A LIMS is a great and almost necessary tool in any modern day environmental laboratory, whether commercial, state or municipal. In a highly regulated community, the LIMS, like everything else in the laboratory, must evolve. Some evolutions are complex, however, 99% of them are very simple and in many ways, mostly a matter of proper record keeping.
Changes in regulatory limits, methods (calculations, limits, method variations, etc.), recording keeping criteria (HR and training records, instrument validation studies, case narratives) and countless other changes occur. All of these changes may be easily and effectively recorded in the LIMS and, most importantly, documented with a time and date stamp. In the case of changes to an actual method, as soon as they are entered by a user with proper authority and published, the new limits and variations go into immediate effect.
How to best stay on top of changes within the environmental laboratory community? One, your LIMS vendor should actively participate in various conferences and be a bit proactive. As a LIMS vendor, I can honestly say we do what we can but are far from perfect. Our clients are an invaluable source of information as well; particularly on the state level. Two, stay informed. There are numerous state level conferences as well as national conference such as the TNI Conference (www.nelac-institute.org) and NEMC (www.nemc.us). An easy, third way is subscribe to a newsletter such as Calibrate put out by Catalyst Information Resources, LLC (www.catalystinforesources.com). In the case of Calibrate, a new newsletter appears in your inbox every Monday morning by the time you have your first cup of coffee at your desk.
Keeping up to date in our current regulatory environment is typically not complex, it just take a bit of effort and forethought and possibly an easy tool or two. Keeping the LIMS up to date far more often than not simply requires putting the information you have gained through various sources to use in the LIMS.
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