Integrating Advanced Scheduling within laboratory operations delivers greater efficiency and improved customer service.
In the laboratory a LIMS (Laboratory Information Management System) is used to keep track of information about which analyses are to be carried out on which instruments, as well as the certificates needed in order to run each instrument. Work instructions, covering how to carry out analyses, are also well documented (electronically) in the LIMS.
When to conduct the analysis of a specific sample, how to combine different samples together in the same analysis run on a specific instrument, and which person (with the correct training and certificate) should conduct the analysis is decided daily by the QC Planner or QC Manager. Normally, this is done using an Excel spreadsheet, or similar, with the help of input data regarding sample/batch due dates, available instruments and available personnel.
- Increasing production demand, along with the trend towards smaller batch sizes, has resulted in the need for more analyses. This is seldom reflected by an increase in analysis capacity in terms of instrument availability and especially the need for skilled and certified analysts.
- There is a need to be able to quickly re-schedule sample prioritization in order to meet changing customer demands spanning raw materials, semi-finished and finished goods.
- It is important to avoid overburdening the most skilled/certified analysts with work, simply because they are the people authorized to carry out many different types of analyses.
A successful solution needs to provide greater visibility over the entire QC laboratory’s operations and include the ability to process ‘What if’ scenarios.
Three key success factors for a QC lab scheduling project are:
- Connectivity – Integrated informatics that provide accurate and reliable information on request and enable priorities to be changed efficiently.
- Capacity Constraints – The ability to take into consideration capacity limits on equipment as well as certified lab operators available at any time.
- Right first time – Advanced scheduling capability that provides full visibility and enables faster, smarter decision making for optimal lab execution balancing due dates and resource availability.
These success factors can be achieved with the help of an add-on solution to LIMS, namely SIMATIC IT Preactor AS, an Advanced Planning and Scheduling solution from Siemens.
Together, ERP, LIMS and Advanced Scheduling form a complete SMART informatics solution that enables cross-functional access to real-time information, less manual planning, and more time/cost-efficient data entry.
Preactor Lab Scheduling (PLS) improves lab PLANNING by:
- Automating the grouping of samples with consideration to due dates and attributes
- Creating short-term schedules constrained by available resources (e.g. technicians and equipment)
- Creating mid-term and long-term plans, showing the load on employees and equipment
PLS supports the improvement of lab PROCESSES by:
- Reacting quickly to change – since sequencing and data within the Planning & Scheduling system are all updated automatically
- Enabling fast evaluation of ‘What if’ scenarios in Scheduling and Planning situations
- Clearly communicating when the completion of tests for every sample is planned
- Providing insights into staffing and equipment needs – supported by calculations of capacity loads for any time horizon and any time bucket, achievable in minutes rather than hours