The actions of work processes

The use of work-processes has many advantages:

  • Precise execution of protocols
  • Auditing: you know exactly what protocols were executed
  • Save time, you only have to click to initiate actions
  • Validate and Verify, you can later proof what protocol was executed
  • Learning, the computer leads the user around
  • Transparency

Creating work-processes seems easy to do, because you automate existing protocols. However, often you find that the existing protocols are not described precisely enough. Working with SampleNavigator opens new possibilities, to work more efficient.

We have some tips to make life easier and quickly implement your existing work processes:

  • Involvement of laboratory workers is essential.
  • More work-processes are better than large work-processes.
  • Create, test, change, and re-test a few work-processes first.
  • After setting up some processes, let the laboratory worker improve them.
  • Clear and meaning full names for work-processes and actions.
  • Manage the versions of work-processes. So you later know what versions was executed.

Creating work processes is easy to do in SampleNavigator.
But there are some golden rules:

  • Small is beautiful
  • Do not forget manual tasks
  • Rigorous version management
  • Clear meaningful names and descriptions

Small is beautiful.
When you start creating work-processes, you often make them too complex. Nevertheless, after some time you learn that small is beautiful.
A typical work-process should to have 5 to 10 actions (steps). We think the reason that small work-processes are better, is that people can keep that number of steps in their mind and have an awareness of where they are in a work-process.

So, it’s better to have a large number of small work-processes instead of a few elaborate complex work-processes.
Smaller work-processes also make authentication (who is allowed to run them) easier.

In SampleNavigator you can authenticate a work-process, not a task or action itself inside a work-process.

Do not forget manual tasks
It seems a little silly to include obvious manual tasks. For instance after the task “print a label”, you include the task “attach the label to a tube”. Of course you have to do it, what else to do with a label? But there are some sound reasons to include those obvious tasks: sometimes people are interrupted during their task. A telephone call, their boss asking for something.

  • By including the manual tasks, they know exactly where they are in this specific work-process. This is even more important if they have to switch working-processes, in the middle of another work-process
  • A few years from now some auditor, without in depth knowledge of your current work-process, will want to know what happened to the printed label. It helps auditing to register the manual actions as a separate action.
  • Be sure the protocol is followed. To be more efficient, laboratory workers can quickly print 20 labels at once and then attach them to the right tube. But working like that increases the chance for errors, because how can we be sure there was no mix up? All 20 labels were attached, but none of them to the right tube. By explicitly including the manual step you remind people to do their task in the right sequence.

Rigorous Version Management
Especially at the start of implementation and during testing, work-processes are often changed. There is always a reason for a change, for instance some tasks can better be done in another work-process.

Document the name of the work-process, what version of the work-process you were working on and store the previous work-process.

In SampleNavigator it is very easy, because each work process is a Visio File. And like files in Word and Excel, you can give them any name you want.  For instance ‘7-3 Liquid Nitrogen Optimizing Storage version 2.1’.

Clear meaningful names and descriptions
Describe a work-process in such a manner they can easily be identified and grouped. Group work-processes by name and make sure that the name is meaningful. A work-process called ‘7-3’ is difficult to remember, a work process ‘Liquid Nitrogen’ is difficult to group. The best is a combination, the first characters you use to identify the group, the rest of the name in such a way that people easily recognize what the goal of the process is.
A laboratory worker normally does not see all the work processes, only the work processes he/she is allowed to run.