Businesses around the country face another year of pandemic-generated disruption and cannabis and hemp testing labs are no exception. Even though vaccines are finally making their way beyond healthcare’s front lines, it will be at least late summer before the risk of COVID-19 spread declines. With the potential for vaccine-resistant variants or new pandemic vectors, we may never return to the old normal.
As labs prepare for this long-term reality, they must take a hard look at the short-term measures they instituted in 2020. Labs have the opportunity to use remote technologies to recover their productivity and improve their services while making the workplace even safer.
Cannabis Testing Challenges During COVID-19
In response to guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and other federal and state agencies, testing labs radically adjusted the structure and processes of the workplace. The work of testing wouldn’t get done without the physical presence of lab technicians and other essential employees. Shift work, mask wearing, social distancing, COVID-19 antigen testing and other actions let these employees get their jobs done while minimizing the risk of exposure. But constant awareness of the risk of personal contact creates an underlying and wearing layer of stress.
Other employees were able to work from home. Unless labs had already structured themselves around a remote workforce, they often relied on jury-rigged systems or drop-in solutions to keep the business running from home.
For many testing labs, the new workplace eroded productivity. Throughput declined and turn-around times increased with fewer people working onsite. In particular, labs that relied on paper-and-spreadsheet processes to track samples and report data suffered even bigger productivity hits. Manual data entry and transcription consumed valuable resources and led to errors that took even more time to correct. Employees newly working from home struggled to track down the information they needed for internal and external reporting.
Laboratory Information Management Systems Automate Test Data Handling
A laboratory information management system, or LIMS, lets labs recover their lost productivity and improve their testing services while preserving a COVID-safe work environment. By automating the data handling process and by storing sample and test data in a central system (especially cloud-based), labs can simultaneously eliminate error-causing manual processes and make information more accessible remotely. Cloud-based technology and automation allow for remote working, which reduces safety concerns.
Your essential onsite workers can spend more time testing samples rather than manually handling data. Moreover, lab workers spend less time correcting the errors that transcription and hand-written information spawn. With this improved productivity, laboratories can reduce turn-around times (TAT) and increase throughput. Better productivity also gives labs more flexibility with their COVID-19 safety procedures.
While many LIMS applications promise these benefits, CannaQA LiMS from LabLynx offers a unique combination of technologies that are optimized for the specific needs of cannabis testing labs – while easily adapted to specific state and local regulations and standards.
LabLynx’s secure cloud-based ELab laboratory information management system is the central hub of CannaQA LiMS’ modular solution. Populated with assays and workflows common to cannabis testing, ELab becomes the central repository for sample tracking information, test status, test results and all of the other data your laboratory generates. You can completely integrate your lab’s operations with their exclusive LabVia tool. This hardware and software option integrates testing instruments and analytical applications so all data flow directly into and from your lab’s LIMS.
Cannabis testing labs can also benefit from technology LabLynx created for COVID-19 testing laboratories. The C-SIC Kit (COVID Sample Information Collection Kit) comprises a wireless tablet, barcode printer and barcode scanner. Technicians collecting samples in the field can use the C-SIC Kit to automate the data side of cannabis sample collection. Connected securely through the cloud to your lab’s CannaQA LiMS, the C-SIC Kit automatically populates forms with client, sample and other data with minimal need for manual data entry. It then generates a barcoded label for each sample, eliminating the errors created by handwritten labels.
CannaQA LiMS is Your Lab’s Single Source of Truth
From sample collection all the way through test results, the data generated by your lab’s testing process flows into CannaQA LiMS’ secure cloud database. This centralized data store becomes the single source of truth for your organization, always up to date and always accessible. Employees who once needed access to paper files and scattered spreadsheets can now find all the data they need in one place through their web browser – quickly and easily, reducing TAT.
Whether you use LabLynx’s web portal extensions and secure cloud-hosted database and app, or you integrate CannaQA LiMS with your existing remote access systems, employees working from home can follow the status of individual samples or monitor aggregated performance statistics in real time. Client portals, also available from LabLynx, give your customers secure, fast and accurate reports of testing status and results.
The tests, workflows and reporting templates that LabLynx pre-populates in CannaQA LiMS are formatted for the unique needs of cannabis testing labs from track-and-trace to standards and regulatory compliance. Still, a one-size-fits-all approach will not work in the cannabis industry’ fragmented regulatory environment. That’s why CannaQA LiMS’ tracking and reporting systems can be customized to the unique needs of each lab.
Within weeks, CannaQA LiMS can enhance your lab’s pandemic safety by supporting remote workers and boosting productivity in the lab and in the field. Together with more accurate data, faster turn-around times and higher throughput, your lab can deliver better service to your clients and thus increase business and your bottom line – not just for the short term, but for decades to come.