A key aspect of laboratory operations is storing samples and keeping a proper inventory of all the samples in their possession. In more recent years, these laboratories’ data has increased drastically with technology advancements in research.
Keeping track of all the samples in a laboratory can become burdensome if you do not have proper systems and processes in place. A great way to stay on top of your samples and handle the management from a central location is LIMS.
You can keep all your samples safely, track their use, and streamline access to these samples from one integrated system. Check out how you can use LIMS to keep track of your sample storage in a laboratory. But first, we need to understand what a LIMS is.
What is LIMS?
Laboratory Information Management System, also known as Laboratory Management System (LMS), is a tool that makes managing test results, samples, and any data related to the lab more efficient to increase productivity. LIMS regulates the lab’s workflow and gives accurate control of the processes.
LIMS is not only used for healthcare but also relates to any field where you deal with samples. It is the best tool for dealing with a large amount of data that comes to research laboratories, such as examining the various results about the effectiveness of a chemical product or drug; it is also suitable for repetitive tasks done daily.
How Does LIMS Help with Samples in Your Laboratory?
Check out some of the ways a LIMS can help your laboratory in terms of sample storage and use.
- Sample Management
Sample management is one of the core functions of LIMS. It is vital for anyone who works at the lab to reduce errors and make processes work smoothly. LIMS delivers an accurate and detailed representation of each sample’s records and reduces the chances of a sample getting lost or mixed up significantly. Some of the records you can get from a LIMS include:
- Who recorded the sample?
- What sample was moved and to where
- Which researchers are working on each project?
- Where a sample is at that moment and where it is going next
- How the sample is stored etc.
- Sample Workflow management
LIMS plays a significant role in making the work process work smoothly in the lab, especially when it is a lab that has a lot of research going on. You can use this to plan the entire lifecycle of samples depending on the type of research and project. LIMS will:
- Assign work/samples to team members
- Advice on which tools you should use to analyse samples
- Let everyone know where samples are at any given time
- Inventory, Report and Maintenance management
LIMS is also used to help with inventory, reporting, and maintenance of your samples and the associated instrument you use for analysis. The LIMS system will:
- Point out how long your accumulation of a sample is
- Show the duration it takes for your lab to process a sample
- Identify the most used instruments in the lab for specific samples
LIMS provides detailed real-time information about the maintenance of equipment and lets you know when you need to upgrade any. LIMS makes sure your equipment is not substandard, and this information will come in very handy when auditing Is to take place.
Essential Features of LIMS For Sample Storage
An excellent LIMS tool adjusts to your working style/system, helps manage the lab to be efficient to customers, helps with high-quality results, and makes a repeatable automated process. Some of the features you should look for in a LIMS for sample collection and storage include:
- Easy-to-configure system to match customer’s needs.
- Management of the complete life cycle of the sample, including storage, custody studies, etc.
- Easy to use interface to see the lifecycle management of samples
- A security system that only gives authorised personnel access to sensitive sample information
- Flexibility to instruments and 3rd party tools.
How Does LIMS Work?
LIMS enables scientists, lab attendants, and technicians to record detailed information or data relating to any sample or project they are using for work. You will store and organise the data with different tags such as:
- Inspection number
- Batch number
- Time and date
- Where you conducted the
- Any other important data
LIMS Sample Processes
Check out the processes involved with sample collection and storage.
- Sample registering
After collecting a sample, a lab attendant logs it into the system along with the delivery details. Giving each sample a personalised bar code for tracking is how registration gets carried out, e.g., LIMS makes a barcode with data points. Every lab has a chain of custody and gives roles and teams, limiting access to data and information about a sample to only those in the team and the LIMS database.
A chain of command ensures quality and precise results by recording and observing every step and personnel involved in the sample test. LIMS creates ad hoc reports such as login reports, sampling tracking reports, etc. The lab attendant attaches the files to an electronic document of the sample.
- Sample monitoring
Labs use LIMS to schedule samples daily, weekly, hourly, weekly, monthly, etc. basis to avoid missing sampling events. LIMS lets lab attendants know to get a sample ready so that the lab attendants can test it. LIMS uses GIS (Geographic Information System) to track the status and location of samples. It monitors the freeze and thaw cycles that any sample experiences in some situations.
- Sample Processing
LIMS keeps records of all samples’ lifecycle and maintains the processing times of chemical reactions. LIMS can give control files using laboratory instruments to control the operation of a sample. Without the right instrument and certificate from the personnel, it will not allow some activities.
- Sample results quality control
After analysis, LIMS exports the files from the instrument and resolves them to do a quality control assessment of the tests. Due to chain of custody and other security reasons, access to the data gets regulated. LIMS measures test results by adding graphics for the result and making a control chart for the chosen data.
- Sample results reporting
LIMS combines auditing and reporting into the lab to satisfy the conditions of health service agencies such as hospital accreditation agencies, HIPAA in the US, etc. LIMS arranges the result following data entry standards, drops them in a report template, and then sends them to the respective parties.
- Sample data storage and exchange
Successful transfer of data files is an integral part of modern LIMS. It is transferred from proprietary to standardised database management systems and hugely influences how data is managed and transferred in laboratories. LIMS also supports real-time data transfer with Electronic Health Records systems used by hospitals and clinics.
Rules For Lab Sample Storage Safety and Compliance
The laