Mellos StatSpin brings LEAN processing to labs

Sept. 1, 2011
“Labs are replacing their conventional floor-model units with high-speed centrifuges to address LEAN initiatives and single-piece flow.” Robert A. Mello
Corporate Vice President, Iris International, President of StatSpin d/b/a Iris Sample Processing


Electrical Engineering and Management,

Bristol College and Lesley University


Interests include mountain and road cycling, skiing, boating, golf,
travel, and spending time with my wife, Barbara,
and our three boys Max, Brian, Steven, and
Buster, our miniature schnauzer.

The evolution of sample processing.

When I joined Iris, the company's core competency was the manufacture of small laboratory centrifuges. In 2003, we decided to focus on sample processing as a core competency with centrifugation as one of the methods. StatSpin was founded based on the need for improved test turnaround times (TAT) — also referred to as STAT testing. Over the next several years, we designed the Express 3 and Express 4 high-speed centrifuges, which set us apart from traditional centrifuges on the market. In 2004, we introduced our first molecular sample processing system. Today, it is the leading benchtop denaturation and hybridization system for fluorescent in-situ hybridization (FISH). In early 2012 we will introduce an automated system for the sample pre-treatment and post-treatment steps of FISH, WISH, ISH, and blots. This will be another “turning point” for Iris as we expand our expertise in automation and molecular sample processing.

LEAN into the lab.

The time it takes to process a sample is critical for clinical laboratories as the volume of samples to be tested increases. In the past, sample processing occurred in a central location where blood specimens were sorted and centrifuged in batches. This process was inefficient and time consuming. Customers are demanding faster results and quicker TAT for all their sample processing needs. Labs are replacing their conventional floor-model units with high-speed centrifuges to address LEAN initiatives and single-piece flow. To meet these demands, we had to develop new, innovative suspension systems capable of operating at higher speeds while employing brushless motor technology to improve reliability. We also worked closely with the blood tube manufacturers to validate separation at these speeds to ensure compliance with their package inserts. The results of our efforts can be found in a number of our high-speed models for platelet-poor plasma in only two minutes to flat-line gel-tube separation in only three minutes. LEAN initiatives can be adopted to reduce waste and improve worker productivity. LEAN concepts focus on value-added tasks while eliminating non-value-added steps like unnecessary movement, long wait times, and batch processing. The second method involves automating steps in the process wherever possible.

Spin around the world.

Our products are used worldwide — in doctor's offices, clinics, hospitals, research centers, and even facilities like Walt Disney's Animal Kingdom. A doctor at Mass General is involved with helping the people of Uganda using one of our centrifuges. His organization is working to upgrade and advance the diagnostic-laboratory and intensive-care treatment facility at the Pediatric Acute Care Unit of Mulago Hospital. Mulago serves as the principal teaching hospital for Makerere University School of Medicine, which is the oldest medical school in Uganda. Mulago is training the next generation of doctors, nurses, and laboratorians for the nation. With approximately 1,500 beds, the hospital serves a very large population of patients, many of whom cannot afford basic healthcare.

Young people in the lab.

Medical technologists play a behind-the-scenes role, which hinders awareness among the younger generation as to the key role medical technologists play in patient outcomes. I have a son majoring in health sciences at James Madison University and a stepson at Northeastern University who just accepted a co-op position as a medical technologist at a leading Boston hospital. Check back with me in six months, and I will share their thoughts on how to attract young people to the field.