I skipped last week’s blog post to instead go on a beverage and science trip. And, yes, I did get to talk about LIMS (at least a little bit).
Yet More Tours
With all the tours I’ve been on in my career, you might be surprised that I’d take a trip just to take more tours. In fact, I’ll admit I did even pay for one of them. It was with someone with which I thought I had no connections. I later found out I was mistaken – it was money well-spent, though.
Working on building more beverages into the customer line-up here at GeoMetrick Enterprises, I’ve focused on taking more tours and speaking with yet more companies.
In any case, I just returned from three beverage tours and a fourth company where I merely took a look at the general operations with a brief description of what they’re doing, how their equipment is setup and the like. These included both alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages.
All of these were quite small. None had any real automation and none yet had anything such as a LIMS in operation.
They varied in their issues. Some are labeling bags, all are labeling bottles. Seals vary. But several of them share products or manufacturing. What was unique about the situation is that one might make a fully-drinkable product of their own. Then, they send it to one of the others to become the other’s ingredient. The cross-pollination between these entirely separate companies was inspiring.
Just a general comment as an example, and this is true in other states, depending on their laws, but not everyone that wants to put something in a can necessarily needs to wait to come up with the money to buy their own canner. And, in these product combinations I just visited, this was definitely the case. Not everyone needs to buy every piece of equipment if their “neighbor” can share with them, in some manner.
And, in all this, even post-tour, everyone was excited to speak in more detail about the science and business behind their beverages. I heard quite a lot about evaporation, how different types of wood allow evaporation, and yet other containers. Someone even said the word “turbidity” a few times, just to round it all out.
Beyond merely trying new recipes, there were some discussions revolving around whether there’s a way to scientifically test of which ingredients taste best with other ingredients and containers. Large companies do more of this, on their own, but small companies can do just some modest amount of testing.
I even got the opportunity to discuss yeast propagation and harvesting in a tiny amount of detail, during the trip. Although, I’ll admit, more of the discussion was regarding picking the right yeast and enzymes for the product and how difficult that can be.
While no-one I visited was using a LIMS, I did get a chance to speak more about LIMS, in general, and did run across another “visitor” who was switching their LIMS.
But, in a way, let’s just call these situations more of a “clipboard on the tank” kind of situation. Some of them were storing samples in an organized manner with clear markings on the experiment from which they came. Some were storing some amount of data in one type of software or spreadsheet. Beyond the alcoholic beverages and their TTB (US Tax and Trade Bureau) spreadsheets, though, there wasn’t a lot more that they all routinely did.
Let’s compare these with the somewhat larger facilities, such as I mentioned in my Scientific Computing World article “Brewing Up a Laboratory Sample,. So, while you can imagine what they might grow into if they become quite large, on their own, they’re probably not going to implement commercial LIMS systems, any time soon. That’s my guess.
On top of all this, I also got an opportunity to visit a science incubator. There was a lot of complex auto-sampling and a great deal of informatics being displayed. A number of the more interesting processes have detail displays, charts and even a 3D display complete with 3D glasses.
But, once, again, no LIMS. Much of the research seems separate. As such, it doesn’t tend to be tracked, together, and often seems to use very specific apps.
As you saw in the title of this blog, I ran across even “more” than just LIMS and science on this trip.
The science incubator I just mentioned has programs to encourage youth to get into science. They can learn some of the science and do hands-on work, there. When they complete their course, they have real science skills behind them.
In my general “travels,” this past week, I also ran into a large company talking about their programs to encourage more women to go into STEM learning.
In any case, I just found it interesting to hear how the science incubator and this larger company are both working to build more skills for the next generations.
One particularly useful thing about touring beverage facilities is that there are samples of the products. Even the experimental products are mostly drinkable. It’s a way to identify the process with the products and their process.
As for the science incubator, while I have no urge whatsoever to try to consume anything they’re working on, still had a great time watching their charts update, their autosampler preparations, and seeing some 3D displays.
And, while I only probably gathered one “real” LIMS prospect, learned plenty and had a great time.