Before we continue discussing generalized patterns in LIMS design/construction and the progression of patterns from raw/organic concepts to normalized ones we have to take a quick detour into process improvement.
5S is an improvement philosophy that hails from Japan. It found wide use in Toyota and has been in use for some years.
It consists of the following parts (translated into English): sort, set in order, shine, standardize, and sustain. These parts make up what we will refer to as an oblique pattern (more on that after the explanation of the 5S parts).
This consists mainly of classifying what you have and putting the parts into groups. Distinctions like 'old' versus 'new' or 'working' versus 'broken' would arise here.
Set in Order
In 5S this has to do with arranging things in an order that facilitates retrieval. If you cannot think of anything to do here then it might be good to arrange things as being either internal or external. Elements that are internal to your process can be flagged as separate from those that are essentially external. For instance, you might want to differentiate between internal data storage versus external files that originate from a third party system.
In 5S this essentially means to 'clean' the area. It also involves eliminating things that are not relevant to the process in the first place.
This is where shared learning and methodologies for reacting to problems that have happened in the past or are reasonably expected to occur in the future are documented/archived.
This has to do with monitoring and reacting to changing conditions and problems with standardized activities. Of course this means if you skipped the standardization step you will have little to work on here.
The Hawthorne Effect
Although not strictly a part of 5S ignorance of the effect of the Hawthorne Effect can be so debilitating to a 5S initiative it should be included right away. Essentially it can be summarized to mean that individual/group behavior changes when the participants know they are being observed. Therefore success benchmarks derived from observed groups must be considered suspect if gathered too early.
The 5S methodology can be applied to improve software projects. It is referred to as an oblique pattern because its aim is to affect other patterns themselves. If you say that you are applying 5S in a pattern-based environment then you are really saying that you a) have identified existing patterns (including organically-generated ones) and b) that you are applying the individual parts of 5S on those patterns.
Let's try this out. Take a look at the following graphic (click to enlarge it):
On one side the graphic has the familiar 5S pattern. On the other side you will find six common pillars of software development: specifications, coding, configuration, the release system, documentation, and support. Applying 5S to all of these could be the subject of several articles, so let's concentrate on the release system.
The release system for software consists of removing or exporting code from the code repositories and configuration management systems that were used during development. A common pattern that occurs at PharmaCorp X (not a real company) is that the code is released from a source code management system onto a test server (called TEST). Then QA personnel update their test scripts and execute some form of software validation. Developers, eager to assist in the validation process, frequently change code to satisfy last-minute needs.
- Sort: Delineate responsibilities. Developers are responsible for moving code to TEST. QA staff are responsible for issuing complaints. Developers are again responsible for making code changes. You can also do this with code state: code that comes directly from the repository (it will have a version number) is different than modified or new code.
- Set in Order: The obvious culprit is often the development team -- they are responsible for maintaining code. However, once you set the pattern in order you realize that the real problem is actually the QA staff and their urgency. The request to fix a problem precedes the code change in the organic pattern. Therefore, it should be listed earlier in the ordering.
- Shine: Removing the ability to make code changes on TEST is a first and obvious corrective step. Next is to force QA to utilize a monitored filter that can prioritize change requests. Some steering team can then review these requests to ensure that they meet business needs and will not negatively impact the overall system quality. If there is agreement that a change is acceptable a request can be made to developers to make appropriate changes in a development system and check their changes into the code repository.
- Standardize: If the aforementioned flow is Ad-Hoc (explained in an e-mail, during a meeting, etc.) it needs to be placed somewhere where it can be retrieved and followed. This can be a Wiki or some kind of other shared repository.
- Sustain: This is one of the biggest problems organizations have when applying any improvement methodology. The assumption is that the process will continue to work as expected. But the Hawthorne Effect will almost always kick in very shortly after the system is put in place, so here one needs to establish monitoring and other controls into the process. A special code-release meeting could take place before QA is allowed to certify a system that specifically checks that the code repository is up to date.
Your ability to recognize, implement, and redirect patterns using 5S (or something equivalent) will determine your success in managing LIMS (even DIY ones). 5S can be used for any of the software development pillars as well as help conquer problems that arise during those processes. This is why a clear understanding of some kind of oblique pattern like 5S must go hand-in-hand with pattern-based development. Some patterns will be developed in-house while others will come from outside (standards are actually patterns but patterns are not standards -- a lengthy discussion on this will have to come later). Your proficiency herein will allow you to modify patterns appropriately to achieve the best results.Go Back
Citation: 5S and Improvement. (2014). Retrieved Thu Mar 23 00:17:58 2017, from http://www.limsexpert.com/cgi-bin/bixchange/bixchange.cgi?pom=limsexpert3;iid=readMore;go=1392678098