In the daily activities of a lab, there are many actions and tasks, usually simultaneously. As part of your team handles testing, other team members capture sensitive information, and others share, analyse, or run reports. It can get chaotic at times because while all that is happening, you still have to communicate with team members, bring clients up to speed, run protocols and replace materials.
With so much going on in a laboratory, keeping up with all the manual tasks can slow down production. Many labs manage all of these processes using spreadsheets, notebooks, and emails to track samples, results, and protocols. However, this could lead to exhausted resources, wasted time and expose the laboratory to errors.
This is where a Laboratory Information Management System (LIMS) comes into play. A LIMS solution is a type of software that can immensely increase the efficiency of your lab management. LIMS helps you streamline lab operations, automate procedures and instruments, manage samples and workflows and make sure data is accessible anytime you need it.
How a LIMS Can Make Your lab More Efficient and Support Lab Management
LIMS systems help reduce errors in the laboratory and make your processes more efficient. Here are some of the ways it achieves that:
Inventory Tracking and Automated Reordering
Synchronising your inventory with your LIMS allows it to alert you when your stock is low. It automatically detects which level is considered low for each sample or product, and it can inform you on time so you can order another before it’s too late. Apart from that, it can do this in a regularly scheduled fashion where it creates a list of all needs to go on your purchase order. This feature protects you from having challenges due to finished items in the middle of your processes and potential revenue loss.
Real-Time Information on Your Lab’s Tasks
LIMS gives you an integrated view of all your lab’s samples, projects, protocols, submissions, materials, instruments and workflows. Instead of moving through different apps and systems to check the documentation of various projects, you can get all your emails and spreadsheet simultaneously. LIMS allows you to drill down and get more information about any section you are interested in if you are looking at individual projects. You can also grant team members access to details of their respective projects.
Reduction of errors and Turnaround Time
LIMS gives you the ability to automate your data calculation and lab processes. All these can significantly help reduce your lab turnaround time and the occurrence of human errors in your experiments. A LIMS is a sizable investment into your lab that will start showing results as soon as you start using it for your operations. It quickly shortens the time taken to complete experiments or tests; it takes away all the rudimentary tasks from you to focus on core operations.
Electronic Capture and Data Transmission
One of the most convenient features of a LIMS is its ability to capture and transmit data electronically. You don’t have to worry about papers and documents, which takes up a lot of physical space, take too long to sort and is challenging to share with others. It saves a lot of time in documentation and improves efficiency in information sharing across the lab. You can also keep up with your compliance requirements easier as you can keep electrical records for a long time without having to worry about misplacing them or physical damage.
Easy Configurability to Fit Your Needs
Different laboratories have varying needs and operations depending on their work. So, what a laboratory looks for from a LIMS will be different since they’re trying to solve various challenges. This isn’t a problem, as you can easily configure LIMS solutions to fit your organisations’ workflow. This isn’t hard to do if you fully understand your needs and what you want the LIMS to achieve. LIMS solutions can work in many industries that use laboratories, including agriculture, petrochemical companies, food & beverage, etc.
Data Accessibility and Backup
Many LIMS systems store their data in the cloud, so it eliminates the need for internal data centres in your establishment. This also means authorised members of your team can assess the data anytime they need it from any location. It gives access to laboratory data across devices where users can view critical metrics with graphical representation from the lab management to C-level management. Also, backing up is easy when you store it all in the cloud. You can have multiple copies of your data and quickly recover at any time to get your operations back on track.
Selecting a LIMS Solution
There are many versions of LIMS software in the market with varying prices. Some of the factors that determine the cost of a LIMS system includes the number of modules required in the lab, hosting solution (web-based service or self-installation) and the number of features. Web-based services usually have high initial expenses apart from the regular monthly fee; conversely, self-installation options cost is cheaper.
Before choosing which LIMS solution to opt for, consider all the features and how it aligns with your long-term plans. It is advisable to consult your IT department or the equivalent in your lab for their output on ideal for your operations. Do in-depth research, check reviews and if possible, do a test run with the service before opting to integrate it as your solution.
Regardless of the type of lab you run, implementing a LIMS will cut down on a lot of redundant tasks and make you prioritise better. It helps you keep up with international standards and keep up with all regulations through a command centre. You can customise your unique view to include all the metrics you want regarding sample management, inventory management, stock list, testing, etc.
Also, installing a LIMS solution is not a challenging task, and in no time, you can kickstart your operations focusing on the most relevant jobs. The main challenge you should be focused on when dealing with LIMS solutions is compatible with your procedures and business processes.