(19)
(11)EP 3 474 018 B1

(12)EUROPEAN PATENT SPECIFICATION

(45)Mention of the grant of the patent:
22.07.2020 Bulletin 2020/30

(21)Application number: 17197107.0

(22)Date of filing:  18.10.2017
(51)International Patent Classification (IPC): 
G01N 35/00(2006.01)
B65G 47/74(2006.01)
G01N 35/04(2006.01)
B01L 9/06(2006.01)
B65G 65/00(2006.01)

(54)

A METHOD TO STORE SAMPLE TUBES IN A LABORATORY STORAGE AND RETRIEVAL SYSTEM

VERFAHREN ZUM LAGERN VON PROBENRÖHRCHEN IN EINEM LABORREGALBEDIENSYSTEM

PROCÉDÉ DE STOCKAGE DE TUBES ÉCHANTILLONS DANS UN SYSTÈME DE STOCKAGE ET DE RÉCUPÉRATION DE LABORATOIRE


(84)Designated Contracting States:
AL AT BE BG CH CY CZ DE DK EE ES FI FR GB GR HR HU IE IS IT LI LT LU LV MC MK MT NL NO PL PT RO RS SE SI SK SM TR

(43)Date of publication of application:
24.04.2019 Bulletin 2019/17

(73)Proprietors:
  • Roche Diagnostics GmbH
    68305 Mannheim (DE)
    Designated Contracting States:
    DE 
  • F. Hoffmann-La Roche AG
    4070 Basel (CH)
    Designated Contracting States:
    AL AT BE BG CH CY CZ DK EE ES FI FR GB GR HR HU IE IS IT LI LT LU LV MC MK MT NL NO PL PT RO RS SE SI SK SM TR 

(72)Inventor:
  • WALDBURGER, Stefan
    6343 Rotkreuz (CH)

(74)Representative: Herren, Barbara 
Roche Diagnostics International AG Forrenstrasse 2
6343 Rotkreuz
6343 Rotkreuz (CH)


(56)References cited: : 
WO-A1-2017/081413
US-A1- 2010 028 124
US-A1- 2014 037 517
US-A1- 2015 266 679
US-A1- 2004 037 679
US-A1- 2013 123 089
US-A1- 2014 109 527
  
      
    Note: Within nine months from the publication of the mention of the grant of the European patent, any person may give notice to the European Patent Office of opposition to the European patent granted. Notice of opposition shall be filed in a written reasoned statement. It shall not be deemed to have been filed until the opposition fee has been paid. (Art. 99(1) European Patent Convention).


    Description

    Field of the Invention



    [0001] The present invention belongs to the field of automated laboratory sample tube handling. Within this field, it relates to a method, a laboratory storage and retrieval system, a computer program product, and a computer-readable medium for storing sample tubes in the laboratory storage and retrieval system in an efficient way.

    Background



    [0002] In automated diagnostic laboratory environments a high number of sample tubes containing liquid test samples are transported between multiple stations such as pre- analytical, analytical and post-analytical stations for test sample processing steps according to predefined laboratory workflows in a cautious but still efficient manner in order to produce accurate and reliable test results which represent pivotal information for physicians. Post-analytical stations can usually be used for post-processing steps of test samples like the storage of sample tubes, retrieval of stored sample tubes if further test sample processing steps like an additional test or analysis of a test sample has to be conducted, and disposal of expired sample tubes. EP2148204B 1 discloses a laboratory storage and retrieval system to store sample tubes and retrieve stored sample tubes with different sizes, heights, diameters, contents, etc. Prior to the storage, sample tubes from incoming primary sample tube racks are resorted into sample tube storage racks on the basis of given sort criteria for a more effective use of the available storage place.

    [0003] With improved through-puts and turn-around times of automated pre- analytical and analytical systems the number of sample tubes which have to be stored and the demand of the corresponding storage space in post- analytical stations are increasing. However, storage space in laboratories is often limited and expensive and therefore needs to be used to their utmost efficiency. Additionally, laboratory IT solutions such as middleware solutions or laboratory information systems are capable to define and control complex laboratory workflows in an efficient manner which causes an increased number and frequency of retrievals of stored sample tubes from the laboratory storage and retrieval system. At the same time, the retrieval time of stored sample tubes from the laboratory storage and retrieval system should be as short as possible so that the availability and transport of stored sample tubes to pre- analytical and analytical systems for further test sample processing steps are not the limiting factors in the laboratory workflow and generated test results can be provided on time and required quality for further diagnosis. Examples of the prior art are show in documents : US2014/109527, US2010/028124, US2014/037517 and WO2017/081413. There is a need to improve the capacity as well as the performance of laboratory storage and retrieval systems in a simple, reliable and cost-efficient way. It was an object of the present invention to improve conventional sample tube storing methods, particularly to better serve the needs of automated diagnostic laboratory environments.

    Summary



    [0004] The present invention discloses a method, a laboratory storage and retrieval system, a computer program product, and a computer-readable medium to store sample tubes in the laboratory storage and retrieval system.

    [0005] The present invention relates to a method to store sample tubes in a laboratory storage and retrieval system. The laboratory storage and retrieval system comprises a storage section, a database comprising a sample tube inventory of the storage section, a control device, and at least one sample tube transport system. The storage section comprises at least two storage subsections. The control device controls the database comprising the sample tube inventory of the storage section and the at least one sample tube transport system. The method comprises the following steps:
    • the control device identifies at least two sample tubes with at least one substantially same sample tube attribute and distributed over the at least two storage subsections
    • the at least one sample tube transport system consolidates the at least two sample tubes in at least one storage subsection, wherein the control device further determines in which of the at least two storage subsections the identified sample tubes are consolidated.


    [0006] The present invention also relates to a laboratory storage and retrieval system which comprises a storage section, a database comprising a sample tube inventory of the storage section, a control device, and at least one sample tube transport system adapted to execute the steps of the method to store sample tubes in the laboratory storage and retrieval system as described herein.

    [0007] The present invention further relates to a computer program product comprising instructions to cause the laboratory storage and retrieval system as described herein to execute the steps of the method to store sample tubes in the laboratory storage and retrieval system as described herein.

    [0008] The present invention also relates to a computer-readable medium having stored thereon the computer program product comprising instructions to cause the laboratory storage and retrieval system as described herein to execute the steps of the method to store sample tubes in the laboratory storage and retrieval system as described herein.

    Detailed description



    [0009] The present invention relates to a method to store sample tubes in a laboratory storage and retrieval system. The laboratory storage and retrieval system comprises a storage section, a database comprising a sample tube inventory of the storage section, a control device, and at least one sample tube transport system. The storage section comprises at least two storage subsections. The control device controls the database comprising the sample tube inventory of the storage section and the at least one sample tube transport system. The method comprises the following steps:
    1. a) the control device identifies at least two sample tubes with at least one substantially same sample tube attribute and distributed over the at least two storage subsections
    2. b) the at least one sample tube transport system consolidates the at least two sample tubes in at least one storage subsection, wherein the control device further determines in which of the at least two storage subsections the identified sample tubes are consolidated.


    [0010] As used herein, the term "sample tube" relates to a vessel adapted for receiving, storing, transporting, and/or releasing a sample tube content such as a test sample (e.g. blood, urine, serum, plasma, or liquefied biopsy sample, etc.) from which the presence and if desired the concentration of an analyte can be determined using an analytical station. Depending on the sample tube content, sample processing steps to be carried out, and manufacturer the material as well as the dimension of the sample tube like diameter, side length, height and geometry varies. The sample tube may be a vessel with a cylindrical shape, a closed bottom, and an open top. Alternatively, the closed bottom of the cylindrical vessel can be rounded. The sample tube may be equipped with a cap or lid, either connected to the sample tube or provided independently. The caps or lids may be made of different materials and may have different shapes and dimensions. Alternatively, the sample tube may be sealed. The sample tube may be provided with a barcode or RFID label for identification purposes. For storing sample tubes in the laboratory storage and retrieval system, the sample tubes can be inserted into sample tube storage positions which are holding openings of sample tube storage racks. Such sample tube storage racks may be multi-row racks comprising multiple sample tube storage positions (e.g. three rows with more than ten sample tube storage positions, for example 13 to 14 sample tube storage positions). A sample tube storage rack may be designed as described in EP2148204B1, reference sign SR in figures 3, 4, 5, 13 and corresponding description.

    [0011] As used herein, the term "laboratory storage and retrieval system" relates to a laboratory device for handling sample tubes in the context of storing sample tubes, retrieving stored sample tubes, wasting expired sample tubes, and/ or consolidating sample tubes. The laboratory storage and retrieval system may comprise a storage section for storing sample tubes under predefined and controlled storing conditions, a database comprising a sample tube inventory of the storage section, at least one sample tube transport system for transporting sample tubes, and a control device which controls the database and the at least one sample tube transport system so that the space of the storage section is optimally used. A laboratory storage and retrieval system may be designed as described in EP2148204B1, reference number 10 in figure 1 and corresponding description.

    [0012] As used herein, the term "storage section" relates to a cabinet of various sizes which is able to store a plurality of sample tubes in sample tube storage racks which can be transported into the storage section through a gate. The storage section may have a tempering unit to hold the ambient temperature for the sample tubes within the storage section below room temperature, possibly below 18 °C and possibly below 10 °C. In its inside, the storage section may comprise a plurality of shelves for the storage of a high number of sample tube storage racks in predefined rack storage positions. The storage section may further have, in addition or alternatively to shelves, compartmented trays or inserts for the sample tube storage racks. Further, shelves or compartments with different heights may be provided in order to be able to optimize available space when storing sample tubes of different heights.

