Inside LabVantage 8.5: Complex Workflow Management

Drowning in PaperPay to the Order of…
My daughter has never written a paper check. She’s never even seen a paper check register. In the time since she started banking, everything has been electronic. Have you experienced this yet? Weird, right?

While for many of us, digitalization of our finances may still be a novelty, there is an entire generation entering the business world that views TurboTax and Quicken as ‘old-timey’ companies that have always been around.

(Rev up your wayback machine: TurboTax was created in the mid-1980’s, and Quicken – which started out as an MS-DOS program – launched in 1983).

Closed Systems & Human Error
Savings account recordQuicken and TurboTax were historically used in home offices – and are examples of closed systems. While early versions of Quicken and TurboTax may have revolutionized the way finances and taxes were tracked, there were a few working parts: the user, the software, and a (usually) illegible dot matrix printer. Bank account registers were small, hand-written booklets and wage reports (Form W-2 in the United States) were printed on paper and sent employees via snail mail.

These closed system finance platforms required manual entry and hardcopy printing for storage or mailing.

If the checkbook didn’t balance?

It was probably caused by incorrect data entry or failure to record a transaction on paper (e.g., somebody forgot to write down the check).

If taxes weren’t calculated properly?

It was likely due to an improperly written value, or a failure to follow tax instructions precisely. There were many critical spots where human error could potentially result in failed recordkeeping. And unless you hired a tax preparer, no one was there to catch the mistakes.

Pricing for a new LIMS is always a big concern when it’s time to make the investment. In the LIMS industry there are many different pricing models.Rise of the Digital Connected World
Times have changed. Today, your entire check register can be downloaded electronically from your bank and immediately reconciled by the software. Payments are sent electronically, and wage reports and investment summaries can be retrieved directly from employers and banks. No one in their right mind would want to return to the “good old days” of personal finance.

But what does a digital finance world have to do with modern labs and data management?

Transitioning the Modern Lab Informatics System
The transition into today’s connected world of personal finances is not so different than the transition to a modern laboratory informatics system. Instruments now automatically enter data, communication with external systems is immediate and transparent, and intelligent software simplifies complex processes.

So whether we’re talking about digital personal finance or advanced lab informatics, both use modern tools that are powerful, purpose-built, and connected.

How to Use LabVantage to Manage Complex Workflows
Today’s lab needs to simplify complex work, reduce risk and speed results – all key objectives of a digital transformation. If you’re looking for a LIMS that will help you manage complex workflows, these following features could be the right fit for your lab.

Instruments and External Systems
Are you building a fully-connected environment? Your digitally-focused lab has robust – and growing – informatics and data management demands. In a previous blog we explored how LabVantage maximizes throughput and minimizes the risks of manual data entry by connecting complex instruments. Because of the high volume of data created by instruments like an HPLC, having results directly entered in your LIMS is required by modern labs. But don’t forget simple instruments! Even a desktop balance can be connected for direct result entry.

The key to connecting external systems is web services. These small packages of web data trigger actions on other systems, and transport critical data between systems in a manner that is standards-compliant and reliable.

[Want to learn more? Check out our blog on LIMS Web Services to discover how LabVantage REST and SOAP-based web services can simplify complex, multi-system workflows.]

Laboratory Execution System (LES)
Do you remember how TurboTax changed tax preparation by providing step-based wizards that led you through the collection of relevant tax data? Similarly, LabVantage LES can lead your lab analyst through the proper steps to complete pre-defined tests while providing guidance along the way.

In order to simplify complex workflows, labs need to remove paper from the process of data entry. A LES allows users to transition away from paper. (In the case of LabVantage, users can take advantage of a single, fully integrated LIMS platform.)

Not only does LES remove errors associated with manual data transcription, it also:

  • allows users to see instructions from standard procedures on screen
  • guides users toward instruments that are available and certified for use
  • connects to instruments for automatic data entry
  • tracks the inventory and amounts of reagents used during testing
  • meticulously tracks data changes to comply with the strictest regulatory standards, and more.

Electronic Lab Notebook (ELN)
Your R&D environment needs a way to track ad hoc testing in a manner that is flexible, secure, and encourages documented creativity. Traditionally that has been a paper laboratory notebook, but ELNs are increasingly being used in labs. LabVantage’s ELN, which is fully-integrated within the LabVantage LIMS platform, contains capabilities similar to the LES. In addition, it also provides a framework that allows ad hoc modifications and removes the restrictions of pre-defined guidance.

LabVantage ELN allows users to add and remove ELN content on the fly, including controls for:

·        document and file attachments

·        embedded spreadsheets

·        data entry

·        consumables (e.g. reagents)

·        equipment (e.g. instruments and labware)

·        and much more.

Additionally, ELN worksheets can be collected into project workbooks, and even copied and shared so that repetitive work is eliminated.

Because LabVantage LIMS, ELN and LES are all part of the same platform, it means that any data stored in one can be immediately available in another without having to copy, send, or transcribe data between systems.

Workflow Engine
You might be wondering how to connect all of these separate functions into a cohesive and speedy process. LabVantage Workflows allow your LIMS administrator to connect preconfigured operations in an end-to-end process without having to do unnecessary navigation within the application. Similar to the wizard-driven LES, Workflows can even manage processes across functions within the LIMS, LES, and ELN.

Entire labs completing all of their work within the context of LabVantage Workflows isn’t unusual. The reason it’s popular? LabVantage Workflows allows users to minimize clicks and maximize output.

Where every workflow is broken down into tasks, users can start, stop, and pause Workflows, allowing them to easily track the progress of work, and jump back into a sequence of Tasks previously started.

In addition to the catalog of already-defined-upon-installation tasks in the out-of-the-box product, the Workflow Manager allows your administrators to create new Tasks and Workflows using the efficiencies of LabVantage APIs, existing user screens, and an intuitive drag-and-drop interface.

LabVantage LIMS workflows

Growing Demand for Complex Workflow Management in Labs
Lab operations are becoming more complex. Between connecting & extracting data from your instrumentation and other platforms, tracking ad hoc testing, leading lab analysts through complicated testing steps, or performing functions across the LIMS, LES and ELN platforms, it’s a challenge that only seems to be growing.

The answer is complex workflow management. It helps connect various lab functions & systems, and allows you to build fast, automated processes or connect preconfigured operations in an end-to-end process without unnecessary navigation.

Learn more about how to manage complex workflows with LabVantage 8 >