Flexible LIMS helps dairy company tackle complex analyses

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295 views 2 November 2023
All LIMS data in iLES can be accessed (and edited) on tablets
All LIMS data in iLES can be accessed (and edited) on tablets | Photo: Dairygold

The main reason Dairygold sought a new LIMS was the abolition of the EU milk quota system. Higher volumes of milk required more complex analyses and hence a flexible, adaptive Laboratory Information Management System. Two years after its introduction, the company is still fully satisfied with its LIMS.

When the EU got rid of its milk quota system in 2015 and production volumes surged, Dairygold quickly realized it needed a new, more flexible Laboratory Information Management System (LIMS) to deal with the complex analyses it had to conduct.

“At the same time, we were looking to expand into higher-value markets, such as infant nutrition,” explains Jayne Mullally, Central Quality Control Laboratory Manager at Ireland’s largest dairy co-op. “A new LIMS became a priority.”

From milk to finished products

Dairygold is Ireland’s largest agricultural co-op. It has been producing dairy products for over a century. The company supplies more than fifty markets worldwide with premium cheeses and infant nutrition.

Its central laboratory tests raw milk, production samples, and finished products. The lab reports over a million test results annually.

Product data from the Manufacturing Execution System is automatically transferred to iLES, so the analyst knows which tests are needed and how often
Product data from the Manufacturing Execution System is automatically transferred to iLES, so the analyst knows which tests are needed and how often | Photo:Dairygold

Laboratory Information Management System

Lab analyses range from microbiological analyses and chemical determinations to quality assurance checks carried out to make sure the finished products have the desired functional properties and contain the correct quantities of macronutrients.

When the time came to select a new LIMS, significant effort was put into finding the best-fitting product. Those efforts paid off. “Our users’ responses have been overwhelmingly positive,” says Mullally.

“We used to spend so much time manually putting this information into our central QA system”
Jayne Mullally, Central Quality Control Laboratory Manager at Dairygold
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Paperless lab

“Before we implemented the new LIMS, the whole process of registering, tracking and recording samples was paper-based,” Mullally says.

“We spent so much time every day manually putting this information into our central quality assurance system. It was so time-consuming. We needed to share the data more quickly with our production, technical and quality teams. Time is of the essence when processing fresh milk.”

Analyst holding a test tube
Analyst holding a test tube | Photo:Dairygold

Versatile LIMS

In 2019, a multidisciplinary Dairygold team began identifying and listing all the company’s system requirements.

They were looking for an all-rounder, because the central lab conducts tests on seven product categories from multiple dairy processing plants.

“Because of the diversity of the production processes, we were looking for a configurable LIMS that could be tailored to our specific needs and that would fit in seamlessly with our testing process,” Mullally says.

“The system also had to be user-friendly for everyone who would use it, from operators, production managers, lab technicians and QA staff to senior quality managers. Finally, it had to align with our growth strategy; it had to be suitable for future development and expansion.”

Lab Execution System

Several demonstrations and visits to companies that had already implemented a LIMS followed.

The team chose iVention as their preferred supplier, making Dairygold iVention’s first major customer in Ireland.

“We really appreciated their system’s adaptability to our business needs and processes,” Mullally recalls. “With many other applications, it was the opposite. Our process had to fit the application. But iLES could be adapted to our process.”

“The integration of iLES and the Manufacturing Execution System (MES) was a crucial aspect during implementation”
Jayne Mullally, Central Quality Control Laboratory Manager at Dairygold
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Integration into MES system

The integration of iLES and the Manufacturing Execution System (MES) was a crucial aspect during implementation, which began in May 2021.

The Dairygold LIMS team and the iVention project team worked side-by-side during the functional design, configuration, testing, and acceptance processes, Mullally explains.

Today, she adds, the two systems work in perfect unison.

“When a product batch is created in our Manufacturing Execution System, iLES is notified of the product, the required tests, and their frequency. The rest is a matter of printing sample labels and starting the sampling process. A single click gives us immediate, complete, and simple traceability.”

“The Grading module is specially designed for our needs, allowing our QA team to compare product results directly with customer specifications”
Jayne Mullally, Dairygold
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QA-testing

Mullally is particularly pleased with the iLES Grading Module, which she calls a “fantastic feature”. Specially designed for Dairygold, the module “allows our QA team to compare product results directly with customer specifications,” Mullally says.

“It enables fast and accurate decision-making regarding the suitability of the product for specific customers.”

Positive reception

Every change comes with challenges, she admits.

“However, our experience with iLES has been overwhelmingly positive. It’s amazing to walk into our laboratory today and see our team using the latest technology, scanning QR codes, entering and uploading data directly on tablets to appear instantly in the application.

This is such a big step up from our previous way of working. iLES has been embraced as a great success from the shop floor to the highest echelons in the organization.”

Article image of: Flexible LIMS helps dairy company tackle complex analyses

New additions to the LIMS workflow

When first implemented, the LIMS workflow was designed for testing the nutritional value of powdered dairy products, but in October 2023, iLES was expanded to cheese testing as well. “And that’s not the end of it. We have plans for further expansion to include process and environmental analyses in the LIMS,” Mullally says.

Written by Leendert van der Ent

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