Readify Simplifies Development and Deployment Using Microsoft SQL Server
The ALS Group is a global company that provides analytical laboratory and technical services to international minerals, coal, environmental, tribology and industrial markets.
ALS Group's Life Sciences division (encompassing Environmental, Food and Pharmaceutical sectors) has laboratories across Australia, Asia and Europe. For a number of years, the ALS laboratories across the world have been running a customised version of an off-the-shelf Laboratory Information Management System (LIMS) product called EnviroLIMS. ALS found it to be a large, complicated and expensive product to modify.
As ALS expanded its business through organic growth and acquisitions, EnviroLIMS' size and inertia put growing pressure on the users as well as the support and development staff.
Data integrity and deployment were some of the main areas of concern for ALS. The EnviroLIMS implementation had little to no referential integrity in its database and this resulted in constant support issues. The deployment of the EnviroLIMS client application is a complex manual process that takes an experienced technician approximately half a day to deploy and configure
Over the past three years, ALS had made several unsuccessful attempts at a replacement solution, prior to engaging Readify to assist with development. The project was code named "ANGEL", abbreviated for "A New Generation EnviroLIMS".
EnviroLIMS is based on an Oracle database, as was Readify's initial solution. This decision was made in an effort to reduce technical friction with the existing ALS team. However, after several months of development, the limitations imposed by Oracle were restricting the team and costing the client in development effort. Readify put forward a proposal to move to Microsoft SQL Server and this was accepted. Following the transition to Microsoft SQL Server, the development and deployment of the solution has been greatly simplified and is now highly automated.
A major focus of the Readify solution is streamlining data entry and business workflow. This covers all areas of the business, from staff receiving samples for testing, to the staff performing the analytical tests all the way to the Finance department, where costs and invoicing are performed.
The core of the solution Readify are building for ALS is a Windows Presentation Foundation based client server application, which has been custom built to suit the needs of their growing business. The solution leverages a number of .NET capabilities including multi-language support, time-zone handling and click-once deployment. Readify also used Microsoft Visual Studio 2010, Windows Communication Foundation, Microsoft SQL Server 2008 and Microsoft Team Foundation Server for the Angel project
Simplified Deployment Process
The utilisation of ClickOnce deployment in the solution's front end has led to simplification of the deployment process. In conjunction with a team focus on continuous delivery, ClickOnce has allowed a rapid turn-around on support issues, and quick time to market on new features, with little downtime for the end users.
Decreased Cost in Development Effort
The limitations of the Oracle database were restricting the team and costing the client in development effort. Readify's proposed SQL Server approach simplified the development and deployment of the project, reducing the cost in development effort when compared to the original Oracle solution.
Visibility to upcoming workload is an important part of the day to day planning that the laboratory supervisors are responsible for. The Readify solution replaces multiple, disparate systems and provides a single integrated solution to visualise this information.
Other benefits from the Angel project include:
- Improved system stability and data integrity,
- A better position to build closer integration with clients, suppliers and other partners,
- A more intuitive application making it easier and faster for users to do their job,
- Improved management of errors and failures via extensive error logs and real-time dashboard and
- An audit trail functionality, providing deep access to change history.
The following is a testimonial from Craig Newell, Software Development Manager at ALS Group:
"For the Life Sciences division at ALS, our product is data. We rely on our LIMS solution to quickly log client analytical requests, manage laboratory work flow, monitor due dates, calculate billing details, capture analytical data and generate a range of deliverables.
In order to support our aggressive strategy of growth, it is vital that our LIMS can quickly adapt and evolve to meet the changing needs of the business. However, this flexibility was becoming increasingly difficult to manage with our legacy LIMS package. In order to mitigate this technology risk, a redevelopment project was initiated by the business. After a few false starts, we quickly realised that we needed to engage with technology experts if the project was to succeed. Luckily, we started to build a relationship with Readify to help our small in-house development team design the new solution.
In the months that followed, our commitment to Readify increased as we started to see some real progress with the project for the first time. In return, their dedication to the project, coupled with a passion for technology and a real desire to understand our complex domain has positioned Readify as a true project partner for ALS."
After running Angel in our first live site since early February 2012, here are some comments from Ross Smith, business manager, ALS Food & Pharmaceutical, Melbourne Victoria:
"After some targeted end-user training and with on-site support
from the Angel development team, the transition to the new system
was a painless process. During this period, a number of
issues and suggestions were raised that were quickly implemented
Angel is a highly advanced version of the previous system, but while having a much easier to use interface and many added features, is still familiar enough for users of the old system to find their way around easily. This was clear in the training sessions where team members got the hang of things very quickly.
Overall feedback from the lab users has been extremely positive, and as they become more familiar with the new system and its expanded capabilities we are beginning to see efficiency gains in many areas.
Most importantly, there has been no impact on service delivery to our clients.
Thanks go to the Angel development team for their support and
responsiveness to issues that have arisen. From a business
perspective, they have done a great job at making what
is a potentially risky and disruptive transition a very smooth process."
For More Information
For more information on ALS Group, please visit the website http://www.alsglobal.com/.
For more information about Readify services, call +61 3 9600 2339 or 1300 666 274 (within Australia) or visit the website at https://www.readify.net/.