When LGC's head of IT Gideon Kay arrived, the whole company was supported by a central ERP system provided by IFS. This core application managed a range of business processes such as finance, procurement, manufacturing, HR and CRM.
Kay is toying with the idea of duplicating these processes onto a hosted service.
He is running a pilot of around 30 users using Salesforce.com with a plan to complement the existing ERP system, rather than replace it.
This is in response to the need to address the challenge of the company’s growing global footprint.
Kay reasons that a bolt-on ERP service in the cloud could minimise new office set-up times without having to invest in more infrastructure. He stresses that the hosted service would not be used for forensics data.
Integrating the hosted service to the back office presents a challenge because some of the interfaces are with specialised analysis equipment. In the past, the software to support this back-office integration has been written in-house.
Kay has taken on a project to deploy Laboratory Information Management Systems (LIMS) into relevant parts of the business, principally forensics and sci-tech.
These are specialised applications which manage the processes by which jobs are taken into the labs, analysed and reported back to the client. Measurements are automatically logged into the LIMS to reduce the margin of error.
Kay recognises that there is a learning curve involved in becoming familiar with technology designed specifically for a science-based environment like this, but there are parallels he can draw that cross vertical markets.
“Essentially a LIMS is just another workflow management system,” he says.
The deployment of LIMS ensures the integrity of the data in line with regulations. The vast majority of the data created by the company is sensitive from a legal perspective and customer information in particular is highly sensitive.
Systems are audited by the UK Accreditation Service (UKAS) to make sure the reputation of the science that is conducted by the company is protected.
More than this, the LIMS system streamlines processes in the labs, allowing the company to provide a better service to customers.
Kay explained the LIMS implementation programme is two-thirds complete and the forensics division will be fully supported by 2012.
The genomics division was already supported by a LIMS system before it was acquired, and Kay is evaluating to assess its longevity.
LGC relies increasingly on its website to keep in contact with customers, and Kay’s remit includes improving this level of client engagement through technology.
The division which uses the web most is the standards-referencing business, which has most of its core applications residing on a mainframe.
It launched an online shop in August for ordering samples, and Kay wants to integrate the web shop with the physical selling activities of the business.
Other units are also keen to ramp up their customer service efforts through the online channel, which can overcome some of the challenges of the mismatch in working hours.
Kay explained that food testing is an important user in this case: abattoirs are required to have carcasses tested before they are sent to customers and this means samples an come into LGC at six in the evening.
Samples may go through an analysis process until the early hours of the next day and then the results are uploaded on to a database for the abattoirs to receive an hour later.
It it to everyone’s benefit if an online link can speed this process up, especially when the product has such a limited shelf-life.
“People don’t want to wait for the report, they need the information more quickly to make the appropriate business decisions,” says Kay.