In a research environment one can only say anything meaningful on an experiment when the process circumstances are reproducible and reliable.
We make sure the data is being entered correctly via validation, as well as guiding the user through the processes of the system. A correct setup of the system ensures a minimal risk of (human) errors.
When the process is followed in a correct way, the experiment will be correctly registered. But how can you ensure correct data input and how do you know the right research materials are being used?
Successful Experiments Using the Correct Materials
This challenge was presented to us at a research center where experiments with different raw materials are used in a variety of process stages. Having multiple laboratories, handling materials becomes a process on itself. It turned out this process was not running optimal nor efficient: registration of raw materials were not centrally –nor in a uniform manner– being registered, correlation between analytical data and experiment data were not present and an overview of the entire process was not available.
An automated connection between all laboratories and their systems was missing, making the integrity of the data, which was manually entered, unreliable.
An Everyday Dilemma
The question that was presented daily was: “Who has What and Where is it?”
Wizzo has been asked by this research center to develop a system which will support the logistic process. This 'Material Management System' was required to provide and display data and had to be integrated in existing setups of pilot plants in multiple laboratories.
The first step during development is to determine the client's wishes and analyzing the logistic process currently being used. During this step it turned out that the systems of the different laboratories were not able to connect to each other. Despite dealing with a large amount of data and material logistics on a daily basis, every laboratory had a unique registration system.
Uniformity was achieved by setting up a system designed to be applied at all laboratories. Not only the internal logistics were handled by this new, uniform system, but also the deliveries between the different laboratories was simplified and standardized.
The new system provides in the (specific) needs of each laboratory and all logistical data is stored in a centralized database.
The laboratories each have their own (temporary) storage location or warehouse. These locations, with the Material Management System in place, got a unique registration number with a barcode. All materials (or their containers) have been equipped with their own unique registration number. These unique identification codes are generated by the Material Management System.
Using Zebra Motorola XT15 barcode scanners as an extension on the system allows the user to see real-time information on certain materials or locations. The scanners communicate, using LabVIEW for Windows Embedded, with the centralized database over an encrypted Wi-Fi connection. This extends the use of the system (one no longer needs to be behind a workstation PC to use the application), improving the usability.
Stakeholders from different departments can see live data via their web browsers from their workstations or by using a tablet. This can be done without having to install any additional software. The application for web browsers is also developed by Wizzo and also features encryption, security, user management and rights management for logged in users. This medium provides direct access to the logistic data and analytical information to researchers.
Now that the materials are located and identified, analytical data can be assigned to the materials. This analytical data originates from different sub-processes. This data is also used in the (chain of) sub-processes. Entering this data into the pilot plants used to happen manually.
By integrating the Material Management System into the controls of the pilot plant systems, analytical data can be entered or inserted automatically. Not only does this eliminate typographical errors from manually entering data, it also increases the efficiency in the working processes, resulting in higher productivity.