Automating Sample Collection and Management Reporting in Laboratories

Found in the Red River Valley, which borders Minnesota and North Dakota, American Crystal Sugar Company has five sugar processing sites and a research site for microbiology testing. Through extraction from sugar beets, the combined sites process five billion pounds of sugar every year. The QA/QC laboratory is responsible for the sample processing and analysis for all sites.

Key Challenges

American Crystal employed a homegrown system written in FoxPro, which had been developed and installed in each of their laboratories. Over time, every location had customized a unique solution with no thought to a standardized method to quality management reporting. Therefore, gathering quality data became a huge task when corporate management needed consolidated reporting results from numerous laboratories.

System Sought

The solution needed to address the requirements of each of the laboratories and be achieved within a single common database. In addition, the system needed to be able to automatically schedule the collection of samples at frequent intervals.

Seamless data collection from the process control instrumentation was crucial, and the ability to interface to other databases was required. In addition, they needed a simple-to-use reporting solution to support management’s information sharing requirements.

System Delivered

Since September 2001, LabVantage LIMS has been operational at American Crystal. It is employed in five manufacturing QA/QC laboratories with around 100 users, including the research facility. 

LabVantage LIMS utilizes workflows for gathering samples, auditing the facility, altering sample status automatically when samples are processed, and auto-emailing based on calendar dates. For the combined six laboratories, the system peaks at more than 7,000 samples a day, with tests performed for sugar pH, purity, alkalinities and Refractometric Dry Substance (RDS). The granulated sugar is tested for color, sediment, moisture, ash, granulation, and visible specks.

Looking Ahead

Laboratory management can make decisions confidently and quickly using the test data, which is shown in a time-based, graphical format. Management has also found that they can now utilize LABVANTAGE for customer audits to monitor outstanding audit issues and supply good feedback to customers. This has vastly enhanced responsiveness and the capability to ensure that audits possess documented corrective action plans.

This information has been sourced, reviewed and adapted from materials provided by LabVantage Solutions, Inc.

For more information on this source, please visit LabVantage Solutions, Inc.

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