In an increasingly competitive business climate, Weck Laboratories looked for ways to stay ahead of the pack and grow the business. But the company’s aging and overly-customized laboratory information management system (LIMS) was not scalable or flexible enough to support the business.
The solution was to update the lab facilities and to increase automation with Element LIMS from Promium as Weck Labs sought a more efficient and paperless operation.
Weck Laboratories Inc., with over fifty employees, was founded in 1964. Over the next forty-five years the lab evolved from a Contract Research laboratory to a full service analytical testing laboratory focused on industrial needs including hazardous waste, drinking water, wastewater, soils, groundwater, industrial hygiene and air testing. Weck is certified in several states with clients in California, Hawaii, Nevada, Oregon, Arizona, Florida, and New Jersey, as well as the EPA nationally. Clients include municipalities, engineering consultants, wastewater treatment facilities, oil companies, aerospace, and food manufacturing industries. The company is a repeat recipient of the Seal of Excellence from the American Council of Independent Laboratories (ACIL) and is one of only a handful of laboratories in the nation approved for all five methods of the Unregulated Contaminant Monitoring Rule (UCMR) by the EPA.
To survive and thrive in a highly competitive market place, Weck boldly expanded their facilities and testing capabilities. But where the new bricks and mortar created opportunities, the lab’s LIMS simply created new challenges. A fragile information management infrastructure threatened the growth of the business. The existing LIMS had three main deficiencies, 1) the system became so customized that it could no longer be cost-effectively maintained, 2) the technology platform was outdated and did not scale, and 3) instrument data had to be entered manually—a growing issue because the number of instruments eventually doubled. “Our existing system required a lot of customization and became very complicated and difficult to use and maintain. We wanted to do things faster and more efficiently.” said CEO Alfredo Pierri.
Pierri, who is also the lab’s owner, decided it was time to implement a new information management system. He formed a committee consisting of key members of the management team to make sure each operational group was represented. And then he defined the goal—find a system that increased automation and efficiency. “Efficiency was our driver,” said Pierri. “We wanted to have more automation and innovation.” A home-grown solution was briefly considered but the team quickly realized it would take too much effort and require specialized personnel to build and maintain. A number of commercial LIMS solutions were then reviewed and the list was narrowed to four. The team weighed the competing factors of cost, complexity and capability. Powerful features were appealing but not if the cost made the system unattainable or if implementation would overwhelm the lab. Affordability, ease of use, and easy implementation became critical factors in the decision.
Ultimately, Element LIMS from Promium was selected based on five criteria—fit with the lab, integration of instruments, affordability, scalability and ease of implementation. “Element was clearly a system designed by environmental laboratory people. It was simple enough to implement without a lot of support staff and could be implemented in a short period of time,” said Pierri. And while other systems may have some of the same capability, the team felt strongly that Element provided the best feature set at the most affordable price. “It really did everything the lab needed and was the most affordable,” said Bryan Dinh, IT Manager and LIMS Administrator. The instrument data integration was of particular importance to Alan Ching, Organic Section Supervisor and Technical Director. “One major advantage is the DataTool feature. It allows us to directly transfer data from instruments to the LIMS. This increases productivity and reduces errors as well as reducing data entry time,” said Ching.
Implementation went smoothly and quickly. The system was live in less than a month and then ran parallel with the old system for three months. “Operations improved immediately. Within the first few months we were obviously more efficient, ran better reports, and we were more accurate with our data transfer from instruments. Overall, we manage information in a better way with Element,” noted Pierri.
It’s not only the laboratory that benefits. There are also benefits for the front-office as Business Development Manager Leo Raab points out. “Over the last thirty years I’ve probably used five different LIMS. Element is by far the best I’ve ever worked with. You can look information up quickly and answer client questions without having to call them back. And you’re getting more than just status, you can read results.”
Alfredo Pierri, CEO
Weck considers itself a “green lab” and is on the forefront of creating a paperless laboratory. The company is always looking for ways to automate and put information online and with Element, there is more power to query data and provide broader accessibility. Other areas of improvement include:
Since the lab expanded and Element was implemented, Weck Laboratories has nearly doubled its revenue and was spotlighted as one of the top five most productive laboratories in the United States in the Steve Maxwell/ELWR Lab Survey and Analysis Report. IT Manager Dinh sums up the changes. “We are a lot better because of Promium. We simply wouldn’t have the same growth if we stayed with our old system. Scalability and system response time are very much improved and workflow is more efficient.”