Maintenance and Repairs within LIMS
By Robert Benz, Sales & Marketing Director for Khemia
Ask any seasoned analyst in a laboratory about the
maintenance and repairs on a particular instrument they work on and they can
speak volumes. From firsthand
experience, I could tell you how often I had repaired the FIA, the old
spectrometer on the bench, when the balance was last checked and what we had
done to the mercury analyzer. The
chemist in our ICP room could tell you every nut and bolt on the ICP, the last
time the torch had been replaced and when the pump tubing was last
changed. This data was generally
recorded in one of the log books by the instrument. Of course, looking back for any details was
like finding a needle in a haystack.
Much of the knowledge was ingrained over time within the analysts
working on the instrument. Anytime a seasoned
analyst left and a new person took their position, that knowledge was lost and
had to largely be regained over time.
Though no one and no one thing can replace the intimate
knowledge of a particular analyst on a particular instrument quickly, however, the
proper recording of instrument maintenance and repairs within LIMS can go a
long ways towards helping. The days of
searching through log book after log book to find a note on how something was
done or to find a printout of a “simple” repair is long past. So is trying to find the service contract
phone number or email address that used to be stuck to the side of the
instrument (need we compare stories on how those became unreadable in time?).
As seen above, each instrument is recorded within the
LIMS with all pertinent information including manufacturer, model, serial
number, additional info, service agreement information including contract
number, contract expiration date and contact, whether or not the instrument is
From this main screen, the working Maintenance Log along
with a printable copy (upper right) is available along with the IDL Limits,
Linked Files and Corrective Action. When
the Maintenance Log (second tab as shown) is selected, the following screen
All notes such as analyst, date and action are recorded
along with if a service call was required.
A printable version of this may be seen below:
Equally important is the final tab for Linked Files. With this tab, all information in-house
associated with a particular instrument may be linked. Today most instrument manufacturers offer
PDFs of the manual, which may be linked and forever available to the analysts (no
more disappearing manuals that were taken home for light reading before bed – sadly, a
true story by a former employee).
Invoices associated with repairs, technician notes, etc. may be linked
here for a permanent record by attaching external files.
Additionally, weekly, quarterly or biannual maintenance
may be scheduled to remind the analyst of what needs to be done. As Benjamin Frankly once said, “an ounce of
prevention is worth a pound of cure.” This
is not only still relevant, but equally as true. Upon occasion, such notes are all that is
needed to keep an auditor happy.
While there is no replacement for firsthand knowledge and
experience, there are many way to ease the learning curve and ensure the
success of the analyst, the instrument and the laboratory. Taking advantage of what a LIMS has to offer can
greatly facilitate all facets of this process.
For any additional information, please contact Robert
Benz (firstname.lastname@example.org) at Khemia
Software, Inc. (www.khemia.com).