    [0013] As used herein, the term "storage subsection" relates to a part or division of the storage section designated for storing a part of all stored sample tubes or a group of sample tubes which have common sample tube attributes. For example, the storage section can be partitioned or divided into different subsections for storing sample tubes which have at least one substantially same sample tube attribute. A storage subsection can be a part of the storage section like a front or rear part of the storage section comprising at least two rack storage positions for storing sample tube storage racks. Alternatively, a storage subsection can be a sample tube storage rack comprising at least two sample tube storage positions for storing sample tubes. Storage subsections may have different positions relative to the gate of the storage section and different storing conditions like temperature or humidity. Also the number of rack storage positions or sample tube storage positions may vary between storage subsections.

    [0014] The term "control device" as used herein encompasses any physical or virtual processing device configurable to control the laboratory storage and retrieval system in a way that sample tube handling steps like storing, retrieving, wasting, and/ or consolidating of sample tubes are conducted by the laboratory storage and retrieval system. The control device may, for example, analyze the database comprising the sample tube inventory of the storage section in order to identify at least two sample tubes which have at least one substantially same sample tube attribute and are distributed over at least two storage subsections. The control device further determines in which of the at least two storage subsections the identified sample tubes are consolidated. The control device may instruct the at least one sample tube transport system to transport sample tubes in order to consolidate the identified sample tubes in the determined at least one storage subsection. After consolidation of the at least two identified sample tubes, the control device may further update the sample tube inventory on the database. The control device may receive information from a data management unit regarding which sample tube handling steps need to be performed for which sample tubes and at what time. The control device may, for instance, be embodied as a programmable logic controller adapted to execute a computer-readable program provided with instructions to perform sample tube handling steps of the laboratory storage and retrieval system. One example of such a sample tube handling step is to control the movements of the at least one sample tube transport system in order to consolidate sample tubes with at least one substantially same sample attribute in at least one storage subsection.

    [0015] As used herein the term "sample tube transport system" relates to a transport system being designed to transport sample tubes to rack storage positions, sample tube storage positions, or to a disposal unit of the laboratory storage and retrieval system. The sample tube transport system may comprise a sample tube rack transport device for transporting sample tubes which are inserted in a sample tube storage rack to rack storage positions or to a disposal unit, a resorting station for transporting individual sample tubes to sample tube storage positions within the same or between different sample tube storage racks, or a combination of a sample tube rack transport device and resorting station.

    [0016] As used herein the term "sample tube attribute" relates to characteristics of the sample tube, characteristics of the sample tube content, and/ or information associated with the sample tube. Characteristics of the sample tube are, as non-limiting examples, the geometry or dimension of the sample tube and/ or sample tube cap. Characteristics of the sample tube content are, as non-limiting examples, sample type, sample expiration date, sample weight, or sample volume. Information associated with the sample tube is, as non-limiting examples, time data about already conducted or planned sample tube handling steps like storing, retrieving, and/ or wasting of sample tubes.

    [0017] As used herein the term "substantially same sample tube attribute" relates to a sample tube attribute tube of at least two sample tubes which is either equal or similar. For example, sample tubes with a substantially same boarding timestamp have been transported into the storage section at the same time point (e.g. sample tubes within the same sample tube storage rack) or within the same predefined time range (e.g. within one hour or working shift)

    [0018] The term "consolidate" as used herein relates to a sample tube handling step where at least two sample tubes which have at least one substantially same sample tube attribute and are distributed over at least two storage subsections are pooled or brought together to at least one storage subsection of the storage section by the at least one sample tube transport system which is controlled by the control device. Thus, sample tubes with at least one substantially same sample tube attributes are grouped or aggregated in at least one storage subsection with the advantage that sample tubes with at least one substantially same sample tube attribute can be handled more efficiently which improves the performance as well as the capacity of the storage and retrieval system.

    [0019] In one embodiment of the method, step b) of the method may comprise one or more of the following sub-steps:
    • In a first sub-step of step b), the control device may determine the at least one storage subsection in which the at least two sample tubes with the at least one substantially same sample tube attribute are consolidated. The determination of the storage subsection may depend on the at least one substantially same sample tube attribute of the two sample tubes. In addition or alternatively, the determination of the storage subsection may also depend on the number of sample tubes to be consolidated and the number of vacant rack storage positions or sample tube storage positions within each of the at least two storage subsections.
    • In a second sub-step of step b), the control device may further check whether at least one vacant rack storage position or sample tube storage position is available or not in the at least one storage subsection which was determined for consolidating the at least two identified sample tubes having at least one substantially same sample tube attribute. If at least one vacant rack storage position or sample tube storage position is available in the determined storage subsection, the sample tube transport system transports at least one of the at least two sample tubes to the determined subsection as described in the fourth sub-step below.
    • In a third sub-step of step b), if no rack storage position(s) within the determined storage subsection is vacant, at least one sample tube storage rack with sample tubes which have not to be consolidated can be transported to a disposal unit of the laboratory storage and retrieval system or to a vacant rack storage position which may be located outside of the determined subsection for temporary storage.


    [0020] Or in a third sub-step of step b), if no sample tube storage position(s) within the determined storage subsection is vacant, at least one sample tube which has not to be consolidated can be transported to a vacant sample tube storage position of sample tube storage rack with sample tubes which have not to be consolidated.

    [0021] Alternatively, if no rack storage position(s) or sample tube storage position(s) are vacant in the at least one determined storage subsection, step b) of the method can be aborted.
    • In a fourth sub-step of step b), the at least one sample tube transport system transports the at least one of the at least two identified sample tubes to the at least one storage subsection which was determined for consolidating the at least two sample tubes with the at least one substantially same sample tube attribute.


    [0022] In one embodiment of the method, the at least one sample tube transport system comprises a sample tube rack transport device. The at least two storage subsections are at least two parts of the storage section and each part of the storage section comprises at least two rack storage positions. And the control device controls the sample tube rack transport device which transports sample tube storage racks within the storage section to process step b).

    [0023] The term "sample tube rack transport device" as used herein relates to a device being designed to transport sample tube storage racks to rack storage positions or to a disposal unit of the laboratory storage and retrieval system. Such sample tube rack transport devices are well known in the art. In addition to rack storage positions within the storage section, the laboratory storage and retrieval system may further comprise at least one rack storage position which is located outside of the storage section and can be used for the temporary storage of sample tube racks. So, the sample tube rack transport device can transport sample tube storage racks to rack storage positions within the storage section and between the storage section and rack storage positions outside the storage section through the gate of the storage section for the temporary storage of stored sample tube storage racks when for example vacant rack storage position(s) are required for consolidating sample tubes or for the transport of new incoming sample tubes into the storage section. Additionally, the sample tube rack transport device can transport sample tube storage racks to the disposal unit of the laboratory storage and retrieval system where sample tube storage racks can be placed for the disposal of expired sample tubes or for the temporary storage of sample tube storage racks when for example vacant rack storage position(s) are required for consolidating sample tubes having at least one substantially same sample tube attribute in at least one storage subsection.

    [0024] In a specific embodiment, the at least two parts of the storage section may be a front part and a rear part of the storage section, wherein the front part is closer to the gate of the storage section compared to the rear part. The front and the rear part of the storage section may have different dimensions, sample tube storing capacities (e.g. different number of rack storage positions or sample tube storage positions), and/ or storing conditions like temperature or humidity.

    [0025] In another specific embodiment, the at least two parts of the storage section may be an upper part and lower part of the storage section, wherein the upper or the lower part of the storage section is closer to the gate of the storage section. The upper and the lower part of the storage section may have different dimensions, sample tube storing capacity (e.g. different number of rack storage positions or sample tube storage positions), and/ or storing conditions like temperature or humidity.

    [0026] In a further specific embodiment, step b) of the method may comprise the following sub-steps:
    • In a first sub-step of step b), the control device may determine the at least one storage subsection in which the at least two sample tubes with the at least one substantially same sample tube attribute are consolidated. This determination of the storage subsection may depend on the at least one substantially same sample tube attribute of the at least two sample tubes. For example, sample tubes which have the at least one substantially same sample tube attribute scheduled retrieval time point and for which a retrieval is scheduled within the next 24 hours can be consolidated in one of the least two storage subsections which is closer to the gate of the storage section. This has the advantage that the retrieval time of consolidated sample tubes can be minimized.
    • In a second sub-step of step b), the control device may further check whether at least one vacant rack storage position is available or not in the at least one storage subsection which was determined for consolidating the identified at least two sample tubes having at least one substantially same sample tube attribute. If at least one vacant storage position is available in the determined storage subsection, the sample tube rack transport device transports the at least one of the at least two identified sample tubes to the determined subsection as described in the fourth sub-step below.
    • In a third sub-step of step b), if no rack storage position(s) within the determined storage subsection is vacant, at least one sample tube storage rack with sample tubes which have not to be consolidated can be transported to the disposal unit of the laboratory storage and retrieval system or to a vacant rack storage position which may be located outside of the determined subsection for temporary storage.
      Alternatively, if no rack storage position(s) are vacant in the determined storage subsection, step b) of the method can be aborted.
    • In a fourth sub-step of step b), the sample tube rack transport device transports the at least one of the at least two sample tubes to the at least one storage subsection which was determined for consolidating the at least two sample tubes with the at least one substantially same sample tube attribute.


    [0027] In one embodiment of the method, the at least one sample tube transport system comprises a resorting station or a resorting station and a sample tube rack transport device. The at least two storage subsections are at least two sample tube storage racks and each sample tube storage rack comprises at least two sample tube storage positions. The control device controls the resorting station which resorts sample tubes between at least two sample tube storage racks or the resorting station which resorts sample tubes between at least two sample tube storage racks and the sample tube rack transport device which transports sample tube storage racks within the storage section and between the storage section and the resorting station to process step b).

