Happy Cinco De Mayo! A holiday where Mexico celebrates a victory over France in the Battle of Puebla in 1862 (not, in fact, independence from Spain). The battle represents a triumph of the underdog and calls to mind (for us, anyway) a time when labs were overrun by paper notebooks and spreadsheets, despairing of a better future.
During the Battle of Puebla, the outnumbered Mexican forces under the command of General Ignacio Zaragoza faced off against a larger and better equipped French militia, who were there to try to recover some of Mexico’s debt that it had recently defaulted on (among other purposes.) France lost that battle. There’s a lot more to it, but just know that the largely symbolic victory boosted Mexican morale in the short term. The battle’s message about the indomitable spirit in the face of overwhelming odds continues to resonate with people of Mexican heritage today. In a similar way, we celebrate the triumph of the many labs that we’re able to dig their way out of paper piles and old processes to implement STARLIMS™.
So, to commemorate this historic Mexican battle, we’re going to look at five ways that STARLIMS can improve your organization’s morale and support your lab’s independence. If your lab is considering a STARLIMS implementation or has recently completed one, here are five ways your lab informatics system can work for you.
Viva STARLIMS! One of the best reasons for implementing STARLIMS in your lab is the end of paper and spreadsheets. Most labs might be loath, at first, to take on what some might see as the informatics equivalent of a French-installed Austrian Emperor, but in the case of STARLIMS, that’s not what you’re getting. Although the learning curve for a LIMS will involve changes to your lab’s workflows and processes, it’s not meant to be a hostile occupation and, in return, you get easier data inputs. Instead of keeping complicated nested spreadsheets, STARLIMS provides a simple interface in which many calculations can be done automatically.
This automation provides results much faster than your old paper- or worksheet-based system and lets you make decisions more efficiently, as well. Directly out of the box, STARLIMS has workflows in place for Manufacturing, Environmental Monitoring, Stability Studies, and more. Each of these workflows can be configured for your lab’s specific samples and tests.
Where STARLIMS really shines in comparison to manual processes is in the reduction of human error. Everybody makes mistakes (just ask General de Lorencez!), so a system that can help your lab staff reduce manual errors is a significant benefit.
Manual errors cost organizations money (sometimes a lot of money), and that cost savings can add significantly to the bottom line. Beyond that, not having to perform manual rework will save your staff time and will ultimately result in faster processing of samples through the lab.
In many industries, repeatability, precision, and standards are the keys to success, and having one standardized process ensures that all the users are following the same procedures. A reliable system that enforces best practices will naturally create trust in the results. Long gone will be the days of second-guessing your final reports.
Your STARLIMS implementation has the potential to be the IT department’s equivalent of the hero that saves the day. Perhaps the biggest potential benefit of a STARLIMS implementation, depending on your organization’s use of proprietary information, is the increased data security you gain with the system. All connections to the application server that hosts the STARLIMS instance are secured and encrypted by a digital secure sockets layer (SSL) certificate. Each user is assigned a unique login, so all actions taken in STARLIMS can be attributed to a specific user. The system has built-in configurable roles and ways to control who can see and who can change the information within. Not everyone should be allowed to change the configuration, and only specific people should be able to approve others’ work. This provides a built-in audit trail and prevents users from altering results.
Related Reading: New Data Integrity Draft Guidance – Are You Ready?
The added level of security makes it much easier to defend your laboratory’s practices if you are audited by a regulatory agency. Even if your lab is in a nonregulated industry, the STARLIMS solution will provide data security that can make everyone’s lives easier.
Transferring instrument outputs and results into another system by hand or keeping paper notebooks is cumbersome and prone to errors. When you take the additional step of integrating your laboratory instruments with STARLIMS, you eliminate those processes and their accompanying risk.
STARLIMS has an integrated scientific data management system (SDMS) that makes instrument interfacing fairly painless. Providing easier access to instrument data frees up time for your lab scientists to do their actual science.
This is also another win for the IT team. Instrument integration also lends itself to better data security by avoiding any typos or miss-keying of results. Files are basically parsed and the results placed at their proper, final destination. Add to this the fact that the files are being stored within the application, reducing the reliance on users to save the files in specific places to be properly archived. You can even enable the built-in Grabber utility. This tool will monitor specific folders and, should an instrument generate a file into said directory, the Grabber will send it automatically to STARLIMS for data extraction; no human is involved beyond the initial setup.
OK, STARLIMS won’t really release you from all the paperwork and routine procedures that every organization has. But it can make producing reports faster and, dare we say it, a bit more fun.
The Advanced Analytics module in STARLIMS, based on the Tableau software, enables detailed data comparison, trend analysis, and forecasting. The data visualization tools built into Advanced Analytics make your reports intuitive and easier for decision-makers to understand and act upon. You can create dashboards to display automated reports whenever users need them. One key feature of the Advanced Analytics dashboard is the ability to filter the information being presented and, with the proper configuration, to drill down deeper and get more precise information on how the lab is operating. From the STARLIMS content library, many dashboards are preconfigured including Turnaround Time, Test Forecasting, and Out-Of-Spec results data. The main goal of Advanced Analytics is to give a clear picture of how your lab is actually performing, and it does that in a way that is easily understood by anyone receiving a report.
If there’s one thing we should all remember on Cinco de Mayo it is that the fight for a better life is always a fight worth making. Your lab’s processes will be more secure, actionable, and efficient now that you have STARLIMS on your side. Viva STARLIMS!
How has STARLIMS contributed to the independence of your lab? Tell us about it in the comments.