Digitization and intelligent networking of all processes under the banner of “Industry 4.0” means: The technical and physical test laboratories must also become “smart” – externally regarding the other company departments and customers, but above all internally with regard to processes, information management and data handling. This can be achieved through the full integration of laboratory management via laboratory management system (LMS) and comprehensive automation.
Fully integrated means that the administrative processes and technical procedures can be handled very effectively in a physical and technical test laboratory: The data need only be entered once and can be used at all points where it is needed.
This does not only start with the setup in the test laboratory, but already in the offer phase. The offer to a customer already describes test procedures and test parameters. The test is part of the work preparation to which a test system is already assigned.
If the customer places the order, all data, e.g. parameters, planned dates or assigned devices, can be taken from the offer without having to enter additional data.
The test planning including test parameters and further details are transferred to the laboratory automation system. When the test items are prepared and set up in the test device, the test engineer or technician can start the test or tests. For combined tests the laboratory automation system offers the possibility to synchronize different tests into different devices.
During the test, current status, measurement data and other parameters such as additional inputs or outputs of the test devices, remaining run time, etc. can be monitored. Since the laboratory automation system monitors the tests of the test devices in real time and stores the data, the data is periodically transferred to the laboratory management system.
After the test, the laboratory automation system transmits all results to the laboratory management system, where test reports can be generated based on this data.
All these steps can also be performed remotely.
The main advantages for all persons involved in the entire process can be quickly listed:
To reduce the complexity of using different systems, laboratory automation relies on the uniform definition of device interfaces. This also reduces the failure rate and facilitates the training of new employees in the physical and technical test laboratory. The link between the laboratory management system (LMS) and laboratory automation enables orders to be transmitted directly to the test devices and ensures that the data of the test results are consistent until the test reports are created.
If different devices have to be synchronized for a combined test, they can be grouped together in clusters. These device clusters are treated as a single test device in the system and can be controlled in the same way as the other test devices. Here, too, the use of test devices, access to measurement data and control of a test remain consistent throughout the entire process, right up to report generation.
Thanks to web-based technology, the status of each device and the measurement data can be queried not only on-site in the test lab, but also at any time from another office, from home or via smartphone. Tests can also be paused, resumed or stopped remotely.
Many test laboratories are part of international corporations. The laboratory management system and the test laboratory automation system are therefore multilingual. This means that the same software application can be installed worldwide and support from a central laboratory can be easily organized. If required, the entire system can be quickly and easily extended with additional languages.