    [0028] The term "resorting station" as used herein relates to a device being designed to transport individual sample tubes to sample tube storage positions within the same or between different sample tube storage racks. So, the resorting station can sort and/ or resort sample tubes between at least two sample tube storage racks. The sorting/ resorting may be based on sample tube attributes in order to consolidate sample tubes having a substantially same sample tube attribute in one sample tube storage rack. Depending on the at least one substantially same sample tube attribute, the at least one subsection in which the at least two sample tubes with the at least substantially same sample tube attribute are consolidated can be determined. The resorting station may comprise a robotic arm equipped with a sample tube gripper. Such resorting stations are well known in the art. A resorting station may be designed as described in EP2148204B1, reference number 310 in figure 1 and corresponding description.

    [0029] In one embodiment, the resorting station may be positioned within the storage section in such a manner that the gripper attached the robotic arm may be able to reach any sample tube storage position within the storage section for accessing the stored sample tubes for resorting. And step b) may comprise the following sub-steps:
    • In a first sub-step of step b), the control device may determine the at least one storage subsection in which the at least two sample tubes with the at least one substantially same sample tube attribute are consolidated. The determination of the storage subsection may depend on the at least one substantially same sample tube attribute of the two sample tubes. In addition or alternatively, the determination of the storage subsection may also depend on the number of sample tubes to be consolidated and the number of vacant sample tube storage positions within each of the at least two storage subsections. For example, if sample tubes from two partially filled sample tube storage racks have to be consolidated in one of the two sample tube storage racks, sample tubes from the sample tube storage rack with less sample tubes can be consolidated in the sample tube storage rack more sample tubes.
    • In a second sub-step of step b), the control device may further check whether at least one vacant sample tube storage position is available or not in the at least one storage subsection which was determined for consolidating the identified at least two sample tubes which have at least one substantially same sample tube attribute. If at least one vacant sample tube storage position is available in the determined storage subsection, the resorting station transports the at least one of the at least two sample tubes to the determined subsection as described in the fourth sub-step below.
    • In a third sub-step of step b), if no sample tube storage position(s) within the determined storage subsection is vacant, at least one sample tube which has not to be consolidated can be transported to a vacant sample tube storage position of a sample tube storage rack with sample tubes which have not to be consolidated. Alternatively, if no sample tube storage position(s) are vacant in the determined storage subsection, step b) of the method can be aborted.
    • In a fourth sub-step of step b), the resorting station transports the at least one of the at least two sample tubes to the at least one storage subsection which was determined for consolidating the at least two sample tubes with the at least one substantially same sample tube attribute.


    [0030] In another embodiment, the resorting station may be positioned outside of the storage section. And the laboratory storage and retrieval system may further comprise at least two rack storage positions which are located outside of the storage section at the resorting station in such a manner that the gripper attached to the robotic arm may access any sample tube inserted in sample tube storage positions of sample tube storage racks which have been transported to the rack storage positions at the resorting station by the sample tube rack transport device. And step b) may comprise the following sub-steps:
    • In a first sub-step of step b), the control device may determine the at least one storage subsection in which the at least two sample tubes with the at least one substantially same sample tube attribute are consolidated.
    • In a second sub-step of step b), the control device may further check whether at least one vacant sample tube storage position is available or not in the at least one storage subsection which was determined for consolidating the at least two identified sample tubes having at least one substantially same sample tube attribute. If at least one vacant sample tube storage position is available in the determined storage subsection, the sample tube rack transport device transports the at least two sample tube racks to the rack storage positions at the resorting station.
    • In a third sub-step of step b), if no sample tube storage position(s) within the determined storage subsection is vacant, the sample tube rack transport device transports the at least two sample tube racks with the at least two identified sample tubes to be consolidated and at least one additional sample tube storage rack with at least one vacant sample tube storage position to the rack storage positions at the resorting station. Subsequently, the resorting station transports at least one sample tube which has not to be consolidated to the vacant sample tube storage position of the at least one additional sample tube storage rack.
      Alternatively, if no sample tube storage position(s) are vacant in the determined storage subsection, step b) of the method can be aborted.
    • In a fourth sub-step of step b), the resorting station transports the at least one of the at least two sample tubes to the at least one storage subsection which was determined for consolidating the at least two sample tubes with the at least one substantially same sample tube attribute. Subsequently, the sample tube rack transport device transports the at least two sample tube storage racks back to the rack storage positions within the storage section.


    [0031] In a specific embodiment, the sample tube storage positions of at least two sample tube storage racks are partially occupied with sample tubes. Usually, all sample tube storage positions of a sample tube storage rack are occupied with sample tubes when a sample tube storage rack with new incoming sample tubes to be stored are transported into the storage section for the first time. However, over time individual sample tubes are retrieved for further test sample processing steps (e.g. new analysis or test of the test sample in case of an ordered rerun test, repeat test or reflex test of a test sample) and isolated vacant sample tube storage positions occur in a sample tube storage rack which cannot be efficiently be reoccupied. Thus, the overall all capacity of the storage section decreases over time. By consolidating test sample tubes from at least two partially filled sample tube racks, at least one substantially full and at least one substantially empty sample tube storage rack can be created for storing new test sample tubes. Accordingly, the overall storing capacity of the storage section can be improved as isolated vacant sample tube storage positions in a sample tube storage rack can be reduced.

    [0032] In a more specific embodiment, less than 90% of the sample tube storage positions of at least two sample tube storage racks are occupied by sample tubes. In order to keep the sample tube storage capacity of the storage section on a high level, the method for consolidating sample tubes can be initiated as soon as 10% or more than 10% of the sample tube storage positions of a sample tube storage rack are not occupied. So, the number of vacant sample tube storage positions can be used to set a threshold for triggering the consolidation of sample tubes. Based on specific sample tube storage requirements of a laboratory environment which may depend on the available laboratory space, the number of pre-analytical and analytical stations, and throughputs of each pre-analytical and analytical station, the percentage of occupied sample tube storage positions for triggering the consolidation of sample tubes may be configurable. Additionally, the threshold for triggering the consolidation of sample tubes may be dynamic and may depend on the current workload and/ or scheduled sample tube handling steps of the laboratory storage and retrieval system.

    [0033] In one embodiment, the at least one substantially same sample tube attribute is selected from a group consisting of a boarding timestamp, onboard time, scheduled storage time, scheduled retrieval time point, retrieval time, scheduled disposing time point, sample tube type, sample tube content, or a combination thereof.

    [0034] The term "boarding timestamp" as used herein relates to a recorded and stored time point at which sample tubes to be stored are transported into the storage section. Sample tubes with a substantially same boarding timestamp have been transported into the storage section at the same time point (e.g. sample tubes within the same sample tube storage rack) or within the same predefined time range (e.g. within one hour or working shift). The boarding timestamp may be recorded via detection and identification of a sample tube or corresponding sample tube storage rack using for example a barcode scanner, RFID reader, or camera. Alternatively, the boarding timestamp may be recorded via activity of the sample tube transport system when transporting sample tubes or sample tube storage racks into the storage section. Depending on the boarding timestamp, the at least one storage subsection in which the at least two sample tubes with at least one substantially same boarding timestamp are consolidated may be determined.

    [0035] The term "onboard time" as used herein relates to the time or duration a sample tube is located or stored in the storage section of the laboratory storage and retrieval system. Sample tubes with a substantially same onboard time are stored in the storage section for the same time or time range. The onboard time may be determined via boarding timestamp and current date and time, scheduled retrieval time point, or scheduled disposing time point. The onboard time of a sample tube may be cumulative when a sample tube is stored and retrieved several times. Depending on the onboard time, the at least one storage subsection in which the at least two sample tubes with at least one substantially same onboard time are consolidated may be determined. For example, sample tubes with a longer onboard time may be consolidated in a storage subsection(s) which is farther away from the gate as the chance for retrieval may decrease over time.

    [0036] The term "scheduled storage time" as used herein relates to a planned time or duration a sample tube will be stored in the storage section. Sample tubes with a substantially same scheduled storage time will be stored in the storage section for the same time or time range. The scheduled storage time may depend on other sample tube attributes such as, as non-limiting examples, scheduled retrieval time point, scheduled disposing time point, sample tube content like the expiration date of a test sample. Alternatively, the user can configure the scheduled storage time. Depending on the scheduled storage time, the at least one storage subsection in which the at least two sample tubes with at least one substantially same scheduled storage time are consolidated may be determined.

    [0037] The term "scheduled retrieval time point" as used herein relates to a planned time point at which the sample tube will be retrieved from the storage section of the storage and retrieval system. Sample tubes with a substantially same scheduled retrieval time point will be retrieved from the storage section at the same time (e.g. sample tubes within the same sample tube storage rack) or within the same time range (e.g. within one hour or working shift). This attribute may depend on requested test orders which are communicated from a data management unit to the laboratory storage and retrieval system. Depending on the scheduled retrieval time point, the at least one storage subsection in which the at least two sample tubes with at least one substantially same scheduled retrieval time point are consolidated may be determined.

    [0038] The term "retrieval time" as used herein relates to a given or predefined time a test sample has to be retrievable from the laboratory storage and retrieval system so that the sample tube is available for further test sample processing steps within a certain time. Sample tubes with a substantially same retrieval time have to be retrievable from the storage section within a given time or time range. The retrieval time may depend on the sample tube content. And depending on the retrieval time, the at least one storage subsection in which the at least two sample tubes with at least one substantially same retrieval time are consolidated may be determined. For example, the retrieval time of urgent samples for which a short turn-around time is required (STAT samples) is typically shorter than the retrieval time for non-urgent test samples. Accordingly, such STAT samples can be consolidated in storage subsections which are close to the gate of the storage so that they can be retrieved from the laboratory storage and retrieval system and transported to pre-analytical and/ or analytical stations in shortest time.

