Today’s blog post was inspired by a search phrase that brought readers to this blog, which is “labware lims modules”.
The idea with a module is that you begin with the basic system and, as you want more features, add-on only those modules that include the features you need. Thus, you purchase your LabWare LIMS and then add-on just what you need.
A benefit to this is that all programming, no matter how good, contains bugs and will affect other programming you have. So, by minimizing the amount of system that you have, you minimize the chance for bugs. So, when you run the test scripts against your basic LabWare LIMS, or any other system, you’re verifying only that that part of it works properly. Everything you add onto that has the potential to cause issues with what you already have and you have to retest at least some portion. This is where we start talking about risk-based assessments for testing.
Someone out there is going to shout that this should all be tested and should be bug-free. As a software expert, I will just tell you that we have this old saying, “The last bug isn’t fixed until the last user is dead.” Basically, there is just so much programming in these systems that it’s not possibly to test absolutely every case and catch every bug and find absolutely every combination of keystrokes that a user might press.
I happen to be known as an extremely effective bug tester and I will tell you that even I don’t find every one of them. It’s just not possible. Users will always come up with a way to use something that even I would not have thought of.
The downside to the module concept, then, is that you have to go looking for the modules you need. With regard to the LabWare system, there are so many of them that it’s not always easy to tell if there’s one that will help your next effort, especially if you’re neither an expert with the system nor familiar with many of the modules.
Are Modules Free?
I don’t want to get into the semantics of this but, basically, the LabWare modules are free. The ELN requires a separate license and I don’t want to argue about whether it actually counts as a module but, other than that, if you have a LabWare license and are paying an ongoing maintenance and support fee, you can access and download the modules.
Just one caveat, though – there might be other things you need to pay for. For example, if you are running Crystal reports, you do not need to buy a license for Crystal for your users to run those report templates. However, if you want to develop your own Crystal reports, then you would want to buy a copy of Crystal to do that. Note: I have not yet been aware of a project that did not need to makes at least some changes to customize their reports so plan on buying one Crystal license, to start.
Modules Versus Solutions
A module basically offers some functionality and will need someone to configure and customize it. Someone is about to write to me to say that we don’t customize the LabWare LIMS but I’m not talking about writing SmallTalk and changing the actual base system but about writing LIMS Basic. We do enough of that that I call it “customization” so that customers understand the magnitude of the work.
In any case, a module still requires quite a lot of work, in some cases. The more complex the module, the more complex the work to get it ready for use.
But a “solution” is meant to be more complete than that. A “solution” might involve more than one module and a huge amount of programming. For example, the QC Pharma(ceutical) “solution” involves the stability “module” and a ton of programming. Even so, it does require some modifications from customers but is not at the same magnitude as if the customers had to pay a consultant to start from scratch on this the way we used to do.
So, a “solution” is a combination of modules, configuration, LIMS Basic programming, and probably some Crystal reports. It is meant for one specific situation, such as the QC Pharma template which is meant just for QC Pharma situations and probably only for certain markets, such as the US market. I say that because I seem to remember that it includes the USP “module” which has 2-3 methods in it and is not the same as, say the BP, EP or JP, although some of those might be included and I’m just not aware of them. I’m merely saying that these solutions tend to be specific to some particular target market.
More on Modules
So, the bottom line, here, is that you have to know the difference between “modules” and “solutions” to know what you want to download from your software vendor. In this case, we’re specifically talking about LabWare but that is true of other vendors, as well.
You also have to know how to evaluate what you’re downloading to know if it’s going to be useful for what you need it for. Do not put modules in if you’re not going to use them because it could introduce unexpected bugs to your system. Even in a development system it is just much easier to introduce modules as you need them and use them for a bit of time to try them out and see if you suddenly have issues, than to just throw a lot of things in all at one time and, if you have problems, have no idea which of the multitudes to being with. And if you’ve ever started unbinding modules in the LabWare LIMS to find out which one introduced a bug, you’ll know what I’m talking about, here.
But, seriously, just be methodical about it and don’t get too greedy about downloading, and that will be a good start.