How REI Systems digitized and automated a paper-based sampling process to more rapidly identify dangerous consumer products.
HHS helps ensure the safety of consumer products with numerous field offices and laboratories around the country. HHS conducts thousands of product samples annually. The majority of the sample and regulatory analysis data are manually compiled into a cumbersome paper-based report. HHS was ready to start on its journey to the cloud and incorporate automation for the collection, processing, sharing, and compliance of analysis data to modernize field office operations and information sharing across the agency. HHS looked to help the Microbiology Analyst Program first by piloting a program to create a cloud-native lab application.
Many of HHS processes are unique, so REI Systems partnered with HHS to develop a completely new and custom cloud-native, web-based application on AWS GovCloud platform. REI System used its Mindful Modernization® approach of analyzing the problem holistically and then combining business expertise, best-of bread technologies, and hyperefficient processes to develop the lab application. We collaborated with end users and stakeholders throughout the project and took the time to understand our client’s problem and implemented user design, educational sessions, frequent communications, and continuous user acceptance testing which vastly accelerated the application adoption and increased the productivity of the Microbiology Analyst Program.
Our solution included cloud native development, human-centered design, agile and DevOps processes, microservices architecture, and emerging technologies.
Cloud Native Application
Many of HHS’ processes are unique, so REI Systems partnered with HHS to develop a completely new and custom cloud-native, web-based application on FDA’s AWS GovCloud platform.
Before any code was written, REI’s Customer Experience (CX) team conducted product research via multiple interviews with what would be the systems’ end users and stakeholders to document the product user requirements. The team created user personas, user stories, and storyboards to help the UX designers create the specifications for an easy-to-use and intuitive application. REI was able to design and build a scientific lab application without an REI lab subject matter expert due to its front-end examination and research of ORA’s business needs and processes.
Agile and DevOps Delivery Framework
Once the CX roadmap was produced, REI applied its Agile Delivery Framework to incrementally build the business functionality of the application. A DevOps pipeline was stood up to leverage automation and continuous integration and continuous deployment (CI/CD) of capabilities.
A Jenkins DevOps pipeline was configured to build and automate blue-green deployments to AWS. The blue-green deployments created two separate and identical environments to increase application availability and reduce deployment risk. The team could do deployment any time of the day, and the end users won’t notice any outage.
ALIS is a microservice-based application with a dedicated database. The microservices are deployed in docker containers to an AWS Elastic Container Service (ECS) cluster, a logical grouping of tasks or services. ECS, a serverless architecture, was used to leverage Lambda functions to seamlessly integrate our application with another third-party system. ECS also enables cloud-native capabilities like auto-scaling, managed storage, maintenance overhead, and Infrastructure as Code, with minimal code changes.
Emerging AI Technology
The REI team implemented emerging AI technology into ALIS via AWS X-Ray. AWS X-Ray collects data about requests that ALIS application serves and provides tools to view, filter, and gain insights into that data to identify issues and opportunities for optimization. More emerging AI technology is being evaluated now for future enhancements.
REI helped stand up the lab application, a completely new cloud native app in under eight months. The application is helping increase mission agility, flexibility, and reduced cost. Because the lab application has been so successful, HHS is planning to build it into a one-stop shop for all sample-related programs.
The lab application helps HHS to proactively identify risks and quickly respond to public health emergencies to safeguard our national supply chain of regulated consumer products. The application digitized and automated testing analytical packages and automated sample accounting, data analysis, document control, report generation, and other lab operation functions. It also systemized record-keeping, sample tracking, and report activities. E-signatures were added to streamline processes and get reports out the door more rapidly.
Analysts can now work much faster and conduct more testing with fewer errors. An app user said, “The ability to generate work packages in a click of a button is great. It took hours before to do this manually.”
The agency’s ability to sample products jumped 600% with our modern cloud solution, significantly improving the program’s efficiency.