Automating Laboratory Information Management Systems

Tags: oil analysis

A constant driving force in any industry is to increase efficiency and reduce costs. Each year, laboratories are experiencing growth in the number of samples being processed, which in turn creates an additional amount of stress for maintaining efficiency and low costs. The majority of laboratories are realizing the necessity to automate using laboratory information management systems (LIMS).

WinLIMS, manufactured by Quality Systems International (QSI), is a sophisticated laboratory software package that can handle laboratory data, reporting requirements, business logic and sample workflows. This software package in essence provides comprehensive laboratory management (Figure 1). These capabilities are included in the first “out of the box” LIMS package. This package is capable of satisfying the diverse needs of a wide range of industries.


Figure 1. Sample Identification
and Parameters
(click here to enlarge)

The WinLIMS product line consists of three dimensions: LIMS functionality, level of technology and system accessibility. These factors are all client/server-based and include Windows NT, 2000, 98 or 95 client for local and wide area network access, web browser ultra-thin client for access across corporate intranets and Internet access, and a PocketPC mobile client for wireless and cellular access.

Windows Client
The traditional Windows client/server software was first introduced in 1992 and runs on the most functional and pervasive of the operating systems, including stand-alone PCs, local area networks and wide area networks. The software is compatible with Citrix™ and Microsoft’s Terminal Server™ software, which allows the user to implement the system in a cost-effective manner. The software can be upgraded when needed.

Web Browser Client
The rapid expansion of corporate intranets and the Internet is due to the use of browsers combined with networking systems utilized throughout business industries. The WinLIMS web browser client takes advantage of these tools and allows secure admission to the LIMS from any computer with access to the web and database servers.

The most effective use of WinLIMS web clients is when:

Pocket Client
Chemists and technicians can walk away from their desktop PCs with the use of the pocket client software (PocketLIMS). Pocket PCs allow lab staff to access the WebLIMS client software through a wireless network and/or cellular technology while in the facility or on the road. For additional convenience, these devices can also be equipped with barcode readers and printers.

Many companies are currently moving toward the use of web technologies for running mission-critical enterprise systems such as LIMS. Unfortunately, the current IT infrastructures may not be in place to take advantage of the Web technology, which is where WinLIMS comes in. By implementing the system, companies can initially utilize traditional Windows client/server software, then switch to the Web client at a later date without incurring additional licensing costs.

Instrument Interfacing
The majority of LIMS programs employ third-party software for instrument interfacing, which is a disadvantage due to the high costs associated with licensing. Most interface suppliers require a license for each instrument, as well as licensing and consulting fees to connect the instruments. Therefore, the consultants have more knowledge regarding the system than the clients, which can be problematic when bugs or data transmission errors occur and will likely incur further consultancy costs.

WinLIMS incorporates an interlink instrument interfacing module that is designed to be user-configurable, making bidirectional communication easily achievable. Therefore, sample data can be set up and transferred to the PC that controls the instrument, which will likely improve efficiency. A single PC interfaces with several instruments, thereby reducing costs. Because the instruments are interfacing with one PC, the flexibility of the lab has increased. As instruments are replaced and procedures are changed, the single PC interface will expedite the conversion process. This approach to instrument interfacing provides benefits such as:

Used Oil Analysis
Managing the amount of data generated in a used oil analysis laboratory is a challenge for any LIMS system. WinLIMS utilizes a used oil analysis module that maintains a tiered historical record for each piece of equipment and can monitor conditions against set specifications. Due to the system’s flexibility, various rules can be accommodated for different customers, changes in plant operation, etc. Reports can be generated displaying current and historical data in tabular or graphical form, and can also be exported into various formats including Word, Excel, CSV and HTML (Figure 2).


Figure 2. Report Displaying Oil
Analysis Severity Summary
(click here to enlarge)


Figure 3. Used Oil Sample Review
(click here to enlarge)

Applications
Typically, WinLIMS is integrated with manufacturing, process control, warehousing and accounting systems. The interfaces can be single or bidirectional, depending on client company requirements. These interfaces provide benefits including:

The functionality required for the various laboratories and industry sectors is incorporated in the WinLIMS system. This includes blending control tools, specification matching, sample logging and invoice control in a consulting laboratory, or a detailed audit in pharmaceuticals. Other applications that can benefit from this system are the food and beverage industry, personal care and cosmetics, petrochemicals, environmental systems, minerals processing and chemical systems.

WinLIMS installations have been proven to succeed due to the flexible and supportable software combined with the company’s implementation approach. This system is straight “out of the box”, removing the need for expensive custom code, thereby reducing implementation and support costs.

About the Company
QSI supplies state-of-the-art software products and consulting services to provide complete automation solutions for the modern laboratory. QSI believes that the success of the WinLIMS is largely due to the fact that no third-party consultants or distributors are used. Its vision is to enable laboratories to access their laboratory information in a secure, efficient manner.

Corporate headquarters are located in the United States, while subsidiaries are located in the United Kingdom, Germany, Holland and Australia.