Laboratory Management System (LMS)

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Going with the grain

Australian Superintendence Company )ASC) certifies export cargoes for Australian grain. ASC inspectors around the country send samples to the head office and laboratory in Brisbane, Queensland. These samples are then analysed and certified to confirm they meet contract requirements. Andrew Parry has been general manager since 2003. ASC switched to FileMaker system in 2005 to improve efficiency and increase productivity.

Andrew explains how they started:

The biggest initial problem was the multiple entry of vessel names. For every job we were typing or writing the same name over a dozen times; logging samples in, entering results, tracking in a spreadsheet schedule, drafting, invoicing and summarising. With the FileMaker solution we could enter the vessel name once and that information was available at the click of a button throughout the system.

Debby Howse, from Oz Data Solutions came on board in 2007, and assisted in transforming the existing FileMaker solution from a number of related tables to a highly functional, interactive business solution which streamlined and automated the workflow. Andrew was very satisfied with the results:

By linking all our processes and automating each task wherever possible we saw an accumulation of time savings of seconds every minute. Minutes every hour. Hours every day. Multiply this by each person over an entire year and we were pretty happy.

A great timesaver incorporated into the solution was the automatic generation of individually-tailored emails to grain terminals and their local inspectors all around the country. Previously this would take at least twenty minutes. No longer, says Andrew:

Now it is all done at the click of a button—giving us more time to work on the job or add in a few extra comments to our colleagues.

One of Andrew’s favourite features in the solution is the streamlined management of e-documents, instead of relying on memory or digging through multiple file systems. This has greatly simplified staff training and searching for documents.

As the business has grown, ASC has used the efficiencies delivered by the solution to keep staffing levels under control:

Our business has expanded dramatically. Last year we certified a total of 24 MMT (million metric tonnes), compared to less than 3 MMT eight years ago. Despite this expansion we have been able to hold staff levels to 18, compared to an estimated 40 if we’d continued using our old ways. This has been possible due to building efficiencies into our database which manages our entire workflow.

Improvement is continuous and ongoing, as developer Debby Howse says:

Introduction of the iPad with FileMaker Go into the laboratory has streamlined the allocation of sample testing. The laboratory staff see their shared daily To Do list with all the information required to complete their testing and to enter results online. Staff know which samples are being worked on and by whom, and which sample should be analysed next. This has removed 95% of the paperwork from the lab. Once staff have completed the tests for a sample, an automatic email is sent to the admin staff enabling them to carry out the next part of the process.“

It doesn’t end here. Debby explains:

Our next challenge is to introduce barcoding to manage samples, pallets and equipment on iPad and iPhone. Fortunately this is now going to be much easier with the FileMaker platform. We can now scan the codes directly on the iOS devices with FileMaker Go. Plug-ins are no longer required.

Andrew underlines the importance of the FileMaker solution in the broader scheme of operations:

ISO certification is an important part of our company’s commitment to quality services and ongoing innovation. Our FileMaker solution is an integral component of our activities that enable us to meet ISO requirements.

Andrew reflects on the last nine years:

We are just starting to tap into the power of a relational database management system. We are discovering real value in the information that has been accumulated over the past few years to help us and our clients improve our business in the future.

Thank you to Andrew Parry from Australian Superintendence Company and Debby Howse from Oz Data Solutions for sharing their story with us.

“Our business has expanded dramatically. Last year we certified a total of 24 MMT (million metric tonnes), compared to less than 3 MMT eight years ago.”

Andrew Parry, CEO, Australian Superintendence Company

“Your knowledge and approachable manner, your willingness to understand my business to get the best result has been A1. ”

Linda Faulker, Office Manager, Boonah Carrying Co.

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