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Six Tips to Optimize Your LabWare Implementation and Upgrades
LabWare’s Enterprise Laboratory Platform (ELP) is a leading laboratory informatics system that is utilized by over 1,000 customers – everything from small companies to global enterprises – worldwide. ELP provides a comprehensive laboratory solution that combines the typically separate domains of a Laboratory Informatics Management System (LIMS) and an Electronic Laboratory Notebook (ELN) into a single application environment with a common, shared database. The LabWare solution offers the benefits of both a LIMS and an ELN in a single platform that is both stable and supportable, without the IT complexity, expense and validation requirements of a customized interface layer.
While LabWare’s ELP offers both functionality and business benefits significantly beyond what is provided by a conventional LIMS or ELN, there are important considerations to take into account when implementing or upgrading the LabWare solution in order to realize its full potential to transform your laboratory operations. In this blog, we’ll discuss key best practice recommendations to follow during your LabWare implementation or upgrade that will help to ensure your project is successful in optimizing compliance, improving quality, reducing costs, and increasing productivity and innovation in your laboratory environment.
Tips for Optimizing LabWare Implementations or Upgrades
Some important considerations to take into account when implementing or upgrading LabWare’s Enterprise Laboratory Platform (ELP) include:
Make Good Architecture Decisions. When designing your LabWare system architecture, it is wise to use as much of the standard configuration as possible, which means getting the best Templates that will suit your business, and trying to use as many of the available modules as possible to avoid a lot of customizations. There are a number of reasons for this:
- Using LIMS Basic (LabWare programming language used for customizations) instead of standard functionalities means that LabWare will need to compile your customizations in real-time, resulting in a loss of performance.
- The more customizations you have, the more complex future upgrades will be.
- The more customizations you have, the more difficult it will be for your IT support to solve an issue when problems arise.
Iterate Your Implementation. The LabWare platform is extremely flexible and can be configured and customized to automate virtually any laboratory operation. However, just because you can do something does not mean it is cost or time effective to do so. It is prudent to implement LabWare in stages, with the first iteration being the minimum viable solution to go into production with. Once this minimum solution is operational, users can provide feedback as to the pain points that they are experiencing, and then decisions can be made as to whether it makes sense from a financial and time perspective to customize the system to provide further automation.
Have a Master Data Management Strategy. Having a data management strategy is often an afterthought in an informatics project. Data management for any informatics implementation almost always turns out to be a much bigger task than one might have imagined, especially for those projects that involve replacing a legacy system. As much of LabWare’s functionality is data and template driven, neglecting to formulate a Master Data Management Strategy at the beginning of the project can lead to significant time and cost overruns as the project proceeds. As such, it is important to make sure that you do the work necessary to understand and plan for your static data requirements at the beginning of your LabWare project. Questions to ask include: How are we going to get data out of the legacy system and into LabWare? How are we going to harmonize data across multiple sites?
Understand User Roles and Security Permissions. LabWare has a multi-layered security framework built into the system. To fully utilize this feature, it is important to fully detail the desired user roles and the permissions associated with each role before you build the system. As with managing the static data aspects of the project, designing and implementing user permission layers can be a bigger task than expected. Waiting until the end of the project to implement a security framework is a recipe for cost and time overruns.
Don’t Go Overboard With Instrument Integration. LabWare offers several different ways to integrate instruments into the system.
- Configuring Labware to monitor and process database tables created by an external instrument.
- Web services
- XML data mapped to specific fields in Labware, or to an XSD provided by external applications. LabWare now supports the AniML XML standard for analytical chemistry data, allowing LabWare to more easily bring in data from various sources.
- Direct connection via RS-232 ports.
- Modules that support various complex laboratory instrument systems like Empower CDS.
With all these integration options, it is certainly possible to get bogged down in trying to integrate too much too soon. Some instrument integrations can be challenging and cause project delays. It is important to have a master plan that details what instruments are to be integrated and when.
Have a System Map That Details All the Templates and Modules in Use. Modules in LabWare are enhancements that are incorporated into the main application using its core language (Small Talk). These modules can be downloaded from the LabWare website and installed with the main application to achieve a new feature. It is quite common for complex LabWare implementations to have a large number of modules installed. When a customer downloads a new module that has been developed by the Labware team, it may cause some problems in other modules that they are using. This issue usually occurs in a new implementation, when adding new features into an existing implementation or when upgrading the core system version. Its therefore important to have a map of all the modules installed in your server and clients, as well as the industry template being used, so that the support team will have all the information they need to recreate the customer’s installation in a sandbox where they will try to reproduce the error.
Only People with the Correct Skills Should Program Customizations. Anyone who has taken the LIMS Basic (LabWare programing language for customization) training can start developing their codes to customize LabWare. However, there are some risks when you do not have the right people doing the work. In the past, many common mistakes made in LIMS Basic programing (e.g. not using quotation marks with a string definition) were skipped by the compiler and fixed during execution time. The compiler is in constant development by LabWare, however. LabWare 7 removed much of these automatic fixing to increase the performance of the system, resulting in a big problem for many companies when trying to upgrade.
LabWare’s ELP, which combines the functionality of LIMS and Electronic Laboratory Notebook into a single integrated solution, is unique in the informatics industry. This system offers the ability to automate virtually any laboratory workflow. While the potential for this system to help increase productivity and innovation in your laboratory environment is great, it is important to work with a quality laboratory informatics consultant who has the necessary experience with LabWare in order to realize its full potential.
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