Understanding Electronic Lab Notebooks

By December 10, 2020No Comments
Laboratory with scientist examining samples

Hand-written notes are going virtual with laboratories turning to Electronic Lab Notebooks (ELN) to safeguard digital continuity throughout the life cycles of projects and analyses.

The Challenge

Although written lab notebooks are still being used today, they present many intrinsic disadvantages. First and foremost is when trying to find information from the past. It is a much too common example of looking for an analysis performed for a certain study completed several years earlier, which can quickly turn into a long, tedious process that can ultimately lead to frustration as data and information can be lost, never recorded, or can even be incorrect. Working in teams adds even more challenges, as handing over studies where local knowledge or lessons learned are not recorded, or information is incomplete. This can create gaps in your understanding which require that studies or experiments are repeated, increasing costs and wasting precious time.

What is an Electronic Lab Notebook?

ELNs, electronic laboratory notebooks, are an effective solution to these problems. An ELN is a sophisticated software platform that allows you to aggregate important information about your experiments in a single digital location, making it easily searchable and reusable for future experiments. Like traditional paper laboratory books, ELNs record and store experimental results and procedures. However, they include additional features that enhance lab efficiency.

ELNs Main Benefits 

ELNs are more than simple replacements for paper notebooks. They provide a number of advantages that increase productivity in laboratories. Their main benefits include:

  • Easily securing, searching for and finding information
  • Consolidating and linking of all data and meta-data for traceability (samples, reagents, lots, plates, barcodes, order numbers, order tracking, sample tracking, batch data, etc.)
  • Improved collaboration
  • Automatic data ingestion
  • Formulation management and diagrams
  • Capture of all relevant knowledge and lessons learned
  • Ability to export and share information in multiple formats
  • Reduction in human error (unclear notes, double entry, etc.) and paper waste
  • Increased disaster recovery planning

Structuring Data  

Labs can make the most of ELNs by centering the organization’s activities around one centralized database. By doing so, labs can easily incorporate advanced research tools and past work to standardize, optimize and continually improve laboratory activities. At the same time, ELNs also ensure data integrity through traceability tools, which automatically log performed actions and their results. Furthermore, ELN tools and processes can be easily configured to adapt to your organization’s needs.

All Lab Activities Can Go Digital  

With an ELN, detailed monitoring capabilities give managers a quick, clear idea of what staff are working on and how much time they are spending on tasks. Additionally, an employee skills matrix can provide a list of authorizations and certifications, while a global equipment view can display machine readiness by showing maintenance and calibration schedules, or interventions. These provide increased clarity and  flexibility when planning and scheduling assets, resulting in lower costs and improved results.

Furthermore, your team can spend their time on projects or research, rather than creating and formatting reports, since reports can be automatically generated by the system. Key performance indicators (KPIs) can be generated across the various types of data in order to optimize performance, reduce costs, or improve utilization. 

Finally, your company can ensure compliance with standards, by creating and following standard processes that ensure audit trails are created and evident. Whether looking to stay, or to be, accredited, this is a mandatory requirement. 

TEEXMA® for ELN empowers your labs by giving them the capabilities to plan, manage, execute and improve for the future!