By Robert Benz, Sales & Marketing Director for Khemia
Laboratories continually find a way to readily retrieve,
share, report, and store analytical data from instruments. In prior years, instrument data was printed
or handwritten on data sheets, double-checked/verified and passed along to data
entry clerks for submission into a reporting system. With improvements in LIMS
and instrument software, what was once a drawn out procedure has become a far more
automated and less daunting process.
Below are several of the many benefits to the complete integration
of instrument data upload to LIMS:
in transcription errors
of an unbroken audit trail
(much greater!) laboratory efficiency
Any one of these benefits is more than enough to merit instrument
integration. The integration process is a
worthwhile endeavor for laboratory employees at multiple levels, from analysts
and laboratory managers to quality control supervisors to upper
management/ownership. It only takes a short time for the entire staff to
understand the merits at some direct level.
Upon looking into the decision to automate instrument
imports, the first obvious question is: how much will it cost? Unfortunately,
that question does not always have a simple answer. The cost can depend on what
LIMS you own or are looking to buy; some LIMS vendors charge per instrument
setup while others charge per integration type, so as if you have a bench of
the same instrument there is only one payment.
Additionally, some LIMS companies (Khemia included) have an open-ended
integration feature which allows clients to integrate their own instruments,
while other LIMS companies keep this locked, denying client access. Another issue to consider is whether or not an
instrument essentially counts as one of the named or concurrent users. Although most LIMS vendors do not count an
instrument as a user, this does vary by vendor.
Analytical run in Khemia’s
Omega 11 showing the instrument used.
Note the Data Import to the right hand side for bringing runs into the
LIMS. From this tab, raw data from the
instrument may be selected from folders and brought into the LIMS.
Once instrument integration has been decided upon, the
next concerns which must be addressed are:
-With regard to network security, are instruments allowed
on the network?
-Is data only coming from the instrument to the LIMS
-Is data intended to be bidirectional? Will both the LIMS and the instrument software
-Is any middleware (third party software) needed?
-What data is to be imported from the instrument
file? Raw or calculated data? QC
data? How much
QC data? Blanks, CVS, LCS, Duplicates, etc.?
All of these questions should be thoughtfully considered
and often must be answered by the individual laboratory, as the LIMS and/or
instruments are capable of answering these questions in different ways. For example, laboratories often have options as
to whether or not the instrument software will apply the quality control
checks, dry weight corrections and dilution values, or whether that laboratory
wants LIMS to handle these calculations internally. Next, where is this data review going to take
place? Many laboratories import the raw
file and have the LIMS do the data checks and apply the calculations, while
others handle this directly on the instrument software. After this host of practical and logistical
questions are answered, the final step is the actual integration of the
instruments. Fortunately, even
rudimentary and older instruments can be integrated with a LIMS provided they
have a RS232 or USB port. It is not
uncommon to use third party software/middleware in these cases, but this is relatively
Unfortunately, there is currently no data standard for
laboratory instruments. An emerging data
standard covering a range of instrumentation is AnIML (Analytical Information Markup
Language). Currently, for many
instruments, XML, CSV and PDF are common output types as well as TXT files. It is important for the data be presented in a
format that the LIMS can handle. ASCII
files, ODBC and proprietary transactions are among the most common methods of
transferring data. However, transferring data via ODBC or API requires a full
understanding of the LIMS table structure.
There are a number of references that can be utilized to
facilitate instrument integration.
First, whether using a LIMS currently or looking to purchase a LIMS,
LIMS vendors are generally happy to talk with clients and make suggestions
based on past experience. At Khemia, we
ultimately address this topic in at least eight out of ten live
demonstrations. Second, there are some
well written, thorough references that help make great guidelines such as ASTM
E1578-13 (or -18) Standard Guide for Laboratory Informatics.
In summary, instrument integration with a modern LIMS is
an extremely beneficial exercise for which the laboratory will reap substantial
rewards in terms of data quality, traceability, and cost effectiveness. Almost
every instrument, provided it has at least an RS232 port, may be interfaced
with almost every new LIMS. Keep in mind
however, that the integration might be unidirectional and not bidirectional, might
require third party software and/or might take some time to develop a
Registration is now open for the 2019 Environmental Measurement Symposium, the combined meeting of the Forum on Laboratory Accreditation and the National Environmental Monitoring Conference (NEMC). The 2019 Symposium will be held at the Hyatt Regency Jacksonville from August 5-9, 2019. Some of the highlights for the week include:
A special half-day general session with key speakers focused on the conference theme;
Over 180 oral and poster presentations on a variety of cutting-edge environmental monitoring issues;
Meetings of TNI Committees to further TNI efforts on environmental laboratory accreditation, proficiency testing, and accreditation of field sampling and measurement organizations;
An exhibit program showcasing the latest innovations in environmental monitoring;
An innovative new technology showcase;
Four (4) special keynote presentations on topics of general interest;
Three (3) training courses on managing an environmental laboratory, solid-phase extraction, and radiochemistry; and
An open meeting of EPA’s Environmental Laboratory Advisory Board.