For those of you reading this blog on a regular basis, you’ll know that my business specializes in the Thermo Scientific SampleManager LIMS and the LabWare LIMS. In the past year or so, I have started expanding, somewhat. After all, we eventually all need to learn something new unless we find some comfortable niche where there is a need with not enough competition and that doesn’t describe these products. There are more people looking for implementation work than there are projects, most of the time.

LabWare ELN Module
With that in-mind, in the past year or so, I’ve been working with customers on the LabWare ELN. This isn’t quite as straightforward as just learning other new modules in this system because it’s so different than the others. While learning any new module in this system, it requires learning which events are available for the new module and how they work differently than with other modules. Also, you quite often have the usual suspects to deal with, such as samples, tests, results, lots, instruments and the like and to learn how they interact with the ELN module. On top of all that, you do have to learn how the actual ELN interface works in its MS Excel-like manner, which is another layer to this. Additionally, the number of additional LIMS Basic commands to learn is significant. Not only that, but there are a number of new tables and fields to learn.

I would liken learning the LabWare ELN to learning its Stability module in the number of tables and fields and basic LIMS complexity to learn. Add to that another entire level of complexity and you can get an idea how much work it will be for you to learn this module if you need to do so.

Personally, already being and expert in this LIMS helped but it still wasn’t a trivial module to learn. If you’re not an expert in this system, already, I would say that you’ll almost certainly need to take a course to get you started or you might end up struggling much too long with this before you become productive in it.

Other Products
On top of learning the LabWare ELN, a couple other products in the market are hitting a huge rise in popularity and these  software vendors have given me the opportunity to learn their products. This is where it gets hard!

I hadn’t forgotten how similar the Thermo Scientific SampleManager LIMS and the LabWare LIMS are. The LabWare LIMS was originally written to replace the Thermo Scientific SampleManager LIMS but then became its own branded product. The two companies have gone in extremely different directions with these products. However, for those of us working on them, there are many, many ways in which they are similar which does help me work with them.

Now that I’ve branched-out into entirely different products that share no common initial development ideas, it’s a new layer of learning.

First of all, I’ll tell you all this: if you go to learn a new LIMS or ELN and you already know another brand quite well, you have an extreme advantage over someone who doesn’t have that knowledge, already. It helps a LOT and I have had to make that jump before, myself. On the most basic level, they all have samples, tests and results. They all follow a common workflow and have these basic concepts. If you understand how Stability works in one product, you can learn it in another. However, the way the products approach each of these is extremely different and this is where the work in learning comes in.

Bottom Line
As someone who is already an expert in several systems (including the Beckman LIMS from my distant past), I’m somewhat more experienced at having to learn a new system. Over the years, have learned a multitude of programming languages, both public and proprietary languages, as well as a variety of commercial products, LIMS, ELNs and some entirely unrelated products. With this latest batch, I do sometimes struggle. However, I know I’m struggling and know when to give in and ask a question such as, “Hey, where’s the ADD button around here?!”

My Tip
If you end up doing this and find yourself spending too much time spinning your wheels on something then it’s time to take a break. Sit back and evaluate whether you’re making progress. If not, it’s probably time to give in and ask for help.

Gloria Metrick
GeoMetrick Enterprises