Culture Collection Management System

A unique combination of freezer management and inventory system

A Fortune 500 company asked BME Systems to organize the production and distribution of their microbiological strains maintained and subcultured for internal use.

Previously, cultures required to validate company products were not always available when needed, causing delays in production. Manual record keeping and labeling took time and were prone to error. The knowledge of company holdings were in the notes of one key staff person.

Seeing the project clearly

A review of the process revealed that the company needed — not just an freezer inventory system — but a mini MES (Manufacturing Execution System). 

The system had to track strain lineage AND schedule when to subculture a strain based on stock availability at individual campus locations and the availability of the strain within the entire collection.  Such a system was not commercially available.

A complete answer

A database system with both culture collection staff and user interfaces was created to handle multi-site freezer inventory with bar-coded vials and autonomous, networked, fault-tolerant, kiosk stations.

Critical viability data is disseminated for the vials accessed. Vials are tracked by user and user group. Strain lineage is tracked to limit the number of passes from a strain. Heuristics are used to query the database to create a weekly production task report that prioritizes the subculture process.  This maximizes the probability that cultures are constantly available.

... with critical endpoint features built on the infrastructure

The system has a unique function that uses the information about vial access at a specified location to  “create” a virtual freezer with strain group assignment sizes that are optimal based on usage over a user specified period.  As a result of strain assignment optimization, all strains are produced at the same frequency.  This leads to healthy culture rotation and minimizes both culture degradation from freeze/thaw effects.  Because the number of times the strain must be subcultured is minimized, the number of ATCC strains that must be purchased is virtually eliminated.

The system has been expanded in scope twice, is validated, and has been in continuous use for over 25 years.

A culture collection management system that combines freezer management and inventory

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