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Set Sail for Efficiency: How LIMS Addresses the Challenges of IS0 17025

| Author / Editor: Colin Thurston / Dominik Stephan

On course for success: The Russian LNG carrier Grand Aniva carries gas from Sakhalin to Japan. Laboratory Information Management Systems (LIMS) help companies to comply with regulations and boost productivity.
On course for success: The Russian LNG carrier Grand Aniva carries gas from Sakhalin to Japan. Laboratory Information Management Systems (LIMS) help companies to comply with regulations and boost productivity. (Picture: Thermo Fisher Scientific)

What if ISO 17025 wasn’t a standard, but instead was a technology that automated laboratory best practices? What if following the regulations to the letter – often without even thinking about it – actually led to better overall business performance? In that case, it’s likely every business would aggressively deploy that technology.

“That technology” does indeed exist: It’s commonly known as LIMS, short for a Laboratory Information Management System. This essential data management and enterprise integration tool allows for managing laboratory workflow, samples, reporting and compliance requirements. And while many in the oil and gas industry think of LIMS as a way to manage important data, it is, in fact, much more than that.

Paula Hollywood of ARC Advisory recently wrote that “hydrocarbon processing laboratories are becoming almost like third-party service laboratories…this means that accreditation with standards such as ISO 17025 is no longer just nice to have, but a necessity to ensure conformance and customer satisfaction.” A “necessity for customer satisfaction” doesn’t sound anything like onerous regulation. Instead it sounds like a catalyst that is part technology, part discipline and all-encompassing. In other words, when you think of ISO 17025, don’t think compliance, think higher-quality product.

But certainly conforming to ISO 17025 standards is time-consuming, costly and technologically complex. It covers everything from contract review to method validation and quality assurance. One does not simply check a few boxes to stay in compliance — If it were that easy it wouldn’t be so beneficial in the long run. But getting into compliance – and realizing the benefits – doesn’t need to be overly costly or time-consuming.

How LIMS Supports ISO 17025

Sections 4 and 5 of ISO 17025 are the primary areas of alignment between regulatory compliance and LIMS functionality. Systems as Thermo Scientific's SampleManager, are preconfigured for compliance thus requiring no additional programming or bolt-on modules. For an onsite or third-party laboratory, built in functionality saves time, money and months of aggravation that can be associated with custom software development.

At a glance, sections 4 and 5 of ISO 17025 resemble a list of best practices for any lab. But what’s spelled out in each section is more complex that many realize: With so many interdependencies and so much relational data, it’s nearly impossible to manage without assistance from software. Sure, some have developed home-grown paper systems that seem intuitive, but ultimately they can’t scale, often contain troublesome, burdensome processes and can be slow to track down data, especially during an audit. An integrated data management system on the other hand, like the Sample Manager LIMS, is designed to mitigate complexity, easing compliance and, most important, exposing previously unrecognized opportunities for performance improvement. But how can these goals be achieved?

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