Wine Producer Gets Efficient Scheduling with LIMS

The implementation of a new laboratory information management system (LIMS) has expedited sample logging, analysis and results distribution for a large wine producer, saving time and enabling more efficient scheduling. The custom LIMS used in the past was basically an electronic version of the company’s previous paper-based system, requiring manual data entry at nearly every stage of the analysis cycle. The company, a customer of PerkinElmer Instruments (Shelton, Conn.) requesting anonymity in for this article, was originally a producer of jug wine that has also become a vintner of premium varieties. The company, according to PerkinElmer, made the decision to move to a more advanced system and selected a PC-based LIMS that can be configured to handle all common laboratory operations without the custom programming required by more traditional systems. The new LIMS also automates work order generation, records operations simply by scanning a barcode, electronically collects test data, automates calculations and delivers results to approvers and internal customers. The accurate collection and recording of test information is basic to the quality control process. You need to know exactly what was tested and accurately record the results so that problems can quickly be identified and corrected. “It used to take 8 to 24 hours from the time that the tests were completed for the results to move through our review system, be printed and delivered to the winemaker who was waiting for them,” says a chemist for the California winery. “Now, the data is available electronically as soon as the tests are completed. Getting the information sooner means that bottlers are able to schedule production much more efficiently.”

Software Selection Process

This winery continually evaluates where to grow grapes, how to grow them and how to make wine, according to the winery. The company’s quality assurance department provides on-going support and measurement of quality at every stage of the production process. The principle measurements that are performed include alcohol, sugar, volatile acids, titratable acids, pH and reducing sugars. These measurements are performed on automatic spectrophotometers and other sophisticated instruments. About 20 years ago, the winery developed a custom software package based on a RMS database that recorded test results. When a winemaker brought a sample to the lab, information about the sample was logged into the system. When a technician tested the sample, he would type the results into the system. Then, the test results were printed out, delivered to the person who had to approve them, then printed again and delivered to the winemaker. “We were looking for a way to improve the speed at which test results move through our laboratory in order to improve service to our internal customers, including winemakers and managers,” the chemist says. “Our primary requirements were for a Windows-based system that would be relatively simple and painless to install, customize and train our users to operate. We first surveyed many of the systems on the market, narrowed the field down to six, and then selected three for detailed investigation.” The winery selected a LIMS platform that is compatible with Oracle databases. It also supports Windows 95, 98, NT, 2000 and XP operation systems and Microsoft Access, SQL Server, SyBase, DB2 and a native database with the same user interface and add-on applications. The software was installed in four different company facilities and was configured so that a single database at headquarters stores all results to simplify maintenance and company-wide reporting. “We also liked the fact that the software could be configured to store the information we need, perform our calculations and generate reports in the format that we were looking for without requiring any programming,” the chemist says.

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