Congrats on implementing STARLIMS for your laboratory! This may come as a shock, but you probably aren’t using some of the great features of the LIMS, right out of the box. Like most laboratories, just getting an informatics system in place can be a tough process, forcing a lab to focus on critical items first, like sample reception, testing, and approvals. This means that other enhancements, modules, and features can be placed on the backburner or even forgotten.
Want to push your STARLIMS system to the next level and make your laboratory more efficient? In this blog, we’ll review what we feel are the top three STARLIMS features that you should consider when looking to get the most out of your lab informatics solution:
Inventory management seems like a no-brainer. Every laboratory has some need to track inventory of samples and reagents, at minimum. However, as with most features that aren’t critical for go-live, this can get pushed to another implementation phase in the future or never get implemented at all.
Inventory Manager allows samples and reagents to be tracked, along with details including locations, chain of custody, quantities available, etc. However, don’t limit yourself. STARLIMS provides the option to create your own material types. Expanding these material types to include daily consumables (i.e., gloves, PPE, etc.) can:
Taking this approach allows expensive reagents to be fully consumed and routine consumables ordering to be managed more efficiently.
STARLIMS can also send out low-level alerts on these consumables as well, keeping the laboratory updated on what resources are low. Imagine having a busy production schedule, like most manufacturing plants, and knowing that more testing will be needed. Low-level alerts give you a heads-up when reagents or solutions are running low in stock, assisting you in ordering when the time is right and preventing a horrible situation where you cannot test. Inventory Manager also provides other features, like printing barcodes for inventory or shipping, managing kits and kit components, container management, and even recording inventory disposal for expired samples or other materials.
Another STARLIMS feature to consider is Materials Management. This module allows materials to be created and grouped together by material type. Having all reagents under their own type or category keeps materials organized and makes it easier for analysts to search, saving precious time that can be focused on testing.
But let’s take this module a bit further. Materials Management also provides the ability to create recipes. This can be incredibly useful to a laboratory trying to cut costs and produce reagents or solutions in-house. When creating new inventory, the system can track what recipe was selected and what ingredients (other materials) were used. But bear in mind, creating recipes and adjusting material management settings both typically require configuration to match a laboratory’s needs.
One of the most underrated and underused features in STARLIMS is the Dashboard. This feature provides users the ability to view a variety of gauges (widgets), charts, and tables that display commonly needed details, like laboratory workload by sample status, testing progress, and even alerts for expired materials or low-level inventory. This provides critical laboratory metrics and saves users precious time from running reports or endlessly searching for specific data needed more frequently.
Although STARLIMS provides common Dashboards and gauges out-of-the-box, the fine tuning of gauges or creation of more specific charts typically needs customization to streamline the data that the laboratory or business may need. Web pages can also be added to the Dashboard to provide easy access to a company’s intranet, an online repository, or anything that has a web address. Imagine being able to see how busy your laboratory is, viewing workloads by analyst, or knowing what samples have been logged into the system and are on their way to the lab!
STARLIMS also provides the option to add their integrated Advanced Analytics solution to the Dashboard. This feature allows you to analyze all lab data from your system using powerful visualizations. While Crystal Reports is great for viewing static reports, the data in Advanced Analytics is interactive, meaning, you can drill down into the details and view more acute metrics. Supervisors, leads, and managers can use Advanced Analytics to track and analyze the progress in the lab, along with selecting specific data points and annotations.
For all STARLIMS users that already love the system, imagine how much more powerful and beneficial it could be to your lab to take advantage of these additional features. Although it may seem overwhelming to make changes, and you might not know where to start, CSols can have a STARLIMS consultant work with you to set up exactly what you need.
A feature that has been put on the backburner today may hold the key to improving laboratory efficiencies for tomorrow. Start by asking yourself: What do I want to improve? Is there an area in the laboratory process that needs help? Share your thoughts below in the comments.