccirillo, Director of Automation describes, “we physically received thousands of saliva tubes each day and had to individually register and accession every tube, sometimes close to 100,000 a day by hand.”

The task of de-capping, scanning barcodes, and setting up the tubes for further processing was not only extremely labour-intensive but also prone to human error. As the COVID-19 case load skyrocketed, Sampled needed an innovative and efficient solution to manage this overwhelming volume of samples.

The Labman solution: customized automation

To address these challenges, Labman proposed a highly customized automation solution. This bespoke system was meticulously designed to cater to the specific needs of Sampled laboratory and in particular the tube types being processed. Its functionality included tube de-capping, barcode scanning, and a unique resealing mechanism. One distinctive feature was an automated tube sorting mechanism that allowed the samples to be kept in the correct order once they had been processed through the system, thus avoiding costly mix-ups. “All of the features Labman created on the system were really well made,” mentioned Chris. With reliability and uptime a priority for such an operation, Labman’s high-quality in-house engineering really comes into its own.

Spectrum saliva tubes, although a user-friendly and safe method of covid testing, have the unfortunate habit of sealing shut due to the nature of the neutralising agent released when the cap is screwed on. Labman’s system was designed with in-house-produced gripper fingers and a unique profile specifically designed to handle the challenging task of de-capping these tightly sealed Spectrum tubes efficiently, saving the hands of hundreds of workers.

Transformation and results

As the Labman system was successfully implemented, the efficiency gains were substantial, as Piccirillo stated, “We were able to increase our sample throughput by up to an additional 20,000 samples a day.” This remarkable uptick in processing capacity significantly reduced the need for manual labour. At the height of the pandemic Sampled had to hire an additional 300-350 temporary staff to help process the samples. With the new robotic workflow, a significant proportion of these staff were no longer required, streamlining operations, increasing accuracy, and reducing the acute RSI issues associated with undoing these tightly sealed tubes.

"One thing I've always been focused on in my career is building relationships [...] I just think that you guys do a tremendous job at that."
Chris PiccirilloSampled

Customer-centric approach and relationship building

Labman are proud to work with and support our customers for the long term. "One thing I’ve always been focused on in my career is building relationships,” began Chris. “To have those relationships, whether they’re short or long-term, is really important to me. All of my staff here in the robotics team and the lab staff love working with the Labman team - you guys do a tremendous job at building and maintaining those connections” The relationship between Sampled and Labman went beyond the technical implementation, creating a sense of trust and reliability – we’re very proud of this.


Sampled’s journey with Labman has been nothing short of a remarkable success story. The customized automation solution provided by Labman not only revolutionized the laboratory’s efficiency, providing a significant ROI, but also established a long-lasting and warm customer relationship. Having proven the system in NJ, Sampled then commissioned a repeat for their operation in Motherwell, Glasgow, reaffirming their confidence in Labman’s solutions. Labman’s commitment to addressing specific challenges with innovation and providing robust support has positioned us as a valued partner for Sampled and is a testament to our continuous quest for customer success.