Contract laboratory selects user-friendly LES

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ALcontrol’s Oosterhout facility is a microbiological control and food chemistry laboratory. In 2014, iVention LES was installed as an application to run on top of the existing LIMS system that ALcontrol has been using since 2003. iVention LES offers functionality that was impossible or difficult to realise in its existing LIMS.

Adding LES has enabled the laboratory to optimise its workflow. A slew of manual tasks has been automated, reducing human error. In addition, the lab can now improve its customised client services. iVention maintains not only LES, but the existing LIMS software too.

Eric Dingemanse, site manager at ALcontrol Laboratories, explained: 'We use iLES, which in itself could be a complete LIMS, to supplement our existing LIMS. The LIMS is our shell, iVention LES is one of the programs it runs. Our financial software, our HR software and our time clock all communicate with iLES. Every LIMS on the market claims it can do anything, but ALcontrol’s work is so diverse it’s pretty clear that standard LIMS functionality doesn’t cover all the bases. We were using add-ons and extensions for additional functionality, but that was far from ideal. iVention LES helped us solve several bottlenecks in our IT systems.'

Dashboards

ALcontrol’s first iVention project consisted of information supply to employees on the work floor. ALcontrol had plans to start using narrowcasting for this purpose. But there were better options. 'Like iVention LES, with its dashboard functionality,' explained Dingemanse. 'After a few demos, we were convinced. It became our first iLES implementation project. It’s similar to PowerPoint: you get blank slides with layout functionality. You can generate reports. And using an SQL statement, the IT department can unlock information that’s continually refreshed. So we can make great pie charts that show our Micro department how many samples have been processed and how many are coming in.'

iVention developed a tool for the IT department to centrally upgrade all information on the dashboards. 'They can do all that on a PC now.' iVention also met special requests, like the use of colour. 'The reports in our LIMS were too limited,” said Dingemanse. 'Four-colour printing was simply not possible. That might sound like a minor problem, but it couldn’t be solved.'

Automated Comparison

ALcontrol’s second big iVention implementation was making comparative reports of ingredient lists on food labels. The product composition as determined by lab analyses is compared to the composition on the food label. Before the introduction of iLES, this had to be done manually. Computerisation was a priority because of retailers’ increasing demand for this type of comparison.

'The reporting tool in iVention LES takes the test data from the LIMS and generates a nice report, while automatically comparing the test results to the quantitative list of ingredients on food labels in accordance with EU regulations. This is not easy, because interpretations have to comply with the latest and most specific laws and regulations. In the past, those comparisons were very time-consuming. Now it’s all computerised and the system determines automatically whether or not the test results are compliant with food labelling regulations. We can now generate very specific specification reports in iLES. Eventually, we aim to use iLES to generate all our reports.'

Mobile App

According to Dingemanse, ALcontrol’s field staff has made big strides thanks to iLES. Rather than having to take notes on paper, samplers can now log all data electronically. A wireless Internet connection is all it takes to upload it to the LIMS. This is quick, efficient, and less error prone; the laboratory has access to the data before the field worker returns. 'iVention has taken the functionality in the LIMS for printing templates for our field staff and turned it into a mobile application. This ensures that LIMS forms on our server in Oosterhout are synchronised with the data in the mobile device. They’re pre-populated forms, with location, client name, type of sample, specific agreements and equipment used already filled in. Field workers need only fill in a few variables, like time and temperature. They don’t have to start from scratch. This makes it easier to plan their work, speeds up sampling logistics and reduces errors. The dashboards display this data too. The whole process is much faster. This app is so user-friendly.'

Practical solution

The app might even make life easier at the laboratory too. As Dingemanse explained: 'We’re thinking of giving some people a tablet so they can access dashboards and documentation around the lab. That would give them much more flexibility.' Linking the document management system to the mobile app has potential benefits for samplers as well.

'This would allow us to link the sampling forms on the tablet to a working instruction or procedure. Samplers would always have the most up-to-date information, without having to lug a big paper file along.'

ALcontrol is planning to roll out this mobile concept to its clients too. 'Our "@mis" client portal is a big hit, but some clients take their own samples and don’t have a PC at the sampling location. It would be very convenient if they could install this iLES app on their phone. Then we’d receive even more of our data digitally. We’d love to go 100 per cent digital, but we know that’s not going to happen. So a unique app like iLES enables us to offer our clients a practical solution.'

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