How LIMS Turns Complexity into Productivity for Biofuels Production
Process monitoring instruments thus play a critical role in ensuring production quality, but these instruments are only as useful as the data they generate. To ensure that instrument data provides as much utility as possible, biofuels producers must ensure that their LIMS (Laboratory Information Management System) is able to accomplish four critical functions: integration (connecting all lab instruments and equipment to the LIMS and integrating the lab to other enterprise systems such as ERP, MES or PIMS), data processing (collecting instrument data and archiving it for future use), communication (distributing data throughout the organization in any format required) and regulatory compliance (secure data capture, established SOPs and methods, archiving raw instrument data, enhance uptime via internal maintenance and calibration schedules). A LIMS that excels at all four is a critical part of next–generation biofuels production.
From Data to Downtime
Cellulose feedstocks can take weeks to break down -- a process that produces an enormous amount of data, as analytical instruments monitor the batch the entire time. A LIMS can collate this data from multiple instruments and apply advanced algorithms to identify and notify lab managers of any points of concern that fall outside of acceptable levels. Quality issues can thus be detected, making it possible to halt the process before further contaminating the current batch.
This drastically reduces the time between error detection and resolution. Reduced response times, on the other hand, are critical for ensuring product quality and reducing waste. This automation capability becomes more and more important as production processes scale; the sheer volume of data generated by a large biofuels production facility makes manual data handling impractical.
One for All: How to Keep Stakeholders Updated
Like most industries, biofuels producers must keep multiple stakeholders informed throughout production. When the LIMS is fully integrated with all laboratory equipment as well as with existing manufacturing systems, lab data can become a part of the organization’s key business metrics and be shared in any required format, from analytical spectral data to management dashboards.
In addition to process data, a LIMS can also maintain and monitor instrument maintenance schedules.
When a unit is due for service, the workflow established in the LIMS provides a corresponding notification. This ensures that all instrumentation is performing at optimal rates and downtime is avoided. In addition, the LIMS can store the digital standard operating procedure (SOP) illustrating the maintenance process. Proper and timely maintenance is critical: A faulty instrument could affect the accuracy of measurement data and, ultimately, compromise the finished product. At worst, a malfunctioning or under-performing instrument can cause the process to shut down entirely, causing time and money lost due to down time.