E-WorkBook: Bringing the electronic lab to biofuels and biochemicals production
Rapidly growing firm ditches paper notebooks to boost collaboration, traceability and quality of data
Netherlands-based BiCHEM Technology BV (BiCHEM) was formed in 2010 with a mission to create novel processes for the production of fuels and chemicals from biomass waste. Founded to carry out a joint development agreement between BIOeCON and Petrobras, the firm has accelerated from an initial research and development (R&D) phase to process development and pilot research. It has almost tripled its employee base since inception, amidst significant growth in the biofuels industry.
As the firm scaled up, working in a paper-based environment posed significant challenges and risks. Data was falling into silos or saved in separate Excel spreadsheets. Sharing information across the company’s five different teams was particularly tricky and time consuming. BiCHEM needed an affordable tool to support its experimental work.
“As we grew, we wanted to be able to organize our data in a systematic way and make it more traceable,” said Johan van den Bergh, Research Scientist at BiCHEM. “We were keen to find a full, professional package which would enable us to drive the company and our research work forward.”
After a comprehensive review of the market, the company chose E-WorkBook to support the BiCHEM team of around 20 employees at its Netherlands site. It offers a structured platform in which to store the company’s experimental data, enabling better trend analysis and cross-experimental reporting.
Johan said, “We wanted an efficient way to organize and handle our data. After comparing several solutions we chose E‑WorkBook to manage our research data electronically and to facilitate collaboration within the business. The platform is extremely flexible and we found it more convenient and logical to use than other solutions on the market. It is helping us to make our data searchable and improve information flows across all of our projects.”
Installation was completed in just one week thanks to significant planning upfront from IDBS and BiCHEM. Within four months of deployment the team was fully up to speed and able to use the system. IDBS provided additional training and worked closely with BiCHEM to build appropriate templates, tailored to their data capture preferences.
“Our ELN is organized with a folder structure that ties into our corporate planning so that we can clearly see which tasks we need to perform to achieve our goals as a company. Each of our five project teams has space in the system to add their data, enabling scientists, researchers and technicians to store results in one specific location”, said Johan.
Using E‑WorkBook, BiCHEM can secure chemical R&D data more efficiently than previous paper-based methods. Finding data from across the company takes just seconds with a simple query.
In doing away with paper notebooks, the BiCHEM team has accelerated experimental data handling and ensured knowledge is captured and secured in one place. Users can easily collaborate across departments. Scientists and researchers can quickly find the data they require when it comes to experiment review and reporting.
Streamlined workflows include a built-in sign-off process which expedites management review. The system also offers better traceability of results which are now stored in a structured format. The team is able to match unique lab sample IDs to input fields in the ELN so that experiments can be traced back if required. In addition, the firm has seen an increase in data quality, with users better documenting research findings.
Johan added, “People tend to take more care inputting information as they know it will be visible to others in the team. Data is easier to find and we’ve seen a significant rise in the quality of data stored.”
E-WorkBook has proved popular at BiCHEM. Researchers and scientists are pleased to have their data in a more organized format so that they can share information and communicate across teams efficiently. Moving to an ELN which will grow with the team has been a positive change for users and the way the firm operates from the lab.
“The biggest advantage of the ELN is being able to organize how we document our experiments. With paper we saw every researcher using individual notebooks. There was no one golden source of data. Now with E-WorkBook we have a central database to capture and share our results. We’ve actually seen an increase in the quality of data input too.” - Johan van den Bergh, Research Scientist at BiCHEM
Key Benefits BiCHEM is Seeing
- A move away from the paper-based lab
- The ability to share data across the business, boosting collaboration
- Improved quality of research data documented
- Greater traceability of experiments
- Streamlined workflows, accelerating R&D lifecycle
- A future-proof system which will grow with the team
BiCHEM Technology BV is an R&D company started in 2010 tasked with the development of a process for the production of chemicals and transport fuels from lignocellulosic biomass. It is a subsidiary of BIOeCON, a privately funded company formed in 2006 with the vision to develop breakthrough technology for the production of economical and ecologically friendly second generation biofuels and chemicals from non-edible biomass. It was founded to carry out a joint development agreement between BIOeCON and Petrobras.