A National LIMS
For The Environment
Agency Of England And Wales
flexibility brings harmony to a diverse organization The
Environment Agency is the leading public environmental organisation within
England and Wales. The Agency is responsible for protecting and improving
water quality, waste management, air quality, flood defence and all
aspects of fish and land conservation.
National Laboratory Service (NLS) is an integral part of the Environment
Agency, providing chemical and microbiological analyses crucial to the
operation of the organisation. The NLS comprises 5 laboratories (4 in
England and 1 in Wales) employing over 350 dedicated members of staff. 5
million analytical tests are performed each year, in addition to the 1.5
million field measurements taken by the Agency’s sampling team.
Gawler processing sample bottles for analysis
laboratory daily receives several hundred sample bottles. To ensure the
accuracy of testing methods, quality control (QC) samples must also be
analysed. These QC procedures are applied consistently throughout the NLS.
Analytical results are posted to the Public Register and are utilised by
the UK government and a variety of organisations to monitor the condition
of our environment.
for a national LIMS became obvious in the 1990s and in 1998 a new national
extensive consideration, StarLIMS™, from Lab Data Management Ltd, was
selected as the preferred solution. The key factors considered were:
Flexibility. The system had to handle the diverse working practices
within the different laboratories, and be adaptable to future
requirements (i.e., “future-proof”).
development phase for the system was essential for the projects’
Compatibility with UKAS accreditation.
capability of interfacing with diverse external systems such as, various
pre-scheduling systems and the Water Quality Archive (the Public
Configuring STARLIMS™ to the NLS requirements began in1998, with
implementation at Exeter in1999. The system has since expanded to handle
additional requirements with minimal disruptions.
merger of the Exeter and Reading laboratories creating a new “Super-Lab”
at Starcross, presented new challenges to the STARLIMS™ system. It
resulted in a 60% increase in workload, and additional functionality to
transfer work between NLS laboratories on demand.
In the words of Dave Wood, a member of the NLS Management Team and the
project manager for the NLS STARLIMS™ implementation:
flexibility and scalability of the STARLIMS™ product facilitated the
system is implemented as a client-server application licensed for 120
concurrent users over 5 sites. Samples are quickly and accurately
processed using barcode reading, and barcode label printing technology is
used to enhance efficiency when handling bottles.
to the system is an Analytical QC module, as QC samples account for
approximately 17% of the workload. The Analytical QC module ensures the
accuracy and precision of sample results are maintained to exacting
standards. This feature preserves UKAS accreditation.
system design allows transfer of sample bottles and associated analytical
tests between any of the laboratories, facilitating centres of expertise.
Recently a quotations and charging module has been added to enhance system
functionality. This allows the NLS to improve its costs management,
providing better accountability.
strategic system STARLIMS™ provides the NLS with a number of benefits:
fundamental creation of a harmonised LIMS across the organisation.
Analytical Quality Control is managed more consistently due to this
flexibility to relocate work on demand within the organisation,
maximising resources both tactically and strategically.
Standardised reporting procedures eliminated inconsistencies between
laboratories both in sample reports and internal management reports.
Financial module provides the laboratories with a uniform quotations and
Performance Monitoring module enhances resource planning and efficiency.
use of a multi-tier architecture, in which the business rules are
maintained separately from the technology layer, allows the NLS to
upgrade to new technology easily without loss of content. This
facilitates changes to the business process and implementation of new
Dave Samuels - A happy user at Starcross
implementation no time lag between the legacy system running down and the
STARLIMS™ system running up was allowed.
LIMS is a
strategic application that impacts many facets of the business
vital to field a multi-disciplinary project team, involving the LIMS
supplier, business process personnel, laboratory staff and appropriate
technical and database support professionals.
STARLIMS™ implementation has brought many benefits to the NLS by providing
a harmonised LIMS across the organisation. STARLIMS™ accommodates
differences in working practices within each laboratory whilst maintaining
consistency of approach. New functionality can easily be provided and the
system architecture facilitates new technology without major re-investment
or loss of content. The partnership between StarLIMS™ and the Agency,
will allow the NLS to maintain its reputation for high quality analysis
produced under exacting quality standards in the provision of
environmental analytical services.