Whenever a company looks to improve the efficiency of their field work and laboratory testing, the subject of a paperless laboratory is never far away. Previously the idea has been dismissed or parked as a result of either technology requirements or the practical problems of tracking a sample around the laboratory without the usual paper trail.
The key to efficient laboratory data management is to avoid re-entering any data. This includes sample data, scheduling information or test results. When a laboratory relies on a pen and paper approach it is quite common to see systems that require some data to be re-entered 3 or 4 times during the life of the sample. When you add each of these stages up, the data re-entry bill is quite considerable even for a small laboratory.
KeyLAB version 2.1 was launched recently, the laboratory Information Management System has a strong following in the UK where its creators; Keynetix heavily promote the two golden rules for data entry – 1) only do it once and 2) get someone else to do it (use AGS for import as well as export).
Dr Roger Chandler, Managing Director of Keynetix met with several laboratory managers to determine what modifications would be needed to KeyLAB to meet the requirements of the industry. As a result of these meetings; Keynetix have implemented 18 major improvements to KeyLAB 2.1, most of which are aimed at assisting laboratories wishing to reduce data re-entry even further.
“Because of the flexible way KeyLAB allows you to implement your existing spreadsheet solutions we have seen a large number of our customer base already reaching the point where they only write the data once and type it once. These customers are now pushing ahead for the final efficiency gain and removing the writing elements of their process.”
Interestingly when you analyse the paper and pen stage it will become clear that the problem is caused by the pen and not the paper. It is the writing of data that causes the re-keying of data not the reading of it. To head for a truly paperless laboratory is a difficult and considerably more expensive goal and has a number of complications associated with simple operations like determining what tests a tray of prepared soil is waiting for (usually what the paper on top of it says!) and what test the tins in the oven are for (again with paper a simple case of referring to a written record).
So in order to make your laboratory truly efficient, don’t go paperless, go penless!