Foremost Farms is a dairy cooperative that is owned by around 4,400 dairy farmers in Michigan, Indiana, Illinois, Wisconsin, Iowa, Ohio, and Minnesota. The 26 manufacturing plants of the cooperative produce chilled, ready-to-serve juices; packaged fluid milk; sour cream; cheese; butter and a variety of value-added whey ingredients. It has 25 laboratories which are used to test cheese, milk, and food ingredients.
Each of the Foremost Farms laboratories had developed their own approaches for data collection and storage. There were two basic data collection requirements which had to be considered. These were:
- The data which is analyzed for their patrons (the cooperative farmers) and regulatory agencies
- The data from the ingredients manufacturing processes
The ingredients laboratories were utilizing an Excel spreadsheet technique where the patron milk sample data was being collected and managed by a set of distributed systems. The outcome of this was a huge amount of data existing in separate systems, which could not be easily searched or tracked.
In order to meet the needs of everyone involved, it was agreed that a standard LIMS should be implemented. The company was willing to commit the laboratory and IT and resources needed for the project development and long term support.
Yet, it required a user-managed system, which, from a laboratory technician’s standpoint, was easy-to-use, and configurable by the users with regard to setting up screens and queries after it was installed.
Put simply, they did not want to assign an IT person to the laboratory to support the system permanently, but preferred to support the LIMS as they would any other large corporate database.
The company looked at their requirements and decided that they required a LIMS solution which could solve the following problems:
- Creation of information packages by marketing and the technical departments for customers
- Standardization of testing procedures and forms across the entire company
- Report creation for internal distribution and government reporting to different states and the USDA
- Improved products tracking to yield.
- Limiting access to data by individual and by role
- Instrument interfacing
- Fast and accurate test results comparisons to specifications
- Lot analysis and customer specification checking to establish the appropriate customer for the product.
- Configurability and support by laboratory personnel. The company formed a task force to establish the requirements of the laboratories and choose a company-wide vendor
- Access to the data from anywhere on the corporate intranet
- Deployment to all locations from a single database server
Initially, seven LIMS vendors were identified and LabVantage was the final choice. This decision was undertaken due to the out-of-the-box functionality and the configurability inherent in LabVantage. Additionally, the size of the company and the level of support which a company the size of LABVANTAGE could offer, were deciding factors in the decision.
The system has been implemented in 25 laboratories, it handles most of the data collection requirements at the seven ingredients laboratories and the other locations utilize the system for milk testing for the cheese plants, tracing data going to/from central lab locations, and patron herd testing.
LabVantage handles about 1200 samples for the central laboratories and a further 300 samples per day for the ingredients laboratory. Every day, another 3,000 patron milk samples are interfaced to the patron payment system. The current implementation of LIMS has around 50 instruments interfaced to it including:
- Foss/Milko Scan (an infrared milk testing instrument)
- pH meters
- Analytical balances from several different manufacturers
- LECO Protein analyzers
- Aquastar Moisture analyzers
They have also utilized the Aironet radio link system, which enables the laboratory personnel to gather data on mobile laptops, which directly load the data into the LIMS via the radio link.
Therefore, the data is contained in the laboratory and patron payment systems instead of distributed over the multitude of systems that previously existed. Foremost Farms personnel now know exactly where to locate their desired data selections.
Data from any laboratory is available throughout the corporate network once it has been entered into LabVantage, the database is housed on a server located at the corporate headquarters in Baraboo, Wisconsin.
The LabVantage application is also driven from the headquarters site and utilizes a Citrix (Metaframe) server pool which runs on 14 dual processor systems. This enables the Corporate IT staff to support the application and database from a central location and there is no need to go to the laboratories for system installations and upgrades, as the application code is located on the Citrix Server boxes.
Return on investment
Foremost has found that the productivity of its laboratories has grown with the implementation of a standardized system, enabling laboratory personnel to redirect their efforts from data management to science.
Additionally, due to the standardization, IT has found that they can now focus their efforts on other value-added activities, which can be leveraged across the 25 laboratories.
About LabVantage Solutions
LabVantage Solutions, Inc. is the leading global laboratory informatics provider. Our industry-leading LIMS and ELN solution and world-class services are the result of 35+ years of experience in laboratory informatics. LabVantage offers a comprehensive portfolio of products and services that enable companies to innovate faster in the R&D cycle, improve manufactured product quality, achieve accurate recordkeeping and comply with regulatory requirements.
LabVantage is a highly configurable, web-based LIMS/ELN that powers hundreds of laboratories globally, large and small. Built on a platform that is widely recognized as the best in the industry, LabVantage can support hundreds of concurrent users as well as interface with instruments and other enterprise systems. It is the best choice for industries ranging from pharmaceuticals and consumer goods to molecular diagnostics and bio banking. LabVantage domain experts advise customers on best practices and maximize their ROIs by optimizing LIMS implementation with a rapid and successful deployment.
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