Aside from the manual, repetitive work involved in microbiological testing, one of the most time-consuming and often frustrating aspects of the quality control process is communicating data to other departments and stakeholders. Supervisors and investigators need access to out-of-specification results, manufacturing personnel need to know when products have been approved for shipment, and some executives may even want to observe trends in problem areas and cleaning procedures themselves.
Automated rapid methods that integrate to LIMS can remove almost all the manual data entry associated with testing. Even at companies that use laboratory information systems (LIMS) or other electronic record-keeping systems, the inefficient use of those technologies can actually increase overall workloads.The following are six strategies that successful companies have found make data dissemination an easier, more efficient process.
Even for smaller manufacturers and testing sites, a quality data management system – such as a LIMS – is critical in communicating thorough results soon after they've been obtained. Still, simply installing a LIMS won't solve your data management issues. An efficient system should allow for the collection of all relevant microbiological data, and users shouldn't have to spend extra time filling out notebooks or spreadsheets by hand. To take true advantage of a LIMS, you'll need to create procedures that don't require duplicate documentation or excessive manual analysis.
In cases where other departments – particularly manufacturing – aren't receptive to communications regarding recent contamination or updated cleaning procedures, creating greater buy-in is a must. Manufacturing line workers may be fairly familiar with the importance of keeping their work environments free of contaminants, but they may not understand the need for specific sampling and cleaning procedures – particularly when those procedures interrupt their own workflows. Greater buy-in can be achieved through meetings and workshops, but the best way to get other departments on board may be to involve them in the actual microbial testing process when appropriate.
While excessive meetings can become time-consuming and even counterproductive, holding a few at regular intervals can help keep everyone up to speed on the most important trends and cleaning procedures within a given company. Microbiologists and other QC personnel can give presentations to representatives from other departments, who can pass on information to other workers at more convenient times. Meetings can also be a good chance for different departments to discuss ways for testing to become more efficient for everyone, ultimately allowing for potentially faster product shipments and shorter wait times on follow-up tests and sample collections.
Even a state-of-the-art technologies can become time-consuming and cumbersome to use, but collaboration between IT and QC personnel can help to avoid inefficiencies. A system that makes perfect sense to the programmers who designed it may have a steep learning curve for the microbiologists who are the end users. By involving the QC team and other users from the beginning of any technology implementation, The IT team can ensure the system works well for the all levels of users.
Supervisors and investigators may need to see detailed data, but many stakeholders only need general information on recent and historical trends or basic data on the status of products awaiting shipment. To make communication as simple as possible, it may be best to organize simpler presentations of contamination trends and sterility test results for non-QC personnel.
Finally, one of the best ways to simplify communication is to implement automated reporting – a key feature of growth-based, automated rapid microbial methods technology. Integration allows for regular uploads to your existing LIMS, as well as reports for trend analysis. QC workers can save time on manual data entry, and stakeholders from every other department can quickly access the most recent test results on their own personal devices without having to consult the microbiologists who obtained them.