Test tubes with a pipette
6 mins read

Customer Q&A: Key Takeaways from a 14 Year Partnership with Bayer

February 9, 2024

With over 14 years of working with STARLIMS, Senior Business Solution Architect at Bayer AG, Tassilo Steffl, knows how to get the most value out of a laboratory information management system (LIMS).  

In this fireside chat with STARLIMS Chief Strategy & Marketing Officer Brandon Henning, Tassilo discusses some of the key takeaways and benefits from the partnership with STARLIMS. Notably: 

  • How Bayer uses STARLIMS to help simplify compliance in their crop protection laboratory ecosystem globally
  • Bayer’s upgrade to QM v12.3 with HTML5 
  • Advice on how to get the LIMS implementation right 

Brandon Henning: I’d like to welcome Tassilo Steffl from Bayer, an organization that has partnered with STARLIMS since the late 2000s. Welcome, Tassilo. Thanks for joining us!

Can you tell us a little bit about your role at Bayer? 

Tassilo Steffl, Senior Business Solution Architect, Regulatory Science, Bayer AG: Yes. Thank you, Brandon. I work for Regulatory Science, the part of the organization that conducts studies to get products released on the market. My role is Data Science and Digitalization. I focus on driving the digitalization of our safety centers and implementing automation with a strong emphasis on data capture in the lab space. I also organize and run systems to support the lab technicians in their daily work. 

All of this is in the context of a highly regulated business under the umbrella of GxP regulations. This involves a significant amount of work for computer system validation with each change and rollout of systems. I oversee, consult, and design solutions as a Business Architect in this area.  

Brandon Henning: Could you share how long you’ve been using STARLIMS, how it’s been going, and the key features you’ve implemented?  

Tassilo Steffl: My journey with STARLIMS began in 2009 when, as a customer, I rolled out and operated the Quality Manufacturing LIMS for crop analysis. The organization spanned the globe from Singapore to Sacramento, California, including locations in Europe, North America, and Asia. 

In 2015, we initiated the establishment of a central LIMS for crop protection, focusing on the chemical space in Bayer Crop Science. We implemented a single LIMS for the regulatory science area, hosted in a German data center, overseeing laboratories in Europe (Germany and France), North America (Saint Louis), and South America (Sao Paulo), with potential expansion in the future. 

The rollout process is time-consuming, prioritizing major installations before adapting to smaller labs. My role since 2015 has centered on the Crop Protection Regulatory Science area, specifically managing the LIMS. While we have other LIMS connected, such as those in the clinical vertical, my primary focus is on the central system operated across global labs for the Crop Protection business. 

Brandon Henning: So, it sounds like you’re using our LIMS in several labs across different countries. Are there different use cases for those labs, or is it all the same use case? 

Tassilo Steffl: Yes, there are different use cases. The main one currently is the Residue Analysis Lab, determining residues of crop protection products in plants, animals, soil, water, etc. globally.  

Additionally, we centrally manage equipment and inventory with the LIMS, independent of the residue studies. The regulatory authorities mandate meticulous management of our equipment, ensuring proper maintenance and thorough documentation of maintenance and calibration events. This centralized oversight takes place at our headquarters in Monheim and the associated laboratories within the Regulatory Science division. The entire process is efficiently managed through our LIMS, providing seamless coordination and control. 

We are planning a significant upgrade to version 12.3, moving into the AWS cloud environment. This upgrade will allow us to integrate other labs, such as the radioactive measurement group, into our workflows. 

Brandon Henning: Thank you for sharing. Can you tell me what made you choose STARLIMS, considering your long journey with the platform? 

Tassilo Steffl: The decision was made around 2009 after evaluating different LIMS vendors. STARLIMS was chosen based on the people and consulting services provided by STARLIMS. The collaboration model and the professional services offered by STARLIMS were crucial. The relationships with both the Netherlands and German parts of the organization were highly promising. While many companies can implement LIMS, the people side and professional services were decisive factors. 

Brandon Henning: I’m sure Lauren Whitsell from our professional services team will love to hear that. Implementations are such a crucial part of LIMS journey, and we’re happy to hear your confidence in our team.

Were there any challenges or key learnings from your LIMS implementation that you’d like to share? 

Tassilo Steffl:  One major challenge was the lack of browser agnosticism with XFD technology. Migrations and upgrades, especially with customizations, keep me up at night. The burden of GLP (good laboratory practices) requires careful handling during migrations. Documentation and understanding the impact of bigger changes were cumbersome. However, the support from internal IT and STARLIMS was crucial in overcoming these challenges. 

Brandon Henning: I’m excited to work with you on the upgrade HTML5, which I think will bring some value in terms of some of the things that you’ve identified.

What do you find most valuable about STARLIMS, and what do you like the most about the solution? 

Tassilo Steffl: The most valuable aspect is the audit trailing and its meticulous configuration for every interaction within the LIMS. For instance, if there’s a change, a prompt appears indicating the necessity to file a note or perform a digital signature. This is crucial for operating in a regulated business under GxP. The audit trail is pivotal for obtaining the operational license, especially in a regulated environment like ours. 

The ability of the Laboratory Execution System (LES) to guide users through transactions and document processes, through a mobile touch screen, has also been essential. For example, lab technicians who are performing a specific transaction, such as if a component requires dilution, can do this all while documenting it in a GLP compliant way. This functionality, now part of the standard product with LES, is crucial for us. It supports lab technicians during work execution, providing guidance and enabling immediate documentation. 

Furthermore, in our highly regulated environment, there comes a point where we need to substantiate that everything was done correctly. This is where the audit trail becomes exceptionally crucial. These capabilities are, perhaps, unique to a highly regulated setting, but they stand as the most vital aspects of STARLIMS for us. 

Brandon Henning: Do you have any additional advice for those considering choosing or implementing a LIMS? 

Tassilo Steffl: Get your processes right and have a clear understanding of them. Clearly describe your processes and align or harmonize them before engaging with the implementation team. Flexibility in processes can be discussed during implementation, saving time and customization investments. A clear understanding of processes upfront is crucial for a successful LIMS implementation. 

Brandon Henning: Great advice! Finally, what do you see in your future with STARLIMS? 

Tassilo Steffl: We are on the verge of transitioning to the cloud environment with the upcoming 12.3 or 12.4 version, which is HTML5-based. This move is anticipated to open up numerous opportunities for upgrades 

Looking ahead to the next year, we plan to incorporate additional laboratories into our system, utilizing standard workflows and the LES. These new additions will focus on areas such as aquatic testing, soil analysis, and pollinator testing. Confident in our standard capabilities, we believe we can seamlessly integrate these laboratories.  

Future plans include additional integration work for different instruments and exploring reporting solutions with web service capabilities. The plan is to continue expanding and including a laboratory in Australia into the central system. 

Brandon Henning: Thank you for sharing your insights. We appreciate your time today. 

Tassilo Steffl: You’re welcome. It was a pleasure being here. Thank you very much.