    [0039] The term "scheduled disposing time point" as used herein relates to a planned time point at which stored sample tubes will be wasted. Sample tubes with a substantially same scheduled disposing time point are wasted at the same time or time range. This attribute may depend on the sample attribute sample tube content like the expiration date of a test sample. Alternatively, the user can manually schedule the disposal of stored sample tubes, e.g. as soon as no further tests of a certain test sample is required or scheduled. Depending on the scheduled disposing time point, the at least one storage subsection in which the at least two sample tubes with at least one substantially same scheduled disposing time point are consolidated may be determined. For example, sample tubes for which the disposing time point is scheduled within the next working shift may be consolidated in a storage subsection(s) which is close to the disposal unit of the laboratory storage and retrieval system.

    [0040] The term "sample tube type" as used herein relates to the dimension, geometry, and/ or material of the sample tube and/or sample tube cap. Depending on the sample tube content, sample processing steps to be carried out, and manufacturer the material as well as the dimension of the sample tube and or/ sample tube cap like diameter, side length, height and geometry may vary. Sample tubes with a substantially same sample tube type possess the same dimension or dimension range, the same geometry or geometry range, the same material or comparable material, and/or the same or comparable sample tube cap. Depending on the sample tube type, the at least one storage subsection in which the at least two sample tubes with at least one substantially same sample tube type are consolidated may be determined. For example, the consolidation can be done on the basis of the sample tube height so that sample tube storage racks with tubes which are within a certain height range can be stored in specific subsections of the storage section, e.g. shelves with a corresponding height distance to the next shelf, so that damaging of sample tubes due to them being too high for a certain storage location can be avoided.

    [0041] The term "sample tube content" as used herein relates to the test sample stored in the sample tube such as, as non-limiting examples, blood sample, urine sample, serum sample, plasma sample, or liquefied biopsy sample, etc. Depending on the sample tube content, the at least one storage subsection in which the at least two sample tubes with at least one substantially same sample tube content are consolidated may be determined. For example, depending on the sample tube content the sample tube storage conditions which relate to storing conditions like temperature or humidity at which the test samples and their corresponding sample tubes have to be stored in order to keep the test sample quality and integrity for further test sample processing steps may vary. The attribute sample tube content may also relate to the weight or volume of the test sample stored in the sample tube. Furthermore, the attribute sample tube content may also relate to conducted and/ or planned tests for a test sample. For instance, test samples for which delicate analytical tests such as polymerase chain reactions have been conducted or planned are consolidated in dedicated and separate subsections of the storage section in order to prevent cross-contamination risks.

    [0042] In a specific embodiment, each of the at least one substantially same sample tube attribute comprises a priority and the at least two sample tubes are consolidated in the at least one storage subsection according to the substantially same sample tube attribute with the highest priority. So, if the control device identifies at least two sample tubes with at least two substantially same sample tube attributes for which at least two different subsections could be determined for consolidating the sample tubes, the at least two sample tubes are consolidated in the at least one storage subsection which was determined by the control device based on the substantially same sample tube attribute which comprises the higher priority.

    [0043] In a further specific embodiment, the priority of each of the at least one substantially same sample tube attribute is configurable. The requirements of a laboratory storage and retrieval system may depend on specific laboratory workflows and may vary from laboratory to laboratory. Therefore, the user can define for each substantially same sample tube attribute a certain priority which is then used for the consolidation of stored sample tubes. Alternatively, the configuration of priorities may be based on historical and/ or current operation information of the laboratory storage and retrieval system and the priority of each substantially same sample tube attribute may change over time.

    [0044] In a more specific embodiment, the at least one substantially same sample tube attribute scheduled disposing time point has the highest priority. With the prioritization of the scheduled disposing time point an efficient disposal of stored samples tubes can be achieved and the storage capacity of the storage section can be improved.

    [0045] In one embodiment of the method, the storage section comprises a gate and one of the at least two storage subsections is closer to the gate than the other one of the at least two storage sections. And the sample tubes for which the at least one substantially same sample tube attribute scheduled retrieval time point is within the next 24 hours are consolidated in the one of the at least two storage sections which is closer to the gate. This sample tube consolidation has the advantage that sample tubes which will be retrieved within the next 24 hours are already located in a subsection which is close to the gate of the storage section and the retrieval time of those sample tubes can be shortened. In particular, for urgent test samples for which a short turn-around time is required (STAT test samples) a short retrieval time and fast availability to conduct the ordered test(s) and to provide the test result in time is essential.

    [0046] In a further embodiment of the method, the storage section comprises a gate and one of the at least two storage subsections is closer to the gate than the other one of the at least two storage subsections. And the sample tubes for which the at least one substantially same sample tube attribute onboard time is less than 24 hours are consolidated in the one of the at least two storage sections which is closer to the gate. Typically, additional test orders for stored test samples such as repeat tests, rerun tests and/or reflex tests are expected within the first 24 hours after the test sample was transported to the storage section. Accordingly, the retrieval time of the laboratory storage and retrieval system can further be improved by consolidating sample tubes for which further test orders can be expected within the next 24 hours in the subsection which is closer to the gate.

    [0047] In a further embodiment, the storage section comprises a gate and one of the at least two storage subsections is closer to the gate than the other one of the at least two storage sections. And the sample tubes for which the at least one substantially same sample tube attribute boarding timestamp is within a same working shift are consolidated in the one of the at least two storage sections which is farther away to the gate at the end of the same working shift. With this sample tube consolidation the storing capacity of the storage subsection which is closer to the gate can be increased without interrupting with the main operational functions of the laboratory storage and retrieval system such as storing and retrieving of sample tubes. At the same time, the performance of the laboratory storage and retrieval system for storing new incoming test sample tubes is improved as the transportation distance and corresponding transportation time between the gate and rack storage positions is as short as possible.

    [0048] In an additional embodiment of the method, the storage section comprises a gate and one of the at least two storage subsections is farther away from the gate than the other one of the at least two storage subsections, wherein sample tubes for which the at least one substantially same sample tube attribute scheduled storage time is more than 24 hours are consolidated in the one of the at least two storage sections which is farther away from the gate. Also with this sample tube consolidation the capacity of the storage subsection which is closer to the gate can be improved which leads to an improved performance of storing and retrieving new test sample tubes.

    [0049] In one embodiment of the method, the method is conducted at a time when no sample tube storage racks with new incoming sample tubes are transported into the storage section and/ or when no sample tube storage racks with sample tubes for which a retrieval time point is scheduled are transported out of the storage section. The laboratory storage and retrieval system conducts multiple and different sample tube handling steps which can be divided into two groups. One group of sample tube handling steps relates to main operational functions such as storing and retrieving of sample tubes. The other group of sample tube handling steps relates to supporting functions such as wasting and consolidating of stored sample tubes in order to keep or restore the storing capacity as well as the storing and retrieval performance of the laboratory storage and retrieval system. As the laboratory storage and retrieval system conducts those different sample tube handling steps with the same hardware components like the sample tube transport system, the different sample tube handling steps have to be orchestrated. Accordingly, the main operational functions must be prioritized over the supporting functions to ensure an optimal operation of the laboratory storage and retrieval system.

    [0050] In one embodiment, the laboratory storage and retrieval system further comprises a sample tube disposal unit. And prior to step a) of the method at least one sample tube storage rack comprising sample tubes for which a disposal time point is scheduled is transported to the sample tube disposal unit for disposing the sample tubes. The disposal unit may be comprised by the storage section. The disposal unit can be connected with the storage section via an internal opening in a wall separating the storage section from the disposal unit. Through this opening, sample tube storage racks with sample tubes whose expiration date has elapsed or for which a disposal time point is scheduled can be placed in the disposal unit. Alternatively, the disposal unit can be used for the temporary storage of sample tube storage racks when for example at least one vacant rack storage position in at least one of the at least two storage subsections is required for consolidating the at least two sample tubes having at least one substantially same sample tube attribute.

    [0051] In one embodiment of the method, in the first step of the method as described herein the control device identifies the at least two sample tubes by analyzing the database comprising the sample tube inventory of the storage section. The sample tube inventory of the storage section comprises information about the sample tube identity, the at least one substantially same sample tube attribute, and the sample tube position of each stored sample tube in the storage section.

    [0052] The present invention also relates to a laboratory storage and retrieval system which comprises a storage section, a sample tube transport system, a database comprising a sample tube inventory of the storage section, and a control device adapted to execute the steps of the method to store sample tubes in the laboratory storage and retrieval system as described herein.

    [0053] In one embodiment of the laboratory storage and retrieval system, the control device and the database are comprised by the laboratory storage and retrieval system.

    [0054] In another embodiment of the laboratory storage and retrieval system, the control device is an external control device communicatively connected to the laboratory storage and retrieval system and the data base is an external database communicatively connected to the external control device.

    [0055] The present invention further relates to a computer program product comprising instructions to cause the laboratory storage and retrieval system as described herein to execute the steps of the method to store sample tubes in the laboratory storage and retrieval system as described herein.

    [0056] The present invention also relates to a computer-readable medium having stored thereon the computer program product comprising instructions to cause the laboratory storage and retrieval system as described herein to execute the steps of the method to store sample tubes in the laboratory storage and retrieval system as described herein.

    Short description of the figures



    [0057] 

    Fig. 1 shows an embodiment of the method for consolidating at least two sample tubes in at least one storage subsection based on an example.

    Fig. 2 depicts a further embodiment of the method for consolidating at least two sample tubes in at least one storage subsection based on a further example.

    Fig.3 shows a data concept of the sample tube inventory of the storage section.

    Fig.4 shows a perspective view of the laboratory storage and retrieval system and a sample tube storage rack as described herein.

    Fig. 5 depicts a flowchart of the method for consolidating at least two sample tubes in at least one storage subsection.


