Here you are! You survived your LabWare LIMS implementation; it’s been running for a while and your users have gotten used to the new way of working that the LIMS has brought into their lives (and to the variety of new tasks that it involves).
If your implementation was like the majority of other LIMS implementations, everything related to the system was installed/configured, but many of the requirements related to user-friendliness may have been stripped from the scope to fit the timeline or budget.
It’s now time to treat your users, and you might be surprised to see how a few small investments can bring a lot of value to the end-users.
In the following paragraphs, we’ll guide you through five improvements to your LabWare LIMS that your users will thank you for.
Switching focus wastes users’ time. It may seem small and irrelevant, but all those seconds lost in reaching for the mouse and moving back to the keyboard to create sample labels for tracking in LabWare LIMS adds up and takes precious time away from lab work. The solution to this is quite easy: Barcodes!
When people hear “let’s use some barcode readers with the LIMS,” they think the only improvement a barcode reader can bring is in the time saved to type the six or seven digits of the sample number, and they don’t see much value-added. But don’t be fooled, a barcode reader can be much more useful. In controlled environments like a clean room, reducing the use of a mouse and keyboard will lessen the chance of contamination.
Furthermore, two-dimensional (2D) barcodes can hold significantly more information compared to 1D barcodes and can be used to accelerate data entry considerably. Barcodes could even be printed on sequence sheets (more on this in what follows) to eliminate the need for the user to reenter all information in, let’s say, your atomic absorption software.
To sum up the benefits of barcodes in a few words: adding the use of barcodes and readers to your LabWare LIMS is inexpensive, can be substituted almost everywhere a keyboard is needed, and are very easy to implement, so why deprive yourself!
Related Reading: RFID Functionality in your LabWare LIMS
A learning curve is expected with every new software, and that curve is quite steep for LabWare LIMS. There are so many things you can do; so many menus and so many concepts that are often not intuitive to users. The sheer number of options causes the adoption time to be quite long before a user is at ease and productive with their system.
The best approach to speed up user adoption and enable your users to be productive faster is to not rely on memory, but rather to make their work visual and intuitive. The good news is that Visual Workflows in LabWare LIMS will do that in no time.
With an appealing Visual Workflow, new users don’t have to remember what they have to do as the next step, because it’s presented right in front of them. Visual Workflows not only make users more efficient and more confident, but also improve the quality of everyone’s work by preventing missed steps or other human error.
Another advantage of using Visual Workflows in LabWare LIMS is that you can serve each user with the work that is ready for them, in real-time. That accelerates the process, and can also prevent samples or actions from being forgotten. For example, an analyst who is assigned to a specific analysis has prepared all the samples for the day and who is ready to start their instrument can see on the main Visual Workflow that a new lot is just out of production and needs that test. The analyst can wait for that sample to arrive before starting the instrument, instead of having to do another run.
How much time is spent in your organization on gathering key performance indicators (KPIs) from your LabWare LIMS or objectives and key results (OKRs)? Whether it is entering the required raw data, calculating, verifying, or diffusing this information, the process usually involves a lot of wasted time for which you could find a better use with the functionality in your LabWare LIMS.
A good 90% of the data required for your KPIs/OKRs is already captured in your LIMS, and chances are that if it is not, you can easily add it in the form of an Event Trigger. So why reenter all that data in Excel?
A picture is worth a thousand words they say, but in this case, it may be worth a thousand bucks! LabWare LIMS Dashboards not only can present the metrics that are relevant to each user but also can do so using visual elements. The dashboard allows the user to quickly know if the situation is under control or if it is time for all hands on deck, without having to remember the target for that specific KPI/OKR.
Your instruments may not be musical, but they produce a symphony of data. Let’s face it, nobody likes to do something that could be done automatically. So why force your users to type in all the values that are produced by your instruments. It is a waste of time and for sure they hate it. Manual data entry is also a potential source of error.
Sure, you may have interfaced your CDS with your LabWare LIMS during the initial implementation, but it should not stop there. All the forgotten instruments have huge potential, and they are easier to interface than you may think.
Outbound interfaces are interfaces where LabWare LIMS pushes data that is already present in LIMS into another software. The most common example would be pushing the information related to samples present in a LIMS batch or folder, to automatically create the injection sequence in the software for your UV or atomic absorption spectrometer.
An Inbound interface is one where the LIMS is receiving data that was produced by an instrument and storing it in LIMS. Inbound instrument interfaces are by far the most common. They come in different flavors (getting data directly from the instrument in real-time, extracting the data from a file that is produced by an instrument, etc.), but they typically do one thing: they enter the result directly into LabWare LIMS without user intervention. The effect of this is that time is saved, but more importantly, it puts you in a much better position with regulatory inspectors during your next data integrity audit.
Inbound interface examples include sending the mass information from your balance directly to LabWare LIMS, having your particle size analyzer send the result file to LabWare LIMS and extract the relevant data points, or having your in-line total organic carbon (TOC) analysis system send in hourly readings to LIMS so you can detect a production problem in real-time and potentially salvage a process lot.
Did you know that reports are used for more than your standard Certificate of Analysis (CofA)? In fact, a lot of reports are never actually printed and will just be consulted on screen. LabWare has this nifty functionality that is available throughout the system where you can configure a report template on some object and then the system presents a Report tab/radio button where the user can see the information that’s most important to them in a format that is easy for them.
For example, if you have a folder that contains all the samples that are ready to be analyzed, you can configure this folder to display a sequence sheet in the report tab, that the analyst can print and use to create the sequence on the instrument. And to add icing on the cake, if you add a barcode to that report the user will be able to create the sequence by scanning instead of typing the information.
Another great use of reports is for design specification documents. You can configure the report to display the information that is required (in the format that is required), that way instead of typing everything in Microsoft Word and risking errors, you can just print the report from LIMS!
As you can see, Phase 1 is just the beginning of your LabWare LIMS implementation and there is no reason to stop there. Many opportunities exist for Phase 2 improvements that will help you get the most from your investment and make your stakeholders and end-users happy.
Should you need assistance in making any of these ideas come to life, CSols can help you, ranging from the analysis of your project to management and/or development. Just reach out to us here: LabWare LIMS Enhancements
What improvements have you made, or will you make, to your LabWare LIMS implementation in Phase 2?