In my 20 or so years working with technology, I've seen businesses evolve from silo'd, departmental technologies to deeply integrated operations. PO systems talk to MRP systems; order entry systems talk to warehouse and inventory systems, and on and on. An order entry clerk can see a delay in a warehouse shipment and adjust accordingly. Cycle times have been reduced and errors are less of an issue. Double-keying is no longer needed. With data available to everyone in their respective system, no one has to be trained on multiple tools to get one answer.
I'm no fortune-teller, but I can see the QC lab as the next point of connection. Integrating with LIMS (laboratory information systems) can drive several benefits:
- Single data entry point - no need to enter information on paper or type into multiple systems.
- Reduced error rates - if the results are automatically tracked and no data entry is required, human mistakes (transposing numbers, etc) can be virtually eliminated.
- Improved efficiency - the lab can focus less on data entry and more on value added activities.
- Access to lab data by LIMS users - stakeholders have greater access to information, such as seeing a trending report in LIMs or other tool.
- Paperless operations - with data automatically recorded and fed to the LIMS system, there is no need to fill out forms for keying later. This is key for a paperless lab.
Integration should not be a late addition to your rapid method roll-out plan. Integration as an afterthought usually means highly customized, one-off solutions that don't last over time and become costly to maintain.
When we designed Growth DirectTM, we saw the importance of not only automating the work in the QC lab but creating a seamless connection between the lab and LIMS. Our SP2 release focused on a standard interface to proprietary and commercial systems, eliminating the emails and phone calls that go on between the lab and the rest of the company.
Working with our customers, I've learned a few things that should be considered when planning and executing integration:
- The business and regulatory processes drive the integration, not the other way around.
- Flexibility and simplicity of integration technology is a key to long-term success and upgradability.
- IT requirements should not be overlooked. The integration method must provide a secure and reliable connection between laboratory instruments and LIMs, including delivery confirmations and error tracking.
Improving the connection between the QC Lab and LIMS will continue to be one of many focal areas for Growth DirectTM in the future. An efficient, automated QC lab can create measurable benefits for the business.
"Virtual" walls of data have been falling for years. The QC lab is next...
Director of Engineering
Rapid Micro Biosystems