    Detailed description of the figures



    [0058] In Fig. 1A-D a schematic representation of a laboratory storage and retrieval system (10) is shown in order to depict one embodiment of the method for consolidating at least two sample tubes (26a, 26b) which have at least one substantially same sample tube attribute (17) in at least one storage subsection (22a, 22b). The laboratory storage and retrieval system (10) comprises a storage section (12), a sample tube transport system (18) comprising a sample tube rack transport device (18), a database (14) comprising a sample tube inventory of the storage section (15), and a control device (16). The shown storage section (12) comprises at least two storage subsections (22a, 22b) which are at least two parts of the storage section (22a, 22b). At least one storage subsection (22a) of the at least two storage subsection (22a, 22b) is closer to the gate of the storage section (34) than the other storage subsection (22b). Each storage subsection (22a, 22b) comprises at least two rack storage positions (28a, 28b, 28c, 28d) for storing at least two sample tube storage racks (24a, 24b, 24c, 24d). As shown in Fig.2A, the laboratory storage and retrieval system (10) may further comprise at least one rack storage position (28f) which is located outside of the storage section (12) and can be used for the temporary storage of sample tube storage racks (24a, 24b, 24c, 24d). The shown storage section (12) further comprises a disposal unit (32) which is located in one of the storage subsections (22a) and can be used for the disposal of expired sample tubes or for the temporary storage of at least one sample tube storage rack (24a, 24b, 24c, 24d). The sample tube rack transport device (18) is designed to transport the at least two sample tube storage racks (24a, 24b, 24c, 24d) to the at least two rack storage positions (28a, 28b, 28c, 28d) within the storage section (12) and between the storage section (12) and the at least one rack storage position (28f) which is located outside of the storage section (12) through the gate of the storage section (34). Additionally, the sample tube rack transport device (18) can transport the at least two sample tube storage racks (24a, 24b, 24c, 24d) to the disposal unit (32). In step a) of the method (58), the control device (16) identifies at least two sample tubes (26a, 26b) with at least one substantially same sample tube attribute (17) and which are distributed over the at least two storage subsections (22a, 22b) by analyzing the database (14) comprising the sample tube inventory of the storage section (15). In a first sub-step of step b) (62), the control device (16) may determine in which of the at least two storage subsections (22a, 22b) the identified at least two sample tubes (26a, 26b) with the at least one substantially same sample tube attribute (17) are consolidated. For example, two sample tubes (26a, 26b) have the substantially same sample tube attribute scheduled retrieval time point (44), e.g. a retrieval of both sample tubes (26a, 26b) is scheduled within the next 24h. Therefore, the control device (16) determines that the two identified sample tubes (26a, 26b) are consolidated in the storage subsection (22a) which is closer to the gate of the storage section (34) in order to shorten the retrieval time of the two sample tubes (26a, 26b). In a second sub-step of step b) (64), the control device (16) then checks whether at least one vacant storage rack storage position is available or not in the storage subsection (22a) which was determined for consolidating the identified at least two sample tubes (26a, 26b). In the shown example, no of the at least two rack storage positions (28a, 28b) within the determined storage subsection (22a) are vacant. Thus, in a third sub-step of step b) (66) the sample tube rack transport device (18) transports at least one of the stored sample tube storage racks (24b) with sample tubes which are not to be consolidated to the disposal unit (32) for temporary storage as indicated by the dashed arrow in Fig.1A. Alternatively, one of the stored sample tube storage racks (24b) with sample tubes which are not to be consolidated could be transported to the vacant rack storage position (28f) which is located outside of the storage section (12). In a fourth sub-step of step b) (68) and as indicated by a dashed arrow in Fig.1B, the at least one of the at least two sample tube storage racks (24d) which is farther away from the gate (34) and hosts at least one of the at least two identified the sample tube (26b) is transported by the sample tube rack transport device (18) to the at least one rack storage position (24b) which is now vacant in order to consolidate the at least two identified sample tubes (26a, 26b) in the determined storage subsection (22a). In order to release the disposal unit (32) the sample tube storage rack (24b) which was temporary stored at the disposal unit (32) is transported from the disposal unit (32) to the now vacant rack storage position of the storage subsection (28d) which is farther away from the gate of the storage section (34), as indicated by a dashed arrow in Fig.2 C. In Fig.1D, the at least two identified sample tubes (26a, 26b) which have the at least one substantially same sample tube attribute (17) are now consolidated in at least one of the at the at least two storage subsections (22a) which is closer to the gate of the storage (34) compared to the at least one other storage subsection (22b) and the disposal unit (32) is again vacant and can be used for the temporary storage of sample tube storage racks (24a, 24b, 24c, 24d) or for the disposal of expired sample tubes.

    [0059] In Fig. 2A-D a further embodiment of the method for consolidating at least two sample tubes (26a, 26b) with at least one substantially same sample tube attribute (17) in at least one storage subsection (24a, 24d) is shown. As shown schematically, the sample tube transport system (18, 20) of the laboratory storage and retrieval system (10) comprises a sample tube rack transport device (18) and a resorting station (20). The laboratory storage and retrieval system (10) further comprises at least two rack storage positions (28g, 28h) which are located outside of the storage section (12) at the resorting station (20) so that the resorting station (20) can access sample tubes (26a, 26b) inserted in sample tube storage positions (30a, 30b, 30c, 30d) of the sample tube storage racks (24a, 24d) for resorting sample tubes (26a, 26b) between the at least two sample tube storage racks (24a, 24d) when the at least two sample tube storage racks (24a, 24d) are located on the at least two rack storage positions (28g, 28h). The sample tube rack transport device (18) is designed to transport sample tube storage racks (24a, 24b, 24c, 24d) within the storage section (12) and between the storage section (12) and the resorting station (20) through the gate of the storage section (34) in order to transport the sample tube storage racks (24a, 24d) to rack storage positions (28a, 28d, 28g, 28h). The storage section (12) comprises at least two storage subsections (24a, 24d) which are two sample tube storage racks (24a, 24d). Each of the at least two sample tube storage racks (24a, 24d) comprise at least two sample tube storage positions (30a, 30b, 30c, 30d). One of the storage subsections (24a) is located on a rack storage position (28a) which is closer to the gate of the storage section (34) than the rack storage position (28d) on which the other storage subsection (24d) is located. In step a) of the method (58), the control device (16) identifies at least two sample tubes (26a, 26b) with at least one substantially same sample tube attribute (17) and distributed over the at least two storage subsections (24a, 24d) by analyzing the database (14) comprising the sample tube inventory of the storage section (15). For example, two sample tubes (26a, 26b) have the at least one substantially same sample tube attribute scheduled storage time (42) which is more than 24 hours. In a first sub-step of step b) (62), the control device (16) further determines that the at least two identified sample tubes (26a, 26b) are consolidated in the storage subsection (24d) which is farther away from the gate of the storage section (34). In a second sub-step of step b) (64), the control device (16) checks whether at least one vacant sample tube storage position is available or not in the storage subsection (24d) which was determined for consolidating the identified at least two sample tubes (26a, 26b). In the shown example, the sample tube storage positions (30a, 30b, 30c, 30d) of the at least two sample tube storage racks (24a, 24d) are partially occupied with sample tubes (26a, 26d) and at least one sample tube storage position (30c) is vacant. Thus, no third sub-step of step b) for creating a vacant sample tube storage position is required and the two sample tube storage racks (24a, 24d) with the two identified sample tubes (26a, 26b) which have to be consolidated are transported to the rack storage positions (28g, 28h) at the resorting station (20) by the sample tube rack transport device (18) as indicted by the dashed arrow in Fig.2A. As shown in Fig. 2B by a dashed arrow, in a fourth sub-step of step b) (68) the resorting station (20) then transports one of the at least two identified sample tubes (26a) of the at least one storage subsection (24a) which was closer to the gate of the storage section (34) to the vacant sample tube storage position (30c) of the other one of the at least two sample tube storage racks (24d) which was determined for consolidating the at least two sample tubes (26a, 26b). Subsequently, both sample tube storage racks (24a, 24b) are transported back to the rack storage positions (28a, 28d) as indicated by the dashed arrows in Fig. 2C. As shown in Fig. 2D, by consolidating the at least two test sample tubes (26a, 26b) from at least two partially filled sample tube racks (24a, 26d) at least one substantially full sample tube rack (24d) and at least one substantially empty sample tube storage rack (24a) can be created. As the at least one substantially empty sample tube storage rack (24a) is closer to the gate of the storage section (34) the empty sample tube storage rack (24a) can quickly be provided as soon as new incoming sample tubes have to be stored in the storage section (12). Accordingly, the efficiency of the main operational function sample storing of the laboratory storage and retrieval system (10) is improved.

    [0060] Fig.3 shows an example of a data concept for the sample tube inventory of the storage section (15). The sample tube inventory of the storage section (15) comprises information about the sample tube identity (36), the sample tube attributes (17), and the sample tube position (54) of each stored sample tube in the storage section (12). The at least one substantially same sample tube attribute (17) is selected from a group consisting of
    • a boarding timestamp (38),
    • an onboard time (40),
    • a scheduled storage time (42),
    • a scheduled retrieval time point (44),
    • a retrieval time (46),
    • a scheduled disposing time point (48),
    • a sample tube type (50), and
    • a sample tube content (52).


    [0061] In the shown example, the two sample tubes with the sample tube identity 26a and 26b have the at least one substantially same sample tube attribute scheduled retrieval time point (44) and are distributed over two subsections (22a, 22b, 24a, 24d).

