Z – Microbiological analysis – Lab automation

BactiAnalyst™ for Microbiological Testing
Microbiological analysis / bacteriological testing is an extremely common technique used in many industries but is especially important in the Water, Public Health and Food sectors. Except in very high throughput situations, most of the analysis work is carried out completely manually and data handling uses paper worksheets.

CSols have developed the BactiAnalyst microbiological testing and analysis handheld computing solution driven by the overwhelming need to :

• reduce the high rates of transcription errors and increase the consistency of data treatment
• help meet analysis deadlines by reducing the average laboratory turnaround times

and to:

• increase the level of auditability across the whole analysis process to help meet regulatory requirements e.g. UKAS, ISO 17025 and national / international regulations

BactiAnalyst design
CSols BactiAnalyst microbiological handheld testing solution consists of ruggedized PDAs or Windows 7 tablet computers (usually one per analyst) and a hub workstation based in the laboratory. This hardware is then combined with software and utilities to help users and to easily integrate the system into the laboratory’s routine operations.

Handheld Computers
Routine work in the microbiology laboratory involves a lot of repetitive tasks and continuous movement of plates as work progresses. Capturing data as it is collected onto a handheld device rather than recording onto paper or moving to a static workstation offers the following advantages:

• one time data entry with no further transcription
• electronic entry of barcode labels from empty plates, samples, incubators and balances
• the ability to run calculations without having to rekey in results
• rapid electronic data transfer to and from LIMS and other systems

CSols used the following criteria when selecting the right handheld device for the BactiAnalyst solution:

  • robust to solvents and chemicals in the laboratory
  • robust to industry standard drop tests
  • large screen for easy to use operation with menus and wizards
  • usable both with finger and pointers
  • incorporates support for barcode reading, Bluetooth and easy electronic data transfer
  • uses a common operating system for portability as new hardware becomes available
  • devices from Gotive (PDAs) and Motion Computing (Windows Tablet PCs) were selected and have been successfully deployed in many organizations

Hub Workstation & LIMS
A hub workstation is normally located in the laboratory or nearby office and runs the CSols Hub software that provides the interface between the handheld devices and any laboratory LIMS or IT system. The Hub software support bidirectional transfer of samples and completed results either when the handheld units are docked or via wireless connection. The Hub will support operation with lists of outstanding sample tests (worklists) or for ad hoc samples which may not have already been registered into LIMS.

Making life easy for each Analyst
Design of the software on both the handheld and hub systems has been done in combination with a number of end users to maximize usability and to meet their technical requirements. Key capabilities provided in the associated Portable Worksheet Manager include :

  • simple data entry and sophisticated configuration
  • not limited to numeric results a virtual keyboard display
  • can be used to enter all result types. The software
  • configuration may also be easily amended to allow
  • validated entry and calculations to maximize analyst’s efficiency
  • working with worklists / runsheets

Worklists / Runsheets
A worklist incorporates those samples and associated tests that require testing. A worklist can be easily downloaded to the handheld so that users can easily interact with all the relevant samples and record results.

Presumptive dilutions
Where dilutions are required, the display shows those dilutions required along with space to record plate barcodes.

Perform calculations
Once data entry is completed the BactiAnalyst software will perform all of the necessary calculations required by the method. These can include simple arithmetical operations as well as complex look ups. These means that results do not have to be transferred to offline spreadsheets.

Summary
CSols BactiAnalyst solution is a powerful and flexible system to fully support microbiological testing in laboratories. Real world experience from projects carried out in the Water Industry have proven that the following benefits are possible:

•  significant time savings through the ‘one time’ entry of data and elimination of all paper records and associated transcription errors
•  easier processing of plates using barcodes
•  improved consistency of data treatment with ‘live’ calculations
•  fast electronic LIMS results upload and worklist download rather than tedious manual entry

More Information
For a copy of the Remote Sampler Technical article, further information or a demonstration of BactiAnalyst please go to our contact page or call or email us at: bactianalyst@csols.com.

CSols Ltd. The Heath, Runcorn, Cheshire, WA7 4QX, UK

Tel:   +44 (0) 1928 513535       Fax: +44 (0) 7006 061 106
Web: www.csols.com

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