My lab is a little different from the ordinary lab. How do you handle novel requirements that other labs wouldn’t have?
We believe that all labs are unique, and our technology is specifically designed to support the unique needs of different laboratories. UNIFlow is a process definition language* from which our entire process is constructed. We are able to define not just an extra field – we can create a whole new form – a whole new flow. We can literally add things that have not yet been invented and named. We routinely add new capabilities to UNIFlow to meet unique needs. We believe all process-oriented systems need to be completely customizable, so we have geared our procedures and development methodology to enable much faster than ordinary programming.
(*Link to definition of process definition language?)
Can I validate information as it is being entered?
Yes. UNIFlow has built-in validations on its input fields already. For example, in our workflow, if you want to do a particular procedure on a particular unit, UNIFlow will check to see that it is properly queued. In addition, you can add criteria with a validation tag that will display an error message if those criteria are not satisfied to any existing or added field. It can be something simple like, “Entry must to be within a certain numeric range,” or “Field must not be blank,” or “No matching record for that ID number in the database.” You can add as many validations to any field as you want.
Do you support barcodes?
Yes. We strongly recommend putting a barcode on every physical object. The barcode then becomes the entry point into the system. For every class of object (samples, instruments, supplies, storage locations, etc.) we define the workflow and then track its course to make sure everything is happening in the specified sequence with qualified resources. The sequence and resources are configured according to your desired specifications.
What database do you work with?
We are compatible with any relational database management system that supports commit/rollback transactions. Databases we have worked with include the following: MySQL, Microsoft Sequel Server, Oracle, Sybase.
What operating systems do you run on?
We run on Linux, Windows, and Mac OSX.
What browsers do you support?
We support all current browsers.
How do you interface with existing software?
Most programs keep their data in a relational database. A database is a common pool or base of information from which you can draw multiple views and serve multiple purposes. The UNIFlow system is able to reside on the same database manager as another application and therefore live in the same database. It occupies its own space, but it is able to read and write to the same tables that are used by the other program, given adequate security authorization and control such that it can share information. That is the purpose of a data“base.”
All UNIFlow steps are web services, so any Service Oriented Architecture (SOA) is able to initiate a request to a UNIFlow step service. Likewise, UNIFlow can act as client in requesting and submitting information to an SOA service.
Do you keep an audit trail?
Yes. For every operation, UNIFlow records “who,” “what,” “when,” “where,” and comments about that event, together with any trackable containers and resources used in that work activity. These are all stored in a common format in the database.
How do you assure that the audit trail is not tampered with?
All updates use an insert and do not delete information. As a transaction manager, UNIFlow inserts information far more frequently than any other function. Consequently, we are able to configure the database to only allow inserts and to deny updates and deletions so that any information that gets recorded stays recorded. When a change happens to the record, we keep a copy of the current status of the record, as well as copies of all past versions of the record in the same fashion. If there is a need to fix something, we require that a “repair” operation be defined as a process step that documents who did it and what they changed, and we keep copies of both the old and new records.
Can you control who can perform different operations?
Yes. We have two different mechanisms:
The access-level mechanism allows you to assign each user and each step an access level. A worker cannot perform a step unless his or her access level is at least as high as the level required for that particular step.
The second mechanism assigns workers and users to authorization groups so that members of an authorized group can only do steps that are part of that authorized group.
How do you handle rework (e.g., when a plate is dropped)?
UNIFlow maintains a complete history of every ancestor that contributed to the final product or any intermediate product. When something fails, you can identify a known good upstream starting point and create new containers with different bar codes for those new descendants in the process. They have new barcodes and thus enable you to have a different set of identifiers for the segment that produced a successful result while preserving the history of the part of the process that failed.
Are you CFR 21 part 11 compliant and GLP compliant?
Yes. Nearly every UNIFlow user has multiple compliance requirements and tells us that UNIFlow plays a big part in helping them achieve and maintain compliance. One of our customers reported the following in regards to compliance:
“In the course of every external audit our organization has been through the auditors have all commented on the excellent LIMS system that we have (several have said our LIMS is the best they have ever seen)”. In addition to CFR 21 part 11 and GLP, UNIConnect deploys UNIFlow to achieve compliance with AABB, GMP, CAP, CLIA, and myriad ISO standards.
Can I make changes myself, or do I have to pay you to do it?
Once trained, authorized UNIFlow engineers in your organization can make any needed change to the system, including defining new types of objects to track, new steps to the process, new workflows, and new content flows. You can even add whole new wings to your process or construct new processes entirely – all without paying additional fees. The trained customer can configure all of these.
Our goal is to help our customers become as independent as they want. UNIConnect professional services are usually engaged to get the system into production. As part of that, we train customers to gradually take over making changes, beginning with easier enhancements and culminating in complete independence from UNIConnect. There are some things, such as designing databases or writing custom software that we don’t equip you to do, but as far as defining new steps, content flows, workflows, validations, qualifications, etc., those things can all be completely configured by you - without having to apply for budgeting dollars and resources.
How do I interface with instruments or with legacy systems?
We have several mechanisms. First, we can interface through the database by creating setup files and importing results files with instruments that interface with your files. Second, we can interface directly with simple instruments such as scales, thermometers, etc., to command them to enter results into the browser field to capture the ID of that instrument and qualify it. Any UNIFlow step can be accessed as a web service over the network, and UNIFlow can access any other existing web service that the customer uses.
How long does it take to get into production?
We move at the speed of your organization. Smaller sized projects often are in production within a few weeks. With larger projects, we break work into smaller units to be finished and put into production in no more than four months. We believe that rapid development is a cornerstone of successful system design, and this conviction defines our approach to serving customers.
Is there a way we can see UNIFlow applied to our specific problem?
Depending on the need, we will sometimes agree to build a portion of your system to meet specific needs and demonstrate the rapid configurability of UNIFlow. Our ability to do this quickly makes this affordable, and allows you to see UNIConnect principles applied to your specific problem.
What size server is required to run UNIFlow?
UNIFlow makes modest demands on the server hardware and the database. Any modern computer can be used as a server.
In some cases, other programs can run on the same server, if they likewise constitute only a modest load on the hardware.
What skills make for a good person to train on my staff to do UNIFlow customization?
The most important attribute is to understand your process requirements and also your methods for group decision-making. We have also discovered that people who have background editing web pages in html, SQL experience and XML familiarity have particular UNIFlow aptitude, because UNIFlow is based on similar technologies and principles.