    [0062] Fig. 4A and 4B show perspective views of a laboratory storage and retrieval system (10) and a sample tube storage rack (24). As shown in Fig. 4A, the laboratory storage and retrieval system (10) comprises a storage section (12), a sample tube transport system (18, 20) comprising a sample tube rack transport device (18) and a resorting station (20), a database (14) comprising a sample tube inventory of the storage section (15), a control device (16), and a disposal unit (32). The storage section (12) comprises a front part (22a) and a rear part (22b) which divides the storage section into the two storage subsections (22a, 22b). One of the two storage subsections (22a) is closer to gate of the storage section (34) compared to the other storage subsection (22b). Both subsections (22a, 22b) comprise multiple shelves (56) and each shelve in turn comprises multiple rack storage positions (28) for storing sample tube storage racks (24). The sample tube rack transport device (18) is designed to transport sample tube storage racks (24) to the multiple rack storage positions (28) within the storage section (12) and between the storage section (12) and the at least two rack storage positions (28g, 28h) which is located outside of the storage section at the resorting station (20) through the gate of the storage section (34). Additionally, the sample tube rack transport device (18) can transport sample tube storage racks to the disposal unit (32) for the disposal of expired sample tubes (26) or for the temporary storage of sample tube storage racks (24). In Fig. 4B a single sample tube storage rack (24) which comprises multiple sample tube storage positions (30) which are holding openings. The sample tube storage positions (30) of the shown sample tube storage rack (24) are partially occupied with sample tubes (24) of the same sample tube type.

    [0063] Fig. 5 depicts a flowchart of an embodiment of the method for consolidating at least two sample tubes which have at least one substantially same sample tube attribute in at least one storage subsection. In step a) (58) of the method, the control device (16) identifies at least two sample tubes (26a, 26b) with at least one substantially same sample tube attribute (17) and which are distributed over the at least two storage subsections (22a, 22b, 24a, 24d) by analyzing the database (14) comprising the sample tube inventory of the storage section (15). In step b) (60), the at least one sample tube transport system (18, 20) consolidates the at least two sample tubes (26a, 26b) in at least one storage subsection (22a, 22b, 24a, 24d). As shown in Fig. 5, step b) (60) may comprise four sub-steps (62, 64, 66, 68). In a first sub-step of step b) (62), the control device (16) determines the at least one storage subsection (22a, 22b, 24a, 24d) in which the at least two sample tubes (26a, 26b) with the at least one substantially same sample tube attribute (17) are consolidated. In the second sub-step of step b) (64), the control device (16) further checks whether at least one vacant rack storage position or sample tube storage position is available or not in the at least one storage subsection (22a, 22b, 24a, 24d) which was determined for consolidating the identified at least two sample tubes (26a, 26b) which have at least one substantially same sample tube attribute (17). If at least one vacant rack storage position or sample tube storage position is available in the determined storage subsection (22a, 22b, 24a, 24d), the sample tube transport system transports (18, 20) the at least one of the at least two sample tubes (26, 26b) to the determined subsection (22a, 22b, 24a, 24d) in a fourth sub-step of step b) (68). If no rack storage position(s) within the determined storage subsection (22a, 22b) is vacant, in a third sub-step of step b) (66), at least one sample tube storage rack (24b) with sample tubes which have not to be consolidated can be transported to a disposal unit (32) of the laboratory storage and retrieval system or to a vacant rack storage position (28f) which may be located outside of the determined subsection for temporary storage. Or if no sample tube storage position(s) within the determined storage subsection (24a, 24d) is vacant, in a third sub-step of step b), at least one sample tube which does not have to be consolidated can be transported to a sample tube storage rack which is partially filled with sample tubes which have not to be consolidated. Alternatively, if no rack storage position(s) or sample tube storage position(s) are vacant in the determined storage subsection (22a, 22b, 24a, 24d), the consolidation of the at least two sample tubes (26a, 26b) which have at least one substantially same sample tube attribute (17) can be aborted. Finally, in a fourth sub-step of step b), the sample tube transport system (18, 20) transports the at least one of the at least two sample tubes (26a, 26b) to the at least one storage subsection (22a, 22b, 24a, 24d) which was determined for consolidating the at least two sample tubes (26a, 26b) with the at least one substantially same sample tube attribute (17).

    List of reference numbers



    [0064] 
    10
    laboratory storage and retrieval system
    12
    storage section
    14
    database
    15
    sample tube inventory of the storage section
    16
    control device
    17
    sample tube attribute
    18
    sample tube rack transport device
    20
    resorting station
    22
    part of the storage section
    24
    sample tube storage rack
    26
    sample tube
    28
    rack storage position
    30
    sample tube storage position
    32
    disposal unit
    34
    gate
    36
    sample tube identity
    38
    boarding timestamp
    40
    onboard time
    42
    scheduled storage time
    44
    scheduled retrieval time point
    46
    retrieval time
    48
    scheduled disposing time point
    50
    sample tube type
    52
    sample tube content
    54
    sample tube position
    56
    shelve
    58
    step a) of the method
    60
    step b) of the method
    62
    first sub-step of step b) of the method
    64
    second sub-step of step b) of the method
    66
    third sub-step of step b) of the method
    68
    fourth sub-step of step b) of the method



    Claims

    1. A method to store sample tubes (26a, 26b) in a laboratory storage and retrieval system (10), the laboratory storage and retrieval system (10) comprising a storage section (12), a database (14) comprising a sample tube inventory of the storage section (15), a control device (16), and at least one sample tube transport system (18, 20), wherein the storage section (12) comprises at least two storage subsections (22a, 22b, 24a, 24d), wherein the control device (16) controls the database (14) comprising the sample tube inventory of the storage section (15) and the at least one sample tube transport system (18, 20),
    characterized in that the method comprising the following steps (58, 60):

    a) the control device (16) identifies at least two sample tubes (26a, 26b) with at least one substantially same sample tube attribute (17) and distributed over the at least two storage subsections (22a, 22b, 24a, 24d)

    b) the at least one sample tube transport system (18, 20) consolidates the at least two sample tubes (26a, 26b) in at least one storage subsection (22a, 22b, 24a, 24d), wherein the control device (16) further determines in which of the at least two storage subsections (22a, 22b, 24a, 24d) the identified sample tubes are consolidated.


     
    2. Method according to claim 1, wherein the at least one sample tube transport system (18) comprises a sample tube rack transport device (18), wherein the at least two storage subsections (22a, 22b) are at least two parts of the storage section (22a, 22b), wherein each part of the storage section (22a, 22b) comprises at least two rack storage positions (28a, 28b, 28c, 28d), wherein the control device (16) controls the sample tube rack transport device (18) which transports sample tube storage racks (24a, 24b, 24c, 24d) within the storage section (12) to process step b).
     
    3. Method according to claim 1, wherein the at least one sample tube transport system (18, 20) comprises a resorting station (20) or a resorting station (20) and a sample tube rack transport device (18), wherein the at least two storage subsections (24a, 24d) are at least two sample tube storage racks (24a, 24d), wherein each sample tube storage rack comprises at least two sample tube storage positions (30a, 30b, 30c, 30d), wherein the control device (16) controls the resorting station (20) which resorts sample tubes (26a, 26b) between at least two sample tube storage racks (24a, 24d) or the resorting station (20) which resorts sample tubes (26a, 26b) between at least two sample tube storage racks (24a, 24d) and the sample tube rack transport device (18) which transports sample tube storage racks (24a, 24b, 24c, 24d) within the storage section (12) and between the storage section (12) and the resorting station (20) to process step b).
     
    4. Method according to claim 3, wherein the sample tube storage positions (30a, 30b, 30c, 30d) of at least two sample tube storage racks (24a, 24d) are partially occupied with sample tubes (26a, 26b).
     
    5. Method according to any one of claims 1 to 4, wherein the at least one substantially same sample tube attribute (17) is selected from a group consisting of a boarding timestamp (38), onboard time (40), scheduled storage time (42), scheduled retrieval time point (44), retrieval time (46), scheduled disposing time point (48), sample tube type (50), sample tube content (52), or a combination thereof
     
    6. Method according to any one of claims 1 to 5, wherein each of the at least one substantially same sample tube attribute (17) comprises a priority, wherein the at least two sample tubes (26a, 26b) are consolidated in the at least one storage subsection (22a, 22b, 24a, 24d) according to the substantially same sample tube attribute (17) with the highest priority.
     
    7. Method according to any one of claims 1 to 6, wherein the storage section (12) comprises a gate (34), wherein one of the at least two storage subsections (22a, 24a) is closer to the gate (34) than the other one of the at least two storage sections (22b, 24d), wherein sample tubes (26a, 26b) for which the at least one substantially same sample tube attribute scheduled retrieval time point (44) is within the next 24 hours are consolidated in the one of the at least two storage sections (22a, 24a) which is closer to the gate (34).
     
    8. Method according to any one of claims 1 to 6, wherein the storage section (12) comprises a gate (34), wherein one of the at least two storage subsections (22a, 24a) is closer to the gate (34) than the other one of the at least two storage subsections (22b, 24d), wherein sample tubes (26a, 26b) for which the at least one substantially same sample tube attribute onboard time (40) is less than 24 hours are consolidated in the one of the at least two storage sections (22a, 24a) which is closer to the gate (34).
     
    9. Method according to any one of claims 1 to 6, wherein the storage section (12) comprises a gate (34), wherein one of the at least two storage subsections (22a, 24a) is closer to the gate (34) than the other one of the at least two storage sections (22b, 24d), wherein sample tubes (26a, 26b) for which the at least one substantially same sample tube attribute boarding timestamp (38) is within a same working shift are consolidated in the one of the at least two storage sections (22b, 24d) which is farther away to the gate (34) at the end of the same working shift.
     
    10. Method according to any one of claims 1 to 6, wherein the storage section (12) comprises a gate (34), wherein one of the at least two storage subsections (22b, 24d) is further away from the gate than the other one of the at least two storage subsections (22a, 24a), wherein sample tubes for which the at least one substantially same sample tube attribute scheduled storage time (42) is more than 24 hours are consolidated in the one of the at least two storage sections (22b, 24d) which is farther away from the gate (34).
     
    11. Method according to any one of claims 1 to 10, wherein the method is conducted at a time when no sample tube storage racks with new sample tubes are transported into the storage section (12) and/ or when no sample tube storage racks (24a, 24b, 24c, 24d) with sample tubes for which a retrieval time point (44) is scheduled are transported out of the storage section (12).
     
