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Agilent SLIMS for Cannabis Testing

Combining elements of LIMS and ELNs results in an end-to-end solution for managing your lab’s information

by Agilent Technologies
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Nicolas Louvet serves as Software Product Manager at Agilent Technologies. His area of expertise is focused on workflow and information management in the laboratory. He has more than 15 years of experience in direct customer facing activities in digitalizing laboratory processes.

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Nicolas Louvet
Credit: Nicolas Louvet

Q: What is a LIMS for cannabis testing?

A: A LIMS, or laboratory information management system, is specialized software that helps you automate workflows, manage information, and integrate instruments and software from multiple vendors under a unified management platform. This automation and centralization of laboratory information management enable greater efficiency and accuracy while improving transparency and accountability. LIMS are used in various areas, and their coverage differs depending on the domain. For cannabis testing, a LIMS brings together the tests and their results for cannabinoid levels (i.e., THC or potency testing), pesticide levels, metals, terpene profiles, and more.

Q: What is Agilent SLIMS software?

A: Agilent SLIMS software combines key elements of a laboratory information management system (LIMS) and an electronic laboratory notebook (ELN) in a single, integrated package, delivering an end-to-end solution for managing all content and all context in the laboratory. SLIMS can streamline, simplify, and optimize your lab by managing all steps where information is generated, including sample intake and status tracking, data storage and reporting, instrument status, QA/QC results, compliance-related information, supplies and consumables inventories, and more.

Q: What are the primary advantages of using a LIMS instead of spreadsheets to track samples and manage lab information?

A: While it's sometimes possible to capture essential information manually, accessing that information becomes much slower and more difficult when it means sifting through spreadsheets and moving information around between isolated systems. Coordinating these resources to distill out essential information is a big job—one that grows rapidly as more and more samples are pushed through the system.

The primary benefits of a LIMS-type software package over manual or Excel-based methods fall broadly into the categories of productivity and accountability. Having SLIMS in your lab is like handing your critical information management tasks over to a trusted expert—one that's always on the job has system-wide visibility, and is always ready with the answers you need.

  • Make decisions quickly
    At-a-glance graphical dashboard view provides insight into the status of samples, workflows, instruments and supplies, allowing you to make "just in time" business decisions about potential backlogs, untapped throughput capacity, and other factors that impact accuracy, efficiency, and profitability. You'll quickly answer questions like: How many samples can the lab handle? Are we ready for samples from another customer? Are we backlogged?
  • Decrease sample turnaround time
    SLIMS integrates with a wide array of third-party instruments and software platforms, bringing your information together automatically and avoiding manual data entry tasks that are slow and error-prone. Errors are flagged instantly, allowing you to adjust without conducting time- and labor-intensive manual reviews.
  • Minimize errors
    LIMS software like SLIMS helps your lab ensure adherence to SOPs by guiding your staff step by step, minimizing repeat testing, and saving time. SLIMS can help select the right instrument for the right task, make sure the instrument is calibrated and the solvent is not expired, and track/flag errors and trends so adjustments can be made quickly. Relying on manual review can introduce errors and slow down your decision-making.
  • Accelerate the generation of COAs
    Editable, customizable reports can facilitate and simplify the process of getting your customers the information they need.
  • Facilitate regulatory compliance
    If your SOPs are in a Word document with no track and trace, you won’t know if an unauthorized change has been made. With SLIMS, you will have a traceability report with timestamps indicating what was done in the lab and by whom. Regulatory compliance is further facilitated via automated sample tracking, audit trails, and protocol management capabilities. Even if your lab currently meets compliance standards, the situation is likely to change, as the regulations are evolving rapidly. SLIMS is designed to support the requirements of ISO 17025 and 21 CFR Part 11.

Q: Can small labs or startups benefit from using SLIMS?

A: Yes—even labs processing a relatively small number of samples can benefit from bringing a LIMS sample management software system like SLIMS on board. First, it's easy to underestimate the amount of information that processing even a few samples can generate, and easier still to underestimate the value of having all that information captured and stored in an organized, rapidly accessible way. Second, if your lab outgrows manual sample tracking methods—as successful labs often do—bringing a LIMS onboard sooner will ease your transition and eliminate potential stumbling blocks that could slow your lab's growth. SLIMS can manage as many tests as the regulations require for your particular region, including potency, water activity, moisture content, foreign substances, pesticides, mycotoxins, terpenes, residual solvents, heavy metals, and microbial analysis.

Q: What is the SLIMS dashboard, and how does it help my lab on a daily basis?

A: Capturing and storing information is important, but being able to visualize your workflow on the fly can transform your efficiency. The SLIMS dashboard provides you with a clear visual readout of instrument and sample status, trends, and lab needs at a glance, allowing you to estimate workflow timings and make quick business decisions to meet your customers' needs and separate you from the competition.

Q: Do any of the advantages of SLIMS directly benefit my customers?

A: User-customizable reports can add value and differentiation to your lab by providing your customers with access to the critical information they need in the way they need it. SLIMS has a customer portal so your clients have an easy way to define their samples, pick their tests, and access the status of their requests—all from their web browser. By helping streamline the process, SLIMS also helps you turn samples around faster, providing your customers with quicker answers that help them move their operations forward.

Q: Why should I go with Agilent when purchasing a LIMS?

A: Choosing a LIMS, installing it, learning it, and living with it—these are vital factors in your success, and the reputation of the supplier as a trusted partner should factor heavily into your decision. Agilent can help you map the capabilities of SLIMS to the specific processes and needs of your lab to ensure you get up and running quickly. Agilent has experience in this market and provides solutions that span the entire cannabis testing workflow—LIMS, informatics, consumables, instruments, training, and more.

Q: Can SLIMS be installed without disrupting my lab?

A: Think of migrating to SLIMS as a process improvement project. While some temporary impact to certain processes is unavoidable, the migration can be choreographed in such a way that samples are still being processed and work continues.

Q: How is a LIMS for cannabis installed?

A: Typical LIMS installations require planning, effort, and commitment. Our team of industry experts understands the level of complexity of cannabis testing labs. The implementation of SLIMS is rapid and realistic, transitioning to digital at the lab's pace. We follow a holistic approach focused on prioritizing the changes that will improve efficiency from the background and iterate into each next critical milestone to match the lab data model as closely as possible.

The SLIMS store features a cannabis starter package that is preconfigured for cannabis analysis, which accelerates setup and saves you time, money, and effort. Region-specific specifications are also available to facilitate the analysis of terpenes, residual solvents, pesticides, mycotoxins, heavy metals, and more.

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