Three digital strategies to modernise quality control lab operations

20-Jan-2022

With the proliferation of quality control (QC) digital projects to improve lab efficiency, more QC leaders are adopting standalone applications that narrowly focus on a specific need. This can lead to individual labs using different tools to execute processes, making connectivity and unification difficult, reports Jason Boyd, Senior Director, Vault LIMS, Veeva Systems

Without a holistic quality data and workflow view, these disjointed solutions, coupled with increasingly complex lab workflows, cannot deliver the expected outcomes or planned return on investment (ROI). The opportunity to transform QC labs is driving growth in the LIMS market, which is projected to reach a value of $1.8 billion by 2028.1

Although positive change in QC lab operation is happening, more work remains to address growing system silos and complexity while improving quality and agility.

Quality leaders looking to drive change in QC can implement three strategies that will help them to advance toward an agile, digital and connected lab. Such a policy can streamline sample management, test execution and lab investigation processes for faster batch release and reduced inventory expenses.

Start with the problem

Although every organisation is unique, most lab managers are trying to find better ways to streamline their lab throughput. Rather than starting with “this specific tool will solve our challenge,” encourage your organisation’s key technology strategists (think CIO or head of IT) to combine identified business problems with the organisation’s technology pursuits.

Often, QC includes a mix of manual processes that rely on paper, spreadsheets and homegrown solutions or vendor-provided point solutions. Looking at the complete quality ecosystem and evaluating improvement options that modernise multiple business processes can make a significant positive impact on the organisation.

For example, if analysts use various systems to upload and download files throughout several departments, a single document repository for all document collaboration can relieve some of the pain they experience daily when logging in and out and choosing the right system for each document type.

As QC labs need more than one application to bring together their operations, mapping out end-to-end business processes can help leaders to determine what systems or activities need to be streamlined. This process helps to assess what to keep, what to expand and what to decommission. Key considerations include whether the applications currently being used are sustainable, driving cost savings and aligning with the organisation’s roadmap.

Connect people across labs and teams

Driving successful transformation in terms of quality requires an investment to establish a comprehensive platform. Assemble a team representing the complete quality business process to define an achievable timeline, detail the priority of capabilities and establish a strategy for organisational change management.

Consider consulting firms and vendor services as an extension of this team to ensure that all the capabilities and expertise needed to address any bumps encountered along the journey. Combining internal leaders, industry experts and partners can provide the right mix of people to ensure a successful transformation.

Prioritise technology that facilitates collaboration

Once you have the right people on board, decide whether building or buying technology makes the most sense. Developing a matrix for technology selection that encompasses current and future needs and new and existing products, services and support can drive the conversation forward.

The goal should be to enable more connection and collaboration throughout quality and manufacturing. When evaluating technology, consider the following:

  • Master data management: determine the level of harmonisation or rationalisation for master data within the project and select systems to be publishers and consumers of data definitions; this should also provide the flexibility and agility to support your long-term data interface strategy without requiring an exhaustive upfront investment
  • Anytime, anywhere access to information: equip teams with real-time data and visibility into documents for improved collaboration and better productivity throughout lab operations with a goal of bringing all necessary data to each decision point
  • Applications built on the same platform: information sharing is seamless in this environment, increasing visibility and efficiency among teams
  • User experience: an intuitive UI, robust training and ongoing services drive faster process improvements and ROI
  • Automation: industry standard workflows automate quality processes and remove tedious, repetitive work, freeing up lab managers and allowing them to focus on high-value deliverables
  • Connectivity: open application programming interfaces (APIs) allow for easy integration with other lab systems, such as enterprise resource planning (ERP) or lab equipment, streamlining processes, improving efficiency and accelerating batch release times
  • Vendor alignment: identify a partner that fits in with your organisation’s goals, is committed to innovation, continually invests in building out their core competencies and has a solid track record.

Modern systems on a single technology platform can make it easier to unify the quality ecosystem, from quality assurance (QA) to training to change control and QC. Completing this transformation streamlines end-to-end processes for more efficient execution.

Ending the "what's where" question

Having a connected solution for all quality data and documents will end the “we don't know what’s where” conundrum. Because creating and using a spreadsheet is often viewed as the easiest solution to an existing challenge, organisations need to establish a comprehensive business process supported by an intuitive platform. This will stop the swivel chair approach whereby personnel pivot from one screen to another, often logging in to different systems simultaneously.

By bringing a problem into the broader quality ecosystem, establishing a team of key stakeholders and conducting a thorough technology evaluation, lab leaders can drive speed and agility across the manufacturing plant. This can optimise lab management and accelerate batch release, improving operations and delivering more value from QC.

Reference

1. www.grandviewresearch.com/industry-analysis/laboratory-information-management-system-lims-market.

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