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LIMS and the environment Water testing

Water monitoring is a critical process for many companies and the LIMS plays a major role in this process. ‘Laboratory Information Management Systems (LIMS) have become more common and necessary in testing facilities as regulations have become increasingly more stringent,’ comments Donna Reioux, quality manager of Nova, a Thermo Fisher Scientifi c customer and major US provider of water testing for drinking and wastewater. ‘A LIMS schedules and holds sampling plans, and then a collection run is generated for each sampler. The collection designates where samples are taken from and what tests must be performed onsite. Following this, samples are analysed in the laboratory and water quality data and details of what has been carried out in the fi eld is entered into the LIMS. This is of vital importance to water companies like ourselves who must collect and analyse water samples in a closely regulated environment, producing and updating quality control records in case of inspection or audits. ‘Prior to using a LIMS, we managed our

workfl ow using a paper model sustained by an out-dated LIMS. This system had major problems as it only permitted entry of Coliform data and had minimal reporting capabilities. The old system was also located on only one computer so it could only be used by a single employee at any one time. This caused bottlenecks within the laboratory, greatly limiting the volume of samples that were able to be processed in a single day.’ US drinking water supplier WaterOne recently

opted for the Matrix Gemini system from Autoscribe to replace a previous LIMS developed in house. ‘The former legacy system was built on an old platform and staff were constantly making patches to it,’ says the company. ‘Flexibility was the highest priority - WaterOne needed a product that fi t both their present and future needs and a product that supported internal and fi eld-based staff in the same environment.’

Spanish water company Aguas de Murcia uses LabWare’s LIMS. ‘The processes related to the environment are considered critical by the company, as well as being subjected to strict control,’ comments Pedro Abellán, head of analytical control and Pablo Casas, head of software development and support at Aguas de Murcia. ‘It is necessary that the techniques used and the information obtained and processed complies with the quality standards and is fully traceable. Also, it is important to have information that allows an agile quick action in case of potential implications. Confi gurable alerts are an indispensable help to keep the process under control. ‘Our LIMS is the tool that is used to plan much of the monitoring control activity. It is the system where information is collected from various sources usually automatically (internal laboratories, external laboratories, on-line sensors, fi eld data through hand-held terminals, etc). Our LIMS provides an accurate information output suitable for our public administration requirements, as well as providing graphical map representations “on-line” with the data,’ they conclude.

too: ‘In order to manage our data adequately, the system we use needs to guarantee that data is centralised in one database that is able to support multiple departments across the Nova site. We have to be able to track the status and workfl ow through the lab lifecycle from submission to fi nal analysis, while eliminating error-prone redundant data entry processes and paper trails using automated process. It is essential for multiple users to access the system at any one time, and for documents like SOPs and training records to be available for audit purposes and traceability,’ says Reioux of the water- testing fi rm. Another trend is towards the use of

mobile devices in data capture. ‘We’re seeing more people requiring web access and/or mobile,’ observes Chapman of Autoscribe. ‘Data could be sent back to the lab in real time or stored on the handheld device to all be downloaded later.’ However, he noted that this area is still in its infancy, possibly because companies may have lingering concerns about the security of sensitive data sent over mobile networks that are out of the labs’ control.

The future The future requirements of LIMS from environmental labs are largely unknown and will probably depend heavily on the stipulations of regulators. For this reason, fl exibility is key, says Chapman. ‘The levels of compounds being

measured may change year on year, new techniques may be required for analysis, new samples may need analysis. In addition, there may well be requirements in the future that are unknown at present. This means that you need a very fl exible system to be able to take the future requirements into account. However, any and all changes must be monitored and it is essential that changes to the system and the data it contains are fully audited and that audit trails and chains of custody can be produced if required by the auditors,’ he explains. As Gabathuler, director, industrial

and environmental at LabWare, sums up: ‘Effective informatics facilitates research – enabling more, better and faster studies and experiments. At its best it should provide the fl exibility and freedom that true research needs while at the same time capturing data and results with an underlying structure that enables long-term (indefi nite) storage, full traceability, and fl exible analysis and reporting.’ And these are all things worth

remembering next time you turn on the tap. 10 SCIENTIFIC COMPUTING WORLD

Chepko Danil Vitalevich/

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