Customer case: Koppert Biological Systems
In the transition from data management with Excel to a professional Laboratory Information Management System (LIMS), Koppert Biological Systems was able to test the suitability of AlisQI first.
After proven success, the contract was signed and the implementation completed. The system was up and running within half a year.
Head of QA/QC André Bloem discusses the whole project. Key takeaway? Koppert trialed AlisQI in a free pilot. This enabled them to evaluate, assess and define the business case.
Koppert Biological Systems contributes to better health of people and the planet. Koppert provides an integrated system of specialist cultivation knowledge and natural, safe solutions that increase crop health, resilience and production.
Koppert’s principal place of business is active since 1967 and located in the Netherlands. Here 300 people are employed in production, sales, logistics, consultancy, and research. Koppert also has several subsidiaries for sales and/or production. There are distributors in over 60 countries all over the world.
I configured screens for links between production and our lab in no time.
After watching a demonstration and perhaps experiencing a reference visit, purchasing laboratory software may feel like jumping on a moving train. Whether the system works for you and delivers what it promises is more a matter of fingers crossed and waiting.
At Koppert Biological Systems in Berkel and Rodenrijs, a worldwide market leader in biological crop protection and natural pollination, things went differently.
In close collaboration with AlisQI, the platform was configured step-by-step in a pilot. AlisQI soon proved to be perfectly configurable for analyses of fermentation products in the microbiological QA / QC laboratory and communication with the production department.
Halfway through the implementation process, the system proved itself well enough that Koppert decided to continue using it and the contract was signed immediately.
André Bloem discovered that when setting up, AlisQI more or less directs itself: “I have quite a bit of programming experience, but anyone with a little knowledge of computers and spreadsheets will easily be able to manage this.”
“And if you do have any questions, there is immediate feedback. We quickly realized AlisQI would work for us. I configured modules for links between production and our lab in no time.”
“After this, it was just a matter of further fine-tuning. In March 2014 we ran AlisQI in parallel with our old Excel solution, and in April we went live. So AlisQI was fully implemented here within six months.”
Koppert Biological Systems supplies sustainable solutions for professional growers. Natural enemies and micro organisms are used for tackling and preventing plagues and diseases.
The company also supplies bumblebees for natural pollination when cultivating vegetables, fruit and seeds.
André Bloem works at the ‘Microbials’ department, which consists of a research and a production department.
Through a process of up-scaling, the required substances are cultivated from a 75 ml vial to vast 20,000-liter charges. The entire process is supported and controlled by the QA/QC lab.
“The analyses provide the certainty that you create the right little creatures. It’s known as ‘pure cultivation’. By the end of the project, you need to measure and calculate them with the appropriate viability and in the right concentrations.”
The previously used Excel datasheets allowed for intensive quality control, however, this solution yielded too little management information.
“The Excel tables contained excellent macros, but now that we’re expanding fast, you quickly run into the limitations. Files became too large, reading time too long and we weren’t able to follow the process well enough.”
“When seeking an alternative professional solution, our guiding theme throughout was ‘track & trace’. We have an exceptionally complex production process in which you need to search and locate data rapidly. We could no longer obtain a clear overview, and were struggling with the tables.”
By the end of the project you need to measure and calculate them with the appropriate viability and in the right concentrations.
This gave us the opportunity to experiment extensively, without obligation or incurring costs.
When André Bloem’s colleagues came upon AlisQI at a laboratory trade fair, an introductory first meeting was quickly arranged.
AlisQI visited Koppert and André Bloem, who was now part of the team, was tasked to develop the initial ideas further. Bloem provided a project plan with objectives for the implementation of a lab recording system.
“It was vital for the system to track the entire process, from the first sample up to and including the end of the production batch, along with the accompanying analyses results.”
“AlisQI came with a great offer: access to AlisQI’s test environment. This gave us the opportunity to experiment extensively, without obligation or incurring costs.”
André immediately got along well with the new system. First he mapped out all relevant processes for the laboratory system, both at laboratory and at production level. Then it was a simple task to convert the Excel files with the macros to AlisQI.
“I first created a flowchart with a laboratory block, an upstream block for the upscaling and a downstream block for processing the end products.”
“The system’s functionality works intuitively. You enter names and can create additional fields for your processes and sub-processes. This enables you to import the base in one go. You can read the Excel tables one for one as an import; absolutely ideal, no double work there!”
With the numerous fermenters working it was imperative that during the upscaling all previous analyses results could be seen at the press of a single button.
“What you put into fermenter 3 now, comes from fermenter 2. You need the facility to quickly call up the calculations and ‘purity’ tests that belong to this.
All these steps in the process are linked to each other via hyperlinks, making it possible to go forward and backward through the process. Using the drop-downs and the preset menu choices we were able to quickly put in more than thirty fermenters. Throw in the variables, and all of it is available across the whole system.”
You can import the Excel tables one by one, which is ideal. No double work.
With microbiology you use exceptionally large numbers, quickly moving into the billions. This requires the kind of scientific notation which was still to be implemented in AlisQI, but is now available as standard to all users.
The implementation process held an attractive challenge for AlisQI. “With microbiology you use exceptionally large numbers, quickly moving into the billions. This requires the kind of scientific notation which was still to be implemented in AlisQI, but is now available as standard to all users.”
The second challenge was to link up the AlisQI data with the Smart Board; a projection screen displaying all current production data.
AlisQI worked with a Technology Development department colleague to program the Smart Board to ensure the data is now immediately available on the live screen.
“Our production manager can now tailor his planning using the latest laboratory results. An excellent example of development, with ICT professionals cooperating on both sides,” observes André Bloem.
The operators needed little time to get used to the introduction of AlisQI. “It demands a little bit of extra admin, we feed in more data, but you get a lot in return.”
“With just one push of a button you can now search back through the system to see what happened. This of course allows for much better control.”
“Once the production planning has been entered, the operator is given the green light by the system to start up the new fermenter. You can also immediately see if the samples from the previous step have been approved.”
Six months after implementing the trial phase, the system was running smoothly. “The pilot scheme launched in October 2013. In April we ran the new system in parallel to the old one for a short time to polish off the details. We went live in mid April; all in all a complete process in six months.”
Bloem gives AlisQI the “OK”, although he does have one desire: “In my view, the system manager could have a few more options for accessing the nuts and bolts of the system. The facility to link the database tables would be good. This would allow me to solve more issues myself which are currently out of reach. More management rights within AlisQI would make it even better.”