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Excel Vs LIMS: 5 Reasons You Should Invest in A LIMS

Tracking and keeping records is one of the most critical processes in laboratories. It is integral to the research and the results you will get, making it a significant step that takes up a lot of time and effort. Every laboratory has a method for tracking all aspects of its operations.

Excel spreadsheets are one of the easiest methods some labs use to track their reagents, equipment, samples, and overall activities. It is a simple solution that can take care of your tracking and lab activities, especially initially.

However, the amount of data many labs have to handle has increased drastically across all types of laboratories in recent times. Today, more than ever, laboratories need to process operations and sift through large volumes of data faster.

LIMS can help fill this gap and save time maintaining your records, give you easy data accessibility and reduce human errors in processes. It takes your lab management further with comprehensive features that cater to every aspect of your laboratory. 

Check out some of why you should switch to a LIMS for your laboratory.

5 Reasons Why You Should Invest In a LIMS

Check out the top reasons why you should replace your Excel and replace it with a LIMS.

  1. Top Security Measures

Excel and other spreadsheets do not have security features that cater to a laboratory’s needs. Intellectual Property (IP) and Protected Health Information (PHI) security are very important for laboratory operations, and Excel does not have any specialised protection for IP or PHI. All labs need to stay HIPAA-compliant and secure every information they encounter through the highest level of security.

Some highly sophisticated security processes for keeping PHI and IP safe include two-factor authentication, which you cannot achieve with Excel. When you use Excel, almost anyone with access to the file can cut, copy or paste data from the files or alter it in unacceptable ways. Also, Excel means anyone can maliciously distribute sensitive files without your knowledge, and you might not even know there is a breach until it is too late.

LIMS system, on the other hand, will give you databases with multiple layers of security you can adapt to meet your needs. Its security features have unique methods for protecting data critical to your lab and safeguarding IP and PHI. Get the best possible protection, and get a LIMS system with strict access policies where only authorised people can access data. LIMS will also keep records of which data you accessed, who accessed it and a timestamp for record purposes.

  1. Setting Access Levels

People in a laboratory typically have different roles and tasks to perform for each project. It is only standard that the level of access one person will need is different than others based on the job they need to perform at a particular time. Therefore, you must control the level of access each user has to your data, which is impossible for Excel.

Even though you might be able to set some users as “Read Only” for Excel files, it is very challenging or almost impossible to limit access to just the required data fields in the file. Some projects or operations require users to have access to just a field of data which is not possible with Excel as its read/write access is usually an all-or-nothing approach. Also, you may need to update the user access you had previously created based on the status of your project. Using Excel would mean that you have to manually update every single file if your data consists of multiple files, which it usually does.

LIMS, as an alternative, will allow you to create user profiles where you can efficiently control what each person can edit or view. It takes this functionality further by giving complete control of who can edit ad view all the individual data entry fields of the system. As long as you can control access through user profiles, it will only take a while to update access levels and give users a different profile as needed. Different LIMS solutions have advanced solutions for access depending on the project’s sensitivity.

  1. Easy Access to Files

When laboratories use Excel for their files, it is usually from on-prem servers that have security policies and restrictions in place to limit access. While this is good for security, you are limited to accessing your Excel files either from a particular office location or specific devices. Some also have firewalls that make it impossible to have remote access.

Therefore, access can be a problem when people aren’t working from the exact physical location or are working as split teams. Like the pandemic has shown us, sometimes it may be necessary for teams to work individually from remote locations for collective progress. Using Excel can hamper that process and slow down work considerably.

LIMS can quickly resolve this issue with the cloud-based technologies that power the system. Your users can access your LIMS from any location and still give you good security features far more advanced than what Excel can provide. This is one of the most significant advantages of cloud-based LIMS, as it makes collaboration a seamless process without much fuss. As long as the users are authorised, they have access to all the files, systems, databases and processes they need to work.

  1. Work Throughput

Many factors determine the level and capacity of throughput your laboratory can handle. Some of these include the number of skilled personnel you have available and the equipment you have in your laboratory. One goal that lab administrators have tried to accomplish is maximising their use of present resources. 

If you use spreadsheets to manage data in your laboratory, it is very time-consuming generating insights from the data and extract the analytics you need to identify growth areas. Using Excel sets many limitations as it could take a long time waiting for samples between the turnaround times or workflow procedures from the receipt point to reporting.

LIMS automates this administrative task for you for more accessible sample analysis; you can easily automate the process of assigning tests for appropriate batch release tests. All you have to do is load the information to your LIMS system and validate the function. This makes it so that every time someone books a sample for any batch release tests of the product/sample, you are sure that it allocates all the proper tests and removes any administrative effort required to check every time.

  1. Ability To Handle Large Work Volume

Suppose you are using Excel for your lab operations. In that case, it means that many times, you have to manually transcribe your instrument readings to a lab notebook before moving to the Excel spreadsheet for calculations. Also, it isn’t improbable that you have to manually copy the data many times depending on the work and project. These transfers can lead to errors at any step during the process and limit the scope of work you can handle.

Excel also dramatically limits the volume of work you can handle as there is only so much data you can manually transfer every time. Transferring results when dealing with a large dataset can be challenging and significantly increase the time for processing and handling data. 

LIMS, on the other hand, can integrate with your instruments and transfer data directly as you take results. Automatic transfers will reduce transcription errors and speed up your processes. Many LIMS systems have an automated software interface that allows you to import data directly from your laboratory instruments. You have to set up the interface, and you can let it work in the background. 

Since we expect that laboratories will handle thousands of samples every day, we suggest using barcode labels to scan and speed up the process of access and testing to improve efficiency significantly.

Conclusion

Excel was not designed to function as a LIMS solution and will not serve you properly in the long term. It would be best to use a LIMS with unique features to suit your tracking and laboratory operations. Ultimately, Excel files have several limitations like the inability of a large number of people to work on the same file simultaneously, a duplicate number of files due to multiple edits, etc.

Using a LIMS will expose you to a wide area of features and significantly improve the efficiency of your laboratory processes. Make sure you perform in-depth research into all your laboratory processes and the features of a LIMS that is most beneficial to you. This will help you in selecting one that matches with your operations.

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