    12. Method according to any one of claims 1 to 11, wherein the laboratory storage and retrieval system (10) further comprises a sample tube disposal unit (32), wherein prior to step a) at least one sample tube storage rack comprising sample tubes for which a disposal time point (48) is scheduled is transported to the sample tube disposal unit (32) for disposing the sample tubes.
     
    13. A laboratory storage and retrieval system (10) comprising a storage section (12), a database (14) comprising a sample tube inventory of the storage section (15), a control device (16), and at least one sample tube transport system (18, 20) adapted to execute the steps of the method (58, 60) according to any one of claims 1 to 12.
     
    14. A computer program product comprising instructions to cause the laboratory storage and retrieval system (10) according to claim 13 to execute the steps of the method (58, 60) according to any one of claims 1 to 12.
     
    15. A computer-readable medium having stored thereon the computer program product of claim 14.
     


    Ansprüche

    1. Verfahren zum Lagern von Probenröhrchen (26a, 26b) in einem Laborlagerungs- und - abrufsystem (10), wobei das Laborlagerungs- und -abrufsystem (10) einen Lagerbereich (12), eine Datenbank (14), die einen Probenröhrchenbestand des Lagerbereiches (15) umfasst, eine Steuervorrichtung (16) und mindestens ein Probenröhrchentransportsystem (18, 20) umfasst, wobei der Lagerbereich (12) mindestens zwei Lagerunterbereiche (22a, 22b, 24a, 24d) umfasst, wobei die Steuervorrichtung (16) die Datenbank (14), die den Probenröhrchenbestand des Lagerbereiches (15) umfasst, und das mindestens eine Probenröhrchentransportsystem (18, 20) steuert,
    dadurch gekennzeichnet, dass das Verfahren die folgenden Schritte (58, 60) umfasst:

    a) die Steuervorrichtung (16) identifiziert mindestens zwei Probenröhrchen (26a, 26b), die mindestens ein im Wesentlichen gleiches Probenröhrchenmerkmal (17) aufweisen und über die mindestens zwei Lagerunterbereiche (22a, 22b, 24a, 24d) verteilt sind,

    b) das mindestens eine Probenröhrchentransportsystem (18, 20) vereinigt die mindestens zwei Probenröhrchen (26a, 26b) in mindestens einem Lagerunterbereich (22a, 22b, 24a, 24d), wobei die Steuervorrichtung (16) ferner bestimmt, in welchem der mindestens zwei Lagerunterbereiche (22a, 22b, 24a, 24d) die identifizierten Probenröhrchen vereinigt werden.


     
    2. Verfahren nach Anspruch 1, wobei das mindestens eine
    Probenröhrchentransportsystem (18) eine
    Probenröhrchenhaltertransportvorrichtung (18) umfasst, wobei die mindestens zwei Lagerunterbereiche (22a, 22b) mindestens zwei Teile des Lagerbereiches (22a, 22b) sind, wobei jeder Teil des Lagerbereiches (22a, 22b) mindestens zwei Halterlagerpositionen (28a, 28b, 28c, 28d) umfasst, wobei die Steuervorrichtung (16) die Probenröhrchenhaltertransportvorrichtung (18) steuert, die Probenröhrchenlagerhalter (24a, 24b, 24c, 24d) innerhalb des Lagerbereiches (12) für Verfahrensschritt b) transportiert.
     
    3. Verfahren nach Anspruch 1, wobei das mindestens eine Probenröhrchentransportsystem (18, 20) eine Umsortierstation (20) oder eine Umsortierstation (20) und eine Probenröhrchenhaltertransportvorrichtung (18) umfasst, wobei die mindestens zwei Lagerunterbereiche (24a, 24d) mindestens zwei Probenröhrchenlagerhalter (24a, 24d) sind, wobei jeder Probenröhrchenlagerhalter mindestens zwei Probenröhrchenlagerpositionen (30a, 30b, 30c, 30d) umfasst, wobei die Steuervorrichtung (16) die Umsortierstation (20), die Probenröhrchen (26a, 26b) zwischen mindestens zwei Probenröhrchenlagerhaltern (24a, 24d) umsortiert, oder die Umsortierstation (20), die Probenröhrchen (26a, 26b) zwischen mindestens zwei Probenröhrchenlagerhaltern (24a, 24d) umsortiert, und die Probenröhrchenhaltertransportvorrichtung (18), die Probenröhrchenlagerhalter (24a, 24b, 24c, 24d) innerhalb des Lagerbereiches (12) und zwischen dem Lagerbereich (12) und der Umsortierstation (20) für Verfahrensschritt b) transportiert, steuert.
     
    4. Verfahren nach Anspruch 3, wobei die Probenröhrchenlagerpositionen (30a, 30b, 30c, 30d) von mindestens zwei Probenröhrchenlagerhaltern (24a, 24d) teilweise mit Probenröhrchen (26a, 26b) besetzt sind.
     
    5. Verfahren nach einem der Ansprüche 1 bis 4, wobei das mindestens eine im Wesentlichen gleiche Probenröhrchenmerkmal (17) aus der Gruppe ausgewählt ist, die aus einem Aufnahmezeitstempel (38), Verweilzeit (40), geplanter Lagerzeit (42), geplantem Abrufzeitpunkt (44), Abrufzeit (46), geplantem Entsorgungszeitpunkt (48), Probenröhrchenart (50), Probenröhrcheninhalt (52) oder einer Kombination davon besteht.
     
    6. Verfahren nach einem der Ansprüche 1 bis 5, wobei jedes des mindestens einen im Wesentlichen gleichen Probenröhrchenmerkmals (17) eine Priorität umfasst, wobei die mindestens zwei Probenröhrchen (26a, 26b) in dem mindestens einen Lagerunterbereich (22a, 22b, 24a, 24d) nach dem im Wesentlichen gleichen Probenröhrchenmerkmal (17) mit der höchsten Priorität vereinigt werden.
     
    7. Verfahren nach einem der Ansprüche 1 bis 6, wobei der Lagerbereich (12) ein Tor (34) umfasst, wobei einer der mindestens zwei Lagerunterbereiche (22a, 24a) näher an dem Tor (34) liegt als der andere der mindestens zwei Lagerbereiche (22b, 24d), wobei Probenröhrchen (26a, 26b), für die das mindestens eine im Wesentlichen gleiche Probenröhrchenmerkmal geplanter Abrufzeitpunkt (44) innerhalb der nächsten 24 Stunden liegt, in dem einen der mindestens zwei Lagerbereiche (22a, 24a), der näher an dem Tor (34) liegt, vereinigt werden.
     
    8. Verfahren nach einem der Ansprüche 1 bis 6, wobei der Lagerbereich (12) ein Tor (34) umfasst, wobei einer der mindestens zwei Lagerunterbereiche (22a, 24a) näher an dem Tor (34) liegt als der andere der mindestens zwei Lagerunterbereiche (22b, 24d), wobei Probenröhrchen (26a, 26b), für die das mindestens eine im Wesentlichen gleiche Probenröhrchenmerkmal Verweilzeit (40) weniger als 24 Stunden beträgt, in dem einen der mindestens zwei Lagerbereiche (22a, 24a), der näher an dem Tor (34) liegt, vereinigt werden.
     
    9. Verfahren nach einem der Ansprüche 1 bis 6, wobei der Lagerbereich (12) ein Tor (34) umfasst, wobei einer der mindestens zwei Lagerunterbereiche (22a, 24a) näher an dem Tor (34) liegt als der andere der mindestens zwei Lagerbereiche (22b, 24d), wobei Probenröhrchen (26a, 26b), für die das mindestens eine im Wesentlichen gleiche Probenröhrchenmerkmal Aufnahmezeitstempel (38) innerhalb einer selben Arbeitsschicht liegt, in dem einen der mindestens zwei Lagerbereiche (22b, 24d), der weiter von dem Tor (34) entfernt ist, am Ende der selben Arbeitsschicht vereinigt werden.
     
    10. Verfahren nach einem der Ansprüche 1 bis 6, wobei der Lagerbereich (12) ein Tor (34) umfasst, wobei einer der mindestens zwei Lagerunterbereiche (22b, 24d) weiter von dem Tor (34) entfernt ist als der andere der mindestens zwei
    Lagerunterbereiche (22a, 24a), wobei Probenröhrchen, für die das mindestens eine im Wesentlichen gleiche Probenröhrchenmerkmal geplante Lagerzeit (42) mehr als 24 Stunden beträgt, in dem einen der mindestens zwei Lagerbereiche (22b, 24d), der weiter von dem Tor (34) entfernt ist, vereinigt werden.
     
    11. Verfahren nach einem der Ansprüche 1 bis 10, wobei das Verfahren zu einem Zeitpunkt durchgeführt wird, wenn keine Probenröhrchenlagerhalter mit neuen Probenröhrchen in den Lagerbereich (12) transportiert werden und/oder wenn keine Probenröhrchenlagerhalter (24a, 24b, 24c, 24d) mit Probenröhrchen, für die ein Abrufzeitpunkt (44) geplant ist, aus dem Lagerbereich (12) transportiert werden.
     
    12. Verfahren nach einem der Ansprüche 1 bis 11, wobei das Laborlagerungs- und - abrufsystem (10) ferner eine Probenröhrchenentsorgungseinheit (32) umfasst, wobei vor Schritt a) mindestens ein Probenröhrchenlagerhalter, der Probenröhrchen umfasst, für die ein Entsorgungszeitpunkt (48) geplant ist, zu der Probenröhrchenentsorgungseinheit (32) zum Entsorgen der Probenröhrchen transportiert wird.
     
    13. Laborlagerungs- und -abrufsystem (10), umfassend einen Lagerbereich (12), eine Datenbank (14), die einen Probenröhrchenbestand des Lagerbereiches (15) umfasst, eine Steuervorrichtung (16) und mindestens ein Probenröhrchentransportsystem (18, 20), das ausgelegt ist, die Schritte des Verfahrens (58, 60) nach einem der Ansprüche 1 bis 12 auszuführen.
     
    14. Computerprogrammprodukt, umfassend Anweisungen, die das Laborlagerungs- und - abrufsystem (10) nach Anspruch 13 veranlassen, die Schritte des Verfahrens (58, 60) nach einem der Ansprüche 1 bis 12 auszuführen.
     
    15. Computerlesbares Medium mit dem darauf gespeicherten Computerprogrammprodukt nach Anspruch 14.
     


    Revendications

    1. Procédé de stockage de tubes à échantillons (26a, 26b) dans un système de stockage et de récupération de laboratoire (10), le système de stockage et de récupération de laboratoire (10) comprenant une section de stockage (12), une base de données (14) comprenant un inventaire des tubes à échantillons de la section de stockage (15), un dispositif de commande (16) et au moins un système de transport de tubes à échantillons (18, 20), dans lequel la section de stockage (12) comprend au moins deux sous-sections de stockage (22a, 22b, 24a, 24d), dans lequel le dispositif de commande (16) commande la base de données (14) comprenant l'inventaire des tubes à échantillons de la section de stockage (15) et l'au moins un système de transport de tubes à échantillons (18, 20), caractérisé en ce que le procédé comprend les étapes (58, 60) suivantes :

    a) le dispositif de commande (16) identifie au moins deux tubes à échantillons (26a, 26b) avec au moins un attribut de tubes à échantillons substantiellement identique (17) et répartis sur les au moins deux sous-sections de stockage (22a, 22b, 24a, 24d)

    b) l'au moins un système de transport de tubes à échantillons (18, 20) regroupe les aux moins deux tubes à échantillons (26a, 26b) dans au moins une sous-section de stockage (22a, 22b, 24a, 24d), dans lequel le dispositif de commande (16) détermine en outre dans laquelle des au moins deux sous-sections de stockage (22a, 22b, 24a, 24d) les tubes à échantillons identifiés sont regroupés.


     
    2. Procédé selon la revendication 1, dans lequel l'au moins un système de transport de tubes à échantillons (18) comprend un dispositif de transport de portoirs de tubes à échantillons (18), dans lequel les au moins deux sous-sections de stockage (22a, 22b) sont au moins deux parties de la section de stockage (22a, 22b), dans lequel chaque partie de la section de stockage (22a, 22b) comprend au moins deux positions de stockage de portoirs (28a, 28b, 28c, 28d), dans lequel le dispositif de commande (16) commande le dispositif de transport de portoirs de tubes à échantillons (18) qui transporte des portoirs de stockage de tubes à échantillons (24a, 24b, 24c, 24d) à l'intérieur de la section de stockage (12) vers l'étape b) du procédé.
     
    3. Procédé selon la revendication 1, dans lequel l'au moins un système de transport de tubes à échantillons (18, 20) comprend une station de retriage (20) ou une station de retriage (20) et un dispositif de transport de portoirs de tubes à échantillons (18), dans lequel les aux moins deux sous-sections de stockage (24a, 24d) sont aux moins deux portoirs de stockage de tubes à échantillons (24a, 24d), dans lequel chaque portoir de stockage de tubes à échantillons comprend au moins deux positions de stockage de tubes à échantillons (30a, 30b, 30c, 30d), dans lequel le dispositif de commande (16) commande la station de retriage (20) qui retrie les tubes à échantillons (26a, 26b) entre au moins deux portoirs de stockage de tubes à échantillons (24a, 24d) ou la station de retriage (20) qui retrie les tubes à échantillons (26a, 26b) entre au moins deux portoirs de stockage de tubes à échantillons (24a, 24d) et le dispositif de transport de portoirs de tubes à échantillons (18) qui transporte les portoirs de stockage de tubes à échantillons (24a, 24b, 24c, 24d) à l'intérieur de la section de stockage (12) et entre la section de stockage (12) et la station de retriage (20) vers l'étape b) du procédé.
     
    4. Procédé selon la revendication 3, dans lequel les positions de stockage de tubes à échantillons (30a, 30b, 30c, 30d) d'au moins deux portoirs de stockage de tubes à échantillons (24a, 24d) sont partiellement occupées par des tubes à échantillons (26a, 26b).
     
    5. Procédé selon l'une quelconque des revendications 1 à 4, dans lequel l'au moins un attribut de tubes à échantillons substantiellement identique (17) est choisi dans un groupe constitué par un horodatage d'embarquement (38), un temps à bord (40), un temps de stockage programmé (42), un point temporel de récupération programmé (44), un temps de récupération (46), un point temporel d'élimination programmé (48), un type de tube à échantillons (50), un contenu de tube à échantillons (52), ou une combinaison de ceux-ci.
     
    6. Procédé selon l'une quelconque des revendications 1 à 5, dans lequel chacun de l'au moins un attribut de tubes à échantillons substantiellement identique (17) comprend une priorité, dans lequel les au moins deux tubes à échantillons (26a, 26b) sont regroupés dans l'au moins une sous-section de stockage (22a, 22b, 24a, 24d) en fonction de l'attribut de tubes à échantillons substantiellement identique (17) ayant la priorité la plus élevée.
     
    7. Procédé selon l'une quelconque des revendications 1 à 6, dans lequel la section de stockage (12) comprend une porte (34), dans lequel l'une des au moins deux sous-sections de stockage (22a, 24a) est plus proche de la porte (34) que l'autre des au moins deux sections de stockage (22b, 24d), dans lequel les tubes à échantillons (26a, 26b) pour lesquels l'au moins un attribut de tubes à échantillons substantiellement identique qui est le point temporel de récupération programmé (44) se situe dans les 24 heures qui suivent sont regroupés dans celle des au moins deux sections de stockage (22a, 24a) qui est la plus proche de la porte (34).
     
    8. Procédé selon l'une quelconque des revendications 1 à 6, dans lequel la section de stockage (12) comprend une porte (34), dans lequel l'une des au moins deux sous-sections de stockage (22a, 24a) est plus proche de la porte (34) que l'autre des au moins deux sous-sections de stockage (22b, 24d), dans lequel les tubes à échantillons (26a, 26b) pour lesquels l'au moins un attribut de tubes à échantillons substantiellement identique qui est le temps à bord (40) est inférieur à 24 heures sont regroupés dans celle des au moins deux sections de stockage (22a, 24a) qui est la plus proche de la porte (34).
     
    9. Procédé selon l'une quelconque des revendications 1 à 6, dans lequel la section de stockage (12) comprend une porte (34), dans lequel l'une des au moins deux sous-sections de stockage (22a, 24a) est plus proche de la porte (34) que l'autre des au moins deux sections de stockage (22b, 24d), dans lequel les tubes à échantillons (26a, 26b) pour lesquels l'au moins un attribut de tubes à échantillons substantiellement identique qui est l'horodatage d'embarquement (38) se situe dans un même quart de travail sont regroupés dans celle des au moins deux sections de stockage (22b, 24d) qui est la plus éloignée de la porte (34) à la fin du même quart de travail.
     
    10. Procédé selon l'une quelconque des revendications 1 à 6, dans lequel la section de stockage (12) comprend une porte (34), dans lequel l'une des au moins deux sous-sections de stockage (22b, 24d) est plus éloignée de la porte que l'autre des au moins deux sous-sections de stockage (22a, 24a), dans lequel les tubes à échantillons pour lesquels l'au moins un attribut de tubes à échantillons substantiellement identique qui est le temps de stockage programmé (42) est supérieur à 24 heures sont regroupés dans celle des au moins deux sections de stockage (22b, 24d) qui est la plus éloignée de la porte (34).
     
    11. Procédé selon l'une quelconque des revendications 1 à 10, dans lequel le procédé est mis en Ĺ“uvre à un temps lorsqu'aucun portoir de stockage de tubes à échantillons avec de nouveaux tubes à échantillons n'est transporté dans la section de stockage (12) et/ou lorsqu'aucun portoir de stockage de tubes à échantillons (24a, 24b, 24c, 24d) avec des tubes à échantillons pour lesquels un point temporel de récupération (44) est programmé n'est transporté hors de la section de stockage (12).
     
    12. Procédé selon l'une quelconque des revendications 1 à 11, dans lequel le système de stockage et de récupération de laboratoire (10) comprend en outre une unité d'élimination de tubes à échantillons (32), dans lequel avant l'étape a) au moins un portoir de stockage de tubes à échantillons comprenant des tubes à échantillons pour lesquels un point temporel d'élimination (48) est programmé est transporté jusqu'à l'unité d'élimination de tubes à échantillons (32) pour éliminer les tubes à échantillons.
     
    13. Système de stockage et de récupération de laboratoire (10) comprenant une section de stockage (12), une base de données (14) comprenant un inventaire de tubes à échantillons de la section de stockage (15), un dispositif de commande (16) et au moins un système de transport de tubes à échantillons (18, 20) adapté à l'exécution des étapes du procédé (58, 60) selon l'une quelconque des revendications 1 à 12.
     
    14. Produit de programme informatique comprenant des instructions pour pousser le système de stockage et de récupération de laboratoire (10) selon la revendication 13 à exécuter les étapes du procédé (58, 60) selon l'une quelconque des revendications 1 à 12.
     
    15. Support lisible par ordinateur sur lequel est stocké le produit de programme informatique selon la revendication 14.
     




    Drawing


























    Cited references

    REFERENCES CITED IN THE DESCRIPTION



    This list of references cited by the applicant is for the reader's convenience only. It does not form part of the European patent document. Even though great care has been taken in compiling the references, errors or omissions cannot be excluded and the EPO disclaims all liability in this regard.

    Patent documents cited in the description