How a Dairy Cooperative Performed Data Collection with LIMS

Foremost Farms is a dairy cooperative that is owned by around 4,400 dairy farmers in Indiana, Minnesota, Illinois, Iowa, Ohio, Michigan and Wisconsin. The cooperative’s 26 manufacturing plants produce packaged fluid milk, chilled ready-to-serve juices, butter, sour cream, cheese and a variety of value-added whey ingredients. The cooperative has 25 laboratories that test food ingredients, cheese, and milk.

Key challenges

For data collection and storage, the Foremost Farms laboratories had each developed their own approaches. There were two basic data collection requirements to be considered, the data from the ingredients manufacturing processes and the data which is analyzed for their patrons (the cooperative farmers) and regulatory agencies.

The patron milk sample data was being gathered and managed using a set of distributed systems, the ingredients laboratories were utilizing an Excel spreadsheet technique. The result of this was a large amount of data that was kept in separate systems. This could not be tracked or searched easily.

The resolution to this was that a standard LIMS should be used in order to meet everyone’s needs. The company was happy to commit the necessary IT and laboratory resources to the project development and long term support, but it wanted a user-managed system.

From a laboratory technician’s view, this was easy-to-use and configurable by the users with regard to setting up screens and queries after installation. So, they did not want to assign an IT person to the laboratory to support the system permanently, but wanted to support the LIMS as they would any other large corporate database.

System sought

The company examined their needs and established that they required a LIMS solution which could solve the following problems:

  • Improved products tracking to yield
  • Standardization of testing procedures and forms across the company
  • Lot analysis and customer specification checking to establish the appropriate customer for the product
  • Instrument interfacing
  • Quick and accurate test results comparisons to specifications
  • Creation of information packages by marketing and the technical departments for customers
  • Configurability and support by laboratory personnel. The company formed a task force to establish the requirements of the laboratories and choose a vendor that was company-wide.
  • Deployment to all locations from a single database server
  • Access to the data from anywhere on the corporate intranet
  • Limiting access to data by individual and by role
  • Report creation for internal distribution and government reporting to different states and the USDA

System selected

Firstly, seven LIMS vendors were identified and the LabVantage was the final choice. This decision was made due to the out-of-the-box functionality and the configurability inherent in LabVantage. The size of the company and the level of support that a company of LabVantage’s size could deliver were also deciding factors in the decision.

System delivered

For the ingredients laboratory, LabVantage handles around 300 samples a day and another 1200 samples for the central laboratories. Each 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, these include:

  • Analytical balances from several different manufacturers
  • LECO Protein Analyzers
  • pH meters
  • Aquastar Moisture analyzers
  • Foss/Milko Scan (an infrared milk testing instrument)

They have also utilized the Aironet radio link system, which enables the laboratory personnel to gather data on mobile laptops. These load the data directly into the LIMS via the radio link. Therefore, the data is kept in the laboratory and patron payment systems instead of distributed over the many systems that existed previously.

It has been implemented in 25 laboratories and his system handles the majority of the data collection needs at the seven ingredients laboratories; the other locations are employing the system for patron herd testing, tracing data going to/from central lab locations, milk testing for the cheese plants.

The LabVantage application is driven from the headquarters site. 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.

Foremost Farms personnel now know precisely where to look for their desired data selections. The database is housed on a server that is located at the corporate headquarters in Baraboo, Wisconsin, and once it has been entered into LabVantage, data from any laboratory is available throughout the corporate network.

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 established that they are now able to focus their efforts on other value-added activities, which can be leveraged over 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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Last updated: Apr 5, 2023 at 7:57 AM


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