If you are working in a lab, your team probably has at least a few dozen or more often, hundreds of instruments. We are talking about small and relatively inexpensive measuring instruments like thermometers, micrometers or piston pipettes, but also big and expensive HPLCs (high pressure liquid cromatography), autoclaves and other heavier equipment which your lab considered strategic investments when they were bought. All of those instruments, whether big or small, require regular external and internal maintenance activities like calibration, qualification, internal checks, cleaning etc. To keep your equipment in order you have to do quite a lot of recurring activities, and most importantly, you have to keep records of all these performed activities, and archive them in a way they are always accessible to your colleagues and to auditors and assessors.
Paperless but still clueless?
Most of you are still keeping all those records on paper, but some of you are moving towards paperless documentation in general. If you are among the former, you probably have a respectable mass of aggregated reports and certificates in individual plastic foils all neatly (best case scenario) kept in bulky office folders. If we also take into account heavy equipment manuals and other documents related to your lab equipment – we are sure you own a lot of furniture just for that. If you are among the latter, you decided to say goodbye to paper and you keep everything in pdfs and other digital formats in computer folders, yet you still have issues. OK, you don’t need furniture anymore, but there are still questions like the one about the accessibility of those files to everyone in the lab, about keeping everything updated daily, about approving those files by responsible people from your lab etc. Especially since just a small part of these files are generated by your lab, and most of them are provided by other various external organizations. We are talking not just about accredited ISO/IEC 17025 calibration labs, but many other service companies that perform regular checks and maintenance, validations, qualifications etc.
The thing is – new certificates, reports or simple forms filled with new data are really produced on a daily basis, and just keeping them in folders, either physical or digital will not solve your main problem, and that is because your main problem was never just about keeping those records. It was the whole process of lab equipment maintenance which begins with planning all of your recurring maintenance activities, then initiating them in the precise moment when they should be initiated, then keeping track of the internal or external (much worse to track) activity, then getting the new record (certificate or report on paper or in pdf) for approval, then getting it approved by responsible persons in your lab, and then – and only then (!) keeping those records in physical or digital folders. It would be complicated enough if it was all done by a single person, but it is a team effort. In some companies the prefered solution really IS just one person who takes care of everything equipment-related. But this always ends up with many side-effects. Most of his colleagues, managers/heads and technicians alike, are often in total darkness about what is happening with organization’s equipment in real time (especially when somebody needs it).
Put people and process first
In reality, keeping your equipment in order, and consequentially – your records in order, is a quite dynamic team problem and it can not be solved by a simple database, either on paper or on a digital medium. For a start – the whole process has to be taken into account, and secondly – all the people connected with the equipment have to be taken into account. Both your colleagues from a lab, and your partners from contracted organizations that take care about specific parts of your equipment maintenance. Fortunately – when we designed LorisQ that is exactly what we had in mind – the process and people first, and only then the records themselves. That is why it works perfectly.
We would like to know what is your biggest problem in keeping your lab instruments/equipment records? If you need more info about LorisQ or simply want to ask us something about equipment management feel free to contact us: firstname.lastname@example.org