Connected productivity for industrial laboratories

Colin Thurston outlines the benefits of an integrated enterprise level LIMS solution.

Industrial process and manufacturing laboratories face the continuous challenge of improving workflow and personnel efficiency, whilst maintaining product quality and compliance with regulatory and industry guidelines. Enterprise level informatics solutions provide the platform necessary for improving connectivity across the organisation by integrating laboratory generated quality data with ERP systems, PIMS, MES and other data analysis tools throughout the organization so that managers at all levels have access to the data that can help them make more informed decisions.

This integration of informatics solutions with enterprise systems is particularly relevant in today's business climate, where the benchmarks for speed, accuracy and efficiency as well as price to value are higher and higher. Without connected systems and a continuous feed of laboratory data throughout the organisation, especially to management where these key business metrics are monitored, true efficiency and enhanced productivity becomes a goal that is increasingly out of reach.

Achieving successful systems integration can be a challenge due to numerous software applications originating from multiple vendors, complex upgrades, and unaligned terminology between these disparate systems. And when the lab relies on manual data management because of limited data exchange across the organisation, that data can be compromised by human error. These are challenges not easily resolved without a dedicated strategy for improving connectivity and information sharing across the enterprise. To achieve this type of connectivity, industrial laboratories need to integrate processes more fully so that an automated and centralised data flow can inform managers of critical business information when needed. Laboratory, IT and management users alike need systems that are flexible and can manage data flows within centralised, field-based or remote laboratories as well as towards enterprise systems.

Laboratory information management systems (LIMS) that deliver rich, intuitive functionality for lab users, IT and management, provide significant productivity gains for organisations across the broadest range of industries. Enterprise level LIMS solutions are critical in facilitating compliance with ISO, GLP and other regulatory requirements, while optimising workflows and quality management. Scientists and lab managers need informatics solutions that deliver intuitive user environments and logical workflows such that laboratories are able to monitor operations across geographies and maximise data exchange between enterprise systems.

Lab managers are looking for new informatics solutions that have more configurable workflow and pan-industry functionality built into the core product, such as instrument calibration, operator training records and stock/inventory dashboards. Deploying these feature rich LIMS deliver improved process control, staff efficiencies, compliance and resource management capabilities. IT and Systems Administration require industry standard development environments, such as Microsoft.NET, for easier system configuration. Using use software tools to map business process changes within the LIMS leads to time and cost savings critical to process sustainability.

Management needs data visualisation tools that deliver the metrics necessary to make informed business decisions with all the integrated data available and shown in a clearly understandable fashion. Process performance against key business metrics should be readily available within the management dashboard.

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Organisations can maximise their informatics investments by integrating laboratory and quality data from LIMS with enterprise systems, allowing management to access to all of the data they need to make informed decisions and monitor of their operations.

Businesses everywhere are focused on standardising processes, reducing energy usage and increasing the efficiency of their process. Centralising data capture, delivering more automated processes and delivering critical information to management in real time dashboard displays that allow for more informed decision making, and ultimately more reliable production. Investment in feature rich informatics solutions enables the laboratory, IT and management to maximise the value of data that is generated across their organisation, and make best use of resources, reducing risks to a minimum and improving process efficiency.

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Colin Thurston is Director of Product Strategy, Process Industries at Thermo Fisher Scientific, Loughborough, UK.

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