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Testing, testing...

18 October 2012

Dr Eliot Randle
Dr Eliot Randle

Lab testing is an important part of new product development for food manufacturers. David Strydom spoke to experts such as Dr Eliot Randle, principal analyst at IDBS (pictured), about how effective data management is with respect to lab testing and equipment.

Effective data management is critical with respect to lab testing and equipment, but the type of importance depends on who you speak to.

Dr Eliot Randle, principal analyst at IDBS says the drive for increased efficiencies and process optimisation, while maintaining high safety and quality standards, results in greater demands on food industry employees, putting more emphasis on the monitoring, management and reporting of business critical data.

''Laboratory testing involves a variety of equipment, each producing an ever-increasing volume of data,'' says Eliot. ''Data management strategies should not be limited to storing this data centrally and securely. Effective data management systems go beyond this, ensuring the capture of error-free, context-rich data, facilitating traceability, assuring compliance with regulatory standards and providing a solid foundation for continuous improvement initiatives.

''Such systems also enable data to be made available to the people who need it, when they need it. This aids decision-making and simplifies the subsequent re-use of the data, for analysis and reporting purposes.

''Effective data management also makes it possible to promptly identify quality issues and easily combine data across samples, batches, tests and processes, saving hours or even days in reporting. For example, rapidly combining all analytical or QC data, such as that generated during a shelf-life study, with the associated sensory testing data which would normally have taken several people many days to compile.

''Further examples include retrieving all calibration data from an instrument for trending and collating and assessing the data associated with the development of a new laboratory method.''

Eliot says that systems such as IDBS' E-WorkBook Suite, which take a holistic approach to data management, have been proven to drive productivity, improve quality and enable more effective information exchange and collaboration.

Clive Collier, MD of Two Fold Software, says effective data management within the food industry is essential. With well-analysed and integrated data, companies can make informed decisions, resolve problems and produce accurate business forecasts. However, one bad product or product recall can cost companies significant sums of money and damage reputations.

''The amount of information derived from laboratory testing can be huge and managing it may be a challenge,'' says Clive. ''While many manufacturers cope using a mixture of desktop tools, paper-based systems and in-house developed LIMS (Laboratory Information Management Systems) to control the data, these are often difficult to develop and validate and expensive to maintain.

''In comparison, commercial LIMS provide a number of benefits. Offering improved batch and sample management together with fast access and rapid data analysis, it means reduced admin time. Users can be confident that all changes are tracked and stored in audit trails, and that company testing processes are adhered to.

''On a wider scale, modern LIMS allow businesses to release raw materials and products faster and with improved quality. This provides increased service to customers and better management reporting. Qualoupe LIMS by Two-Fold Software is an affordable fully featured LIMS for large and small organisations.''



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