The Institute for Electronics and Nanotechnology (IEN) at Georgia Tech advances applications in medicine, homeland security, and energy, as well as improves technologies in other sectors. IEN provides users in academia, industry and government open access—for education and technology transfer—to its state-of-the-art research tools and laboratories, valued in excess of $400 million.
“OutSystems not only helped us build an efficient lab management app, their week long boot camp quickly trains new developers to work on the platform.”
To manage its high volume of requests, IEN required a web-based application for its 2,500 users to check availability and reserve any of its nearly 400 pieces of advanced lab equipment. Using OutSystems, the Institute built SUMS (Shared User Management System) in just 15 weeks. SUMS transformed how IEN tracks lab inventory and equipment, how users check availability and make reservations, as well as how departments are billed. This major leap in lab management will enable IEN to ramp up the efficiency of its research as well as expand user access.
Improve Lab Management in order to Enhance Equipment Utilization and Increase Research Capacity
Challenge - IEN contains several research buildings, multiple campuses and numerous shared user laboratories in which there is a high demand for equipment time. Managing the requests in an organization of this magnitude and complexity poses a daily challenge.
IEN had relied on an ad hoc collection of systems to manage equipment availability, reservations and training. They included various off-the shelf software solutions using Linux, Python, MySQL, PostgreSQL, PHP, Apache and other languages. Additionally, paper-and-pen log books were still used to reserve time on certain machines. This lack of integration led to inefficiencies and errors in the allocation of assets and resources, causing delays in the running of experiments. Moreover, the Institute’s existing program also proved to be extremely difficult to modify.
According to Jason Herrington, Software / Control Systems Lead at IEN, “A change to our traditional code based website took hours, if not days, to find the location in the code and to check for interaction with other modules.” Looking for a solution, Herrington attended a conference for lab managers of academic institutions. Herrington met with his peers, and he began his investigation into procuring a new system. Upon completing his analysis, Herrington recommended OutSystems due to its:
- Ability to accommodate parallel business practices – ensuring different departments within IEN could continue to use their preferred methods of operation
- Ease of use – allowing people with little to no technical knowledge to use the application without training
- Mobile integration – enabling both application development and use from any location
The OutSystems Advantage
As a leader in its fields of study, the Institute for Electronics and Nanotechnology (IEN) at Georgia Tech needed to make its laboratory management system as advanced as the science it produces. Any changes made to its previous system entailed extensive hard coding. OutSystems met IEN’s technical requirements, as well as offered an opportunity for IEN to rapidly deploy an advanced lab management system that is easy to modify and simple to use.
Redesign both Front- and Back-end Systems, Provide an Intuitive User Experience
Solution - IEN utilized OutSystems to build SUMS in 15 weeks. A web-based application that is accessible via desktop, or mobile device, SUMS provides users with an around-the-clock solution to quickly and accurately reserve lab equipment at Georgia Tech’s Institute for Electronics and Nanotechnology as well as at other affiliated institutions. Launched as a pilot program, SUMS enlisted 800 active users. This afforded IEN an opportunity to quickly refine usability and add additional functionality.
- Track lab inventory and equipment status
- Check equipment availability
- Reserve equipment in real time
- Integrates with the comptroller’s office
- Allocates billing to the correct department
“SUMS, built with OutSystems, facilitates research at IEN.”
Results - SUMS not only provided the solution IEN needed to manage its labs and equipment, it has helped researchers improve the planning of their experiments. The money saved through the reduction of long-term programming costs will also contribute to the Institute’s ability to better serve its users in new and meaningful ways.
The selection of OutSystems delivered on IEN’s requirement for a scalable, efficient and intuitive laboratory management solution. As IEN opens SUMS up to larger numbers of users, the Institute expects to find and implement additional ways to benefit researchers. “With OutSystems, modifications to our site are quick and easy,” says Herrington. “Even large scale parallel process additions, such as someone wanting to process a bill in a different manner, are easily implemented with the visual process flow editor.”
- 150,000 equipment reservations handled per year
- $540,000 per year reduction in costs related to reduced programming needs
- 0 hours needed for user training
- Allows researchers to check availability and reserve equipment, 24 hours a day
- Highly scalable, with 2,500 users
- Provides opportunity for modifications and enhancements without disrupting current functionality