Sure, Quality Control (QC) is a cost center, but we like to think it’s worth it! There are many hard to quantify benefits a Quality Control laboratory generates, but generally, they are considered cost centers. This is where a Laboratory Execution System (LES) can come in, by minimizing costs while maximizing quality. Let’s take a look where some of these savings might be found:
- Automated Calculations
- Automated Test, Sample, Batch, etc. Review
- Performing Investigations
LES Cost Savings: Math is hard!
Ok, that might be a slight simplification, but for most laboratory analyses, the math is fairly simple and straightforward. However, that doesn’t mean that relying on a calculator, MS Excel, or brain power is the most efficient and accurate way of performing calculations. For those calculations that are not simple, integration to other tools or customization of the LES may be required. If things get too complex when determining what calculations should be automated and in what way, utilizing a LES Subject Matter Expert (SME) can be advantageous.
A LES can:
- automate most “simple” calculations
- integrate to a statistics package to support more complex calculations
- integrate to OLAP, Data Mining, and Data Visualization packages to drive trend analysis and decision making
LES Cost Savings: Nobody likes to review data!
We said it! Nobody likes poring over notebooks, chromatograms, spreadsheets, and checking calculations with a calculator or MS Excel, but it’s a necessary evil in a GxP QC lab. A second set of eyes can be a massive boost to quality when the right person is doing the reviewing. A rubber stamp? Not so much.
A LES can:
- automatically check referenced lots, samples, inventory items, etc. for accuracy, completeness, and even making sure the right entity was used.
- automatically limits check all inputs, time duration, expiration dates, recoveries, system suitability, etc. Out of tolerance information can be automatically tagged for review.
- easily flag out-of-limit fields so they can be reviewed and managed.
- easily and clearly present your data for review. How bad is your handwriting? Now how about the lab staff? Data in a LES can be presented in a uniform fashion, easily readable, and with issues flagged for you to address, thus enabling you to review by exception rather than reviewing every single entry and calculation.
Configuring your LES to perform the various automated checks and flagging out of tolerance information can be challenging to those not expert with the operation and use of LES. Organizations can derive more value from their LES if they engage a LES SME to assist in establishing the checks and flagging criteria in their LES. Of course, it is critical that the LES SME engaged be expert in your particular LES since each solution addresses these needs in a slightly different manner.
LES Cost Savings: Somebody is going to have to answer the hard questions
Investigations are painful. You did what? When? Why would you do that? Did you follow the method? Did you do things in order? Are you sure you used the right equipment?
A LES can:
- time stamp and track data entry for a more complete picture of how the analysts work and what was actually done in the lab
- capture your changes in the audit trail, telling you if something was changed, moved, or redone
- be integrated with Instrument Management modules and system, if available. This ensures that your lab equipment is operating within calibration and is in active service.
- force fields to be filled in and can check the limits on the field. A LES won’t let you forget to fill in a blank or use the wrong thing.
LES Cost Savings: Ready for a bonus?
Since all the data is stored in a centralized system in a consistent manner, finding data and reporting it is much faster and easier. No more digging through notebooks when management wants to know some obscure data trend over the life of a product; it’s in a database, and accessible.
We all know time is money. A properly configured and deployed Laboratory Execution System (LES) will save your staff time and your lab organization money. Whether this manifests itself as added capacity to your existing lab, or allows more time for method development and cross training, or better prepares you to deal with seasonal workloads, how you use these time and cost savings is up to you.
So, what would YOU do with all that extra time/money?