Provision of testing and calibration services :
A radically changing market
The market for the provision of testing and calibration services includes many players: service provider laboratories, independent analysis subcontracting laboratories, and industrial research centers. These entities are currently facing a profound change in the market, driven mainly by a tendency to increase the number of increasingly atypical customer needs and a constantly increasing need for quality. This market development can be explained by the major upward trends in the pharmacy, chemical, and medical device markets, and is reflected in more and more tests and techniques.
With a reinforcement of subcontracting on the client-side, equipment becoming more expensive, and a general increase in requirements (standards, European requirements by the European Commission, ANSM, etc.) the complexity has made it difficult to integrate everything within the organization.
The main challenge resulting from this market evolution for the management of your laboratory as a service provider is to remain as competitive as possible by maximizing the number of tests completed. Faced with this need, only an IT approach using LIMS (Laboratory Information Management System) software can tend towards sufficient efficiency to cope with this market change.
However, there are many LIMS software on the market, offering different features and offering a wide variety of prices. In this article, we will detail the main processes to optimize in order to remain competitive. All the while detailing the best practices and the best approaches to follow to concretely improve the activities of your laboratory.
Optimize your productivity by harmonizing your testing, evaluation and metrology practices
Optimizing the productivity of your service delivery laboratory seems obvious to stay competitive because the benefits are numerous:
- Diversification of your service catalog
- Maximization of the number of tests processed
- Overall time savings on your processes
But how should optimization be implemented? It is essential to have a LIMS software solution covering the entire lifecycle of the request, from the capture of the request by the customer to the edition and operation of the report through planning, test execution, and results. The interest is to centralize all the business processes in a collaborative and central tool. Efficiency is found in simplicity and working through Excel macros or multiple software can be complicated. If you are not equipped with this kind of LIMS software, you are probably faced with the problem of paper handling and double entry, which can be time-consuming and counterproductive. You need to ensure the conformity of results and the accuracy of the data, which a solution like TEEMXA® LIMS is perfectly capable of handling.
Concretely, LIMS software allows you to process your delivered packages, locate them within storage space, check the conformity of the product and follow the tests on them. The most important component to follow this process is through a validation workflow, allowing an overview of the life cycle of a test request.
Functionally, promote a GANTT for agenda monitoring, ensure interfacing with your machines, and automatic generation of extensive and relevant KPIs. Electronic document management (EDM) remains essential, especially on reports, due to the heterogeneous nature of your customers. A mobile application saves time by avoiding unnecessary trips to and from your site. In addition, the market trend highlights the importance of the purchasing department, as they supply you with equipment and consumables to meet increasingly specific needs.
Beyond the pure optimization of your testing and calibration processes, service provision for a laboratory undoubtedly involves the presence of customers, who must also be at the heart of your approach.
Support your client throughout the test service
Customer support involves two main elements for your laboratory.
On the one hand, it is necessary to value your expertise to fulfill requests that your customers cannot. Indeed, a lack of knowledge or equipment may make the service provider of your laboratory appear to be the only solution available for requests, especially in the case of specialized analyzes. Therefore, it is essential to show that your laboratory can position itself on these types of requests.
On the other hand, following up on a client involves careful and effective communication with the latter.
How to promote your testing expertise to a client?
Some customers may ask you for tests they are not able to perform in-house, especially for sophisticated analyzes requiring an expertise that they do not posess. These customers, therefore, require support in the R&D process and in analytical development.
This expertise can be entered in a test library integrated into the software presenting standards or associated technical specifications, costs and costings, duration, required equipment, but also the up-to-date and validated operating mode. This digital library allows the contextualization of your tests while allowing your customer to quickly justify your know-how, in particular, based on tests already carried out. Also, the configurable and scalable aspect of the software allows flexibility in its customer support, in order to best adapt to each context.
Your expertise towards a client can also go through the performance of external audits, the process of which can be integrated into the solution. You can thus set up your own audit validation workflow allowing for the evaluation of the quality system, organization, and personnel, equipment and consumables, or even the activities and methods of your customers.
Making communication with your client efficient
As mentioned previously, your service provider laboratory is faced with a very diverse panel of customers. with each service being different, it is essential to maintain flexible communication to adapt properly. The goal is to bring maximum visibility to your customers through flawless monitoring and easy access to information. You may well be aware of all this, but concretely, how do you put in place effective communication?
It is quite possible that you currently have an ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning). If you want to implement a LIMS in addition, it is essential to check the interface between these two solutions. If your laboratory is not equipped with an ERP, a laboratory management solution is able to take care of monitoring and communication with external customer portal modules. These allow your customers to connect directly to the application without having access to all the information. Thanks to rights management, and only having the content you want them to see you save time, avoiding replies by email, telephone calls with customers, etc. A correctly configured LIMS can act as CRM software (customer relationship management system) and avoids being encumbered with many solutions to manage both your test requests and customer bases.
In addition to a configurable external portal, look for the ease of generating quotes upstream and reports downstream of the demand cycle. Your customers have very different needs from each other, the configurable aspect of the solution allows you to automate the generation of documents while keeping control over the content of the latter. An automatic e-mail module is also appreciated to automatically keep your customer informed of the progress of the request (Test plan, execution of tests, generation of the report, etc.). In order to offer you visibility, an external portal can even be set up so that the customer can proceed on his own. All these modules allow a considerable saving of time to be allocated to your laboratory activities in order to maximize your tests.
Have your laboratory certified (ISO 17025, COFRAC)
COFRAC (French Accreditation Committee) is the associative body responsible for accrediting players involved in conformity assessment in France, including service provider laboratories. In other words, having a COFRAC certification allows you to justify your technical expertise, as well as your impartiality in your testing and control activities. The advantages are numerous: Differentiation from the competition, international development, customer confidence … In addition, COFRAC certification is compulsory in certain sectors, in particular health (medical biology), personal safety, and also products or services.
ISO 17025 certification is also a necessary accreditation for your laboratory. We have already written an article on this subject which you can find here. Concretely, this standard demonstrates the ability of a laboratory to produce reliable and fair test and calibration results.
Whilst a large number of service delivery or subcontracting laboratories already have these accreditations, these actions remain time-consuming and are very difficult during evaluations. The challenge here is to facilitate your certification process.
To do this, it is necessary to quickly justify various points: the skills of your staff, impartiality, confidentiality, the quality of your results, the traceability of measurements, the suitability of your equipment, etc.
A LIMS solution offering full traceability on all these points is necessary to promote your certification process. Choose efficient electronic document management (EDM) module in order to better justify your processes. A dynamic link system is also a very popular module because it allows optimal navigation in the application.
Towards essential digitization of your processes
Laboratories providing services are increasingly digitizing their processes in order to remain competitive in the face of a growing market. There are many LIMS solutions on the market, but few are those that adapt to the size of your structure, offering sufficient customization to adapt to various customer issues while covering all the points discussed in this article, audits quality in the management of your customer communication. We invite you to discover our TEEXMA® LIMS solution as well as to contact us to discuss your laboratory, our team will be able to take into account your problems and advise you as well as possible.
For more information, you can discover the testimony of CERIB, an industrial technical center (CTI) that is perfectly anchored in the issues presented throughout this article.
The BASSETTI company with its Technical Expertise Department is committed to implementing IT methods, tools, and processes to structure, archive, and disseminate this high added value knowledge within the company.
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