Many applications require extreme ease of use. “In many labs, someone must set up the method behind the scenes, but the daily operation must be as simple as possible,” says Terry Sheehan, director of gas chromatography and mass spectrometry marketing at Agilent (Santa Clara, CA).
In some situations, users have very specific data needs. “Somebody in the military or an emergency responder might use a chromatograph or mass spectrometer to analyze an explosive sample,” says Sheehan, “and they just want the results in fundamental parameters.”
For scientists developing methods for a specific application, though, a CDS needs more flexibility and accessibility. “Then you need a certain level of complexity,” Sheehan says. “People doing R&D, trying to do something novel, need a lot of additional tools.”
Drive for diversity
In addition to diverse applications, some users want diverse capabilities from a single CDS. As an example, Jade Byrd, Empower product manager at Waters (Milford, MA) says, “Customers ask us to control more technology in our CDS—multiple types of separation technologies and detection modes.” She adds, “We work with business partners to offer solutions to support even other vendors’ hardware.”
Beyond just collecting data and helping users analyze it, a CDS can do even more. Byrd says, “Customers have asked that we incorporate tools in our CDS to understand where the bottlenecks are in a lab: for example, a dashboard showing system uptime.”
To make a system even more diverse, Byrd suggests one that provides a remote client server environment. “The alternative is a computer next to every piece of lab equipment, which is a waste of bench space and then only one person at a time can interact with the data,” she says.
A modern CDS can handle large amounts of data. In addition, most any CDS today lets a researcher look at more data simultaneously. “That provides more efficient processing,” says Sheehan. Despite the growth in CDS power, they keep getting easier to use. “Someone can work with a CDS as easily as with an iPhone,” says Sheehan.
Finding your features
At Parallel Dimension Consulting in San Francisco, California, research scientist and founder Daniel Prudhomme has used a CDS for R&D and for clinical and commercial work in the drug industry. “For R&D work,” he says, “many experiments are performed and data grow quickly. A well-organized, searchable database will help to keep things from getting out of hand.” He adds, “For the drug-supply support, it’s critical that the CDS have password protection for each operator, full audit trails for all work conducted, and permanent lockdown on the data generated.”
For someone in the market for a CDS, Prudhomme suggests several approaches. “For the R&D testing, a flexible system is important. Not all functions are needed by all operators,” he says. “Also the interface for instrument control is something to consider. How easily can users access their systems from various locations, such as the lab or the office?” For the drug-supply side, he points to other considerations, saying, “The ability to capture all of the critical QC testing operations in an electronic format is a major benefit.”
The right CDS balances many needs.
For additional resources on chromatography data systems, including useful articles and a list of manufacturers, visit www.labmanager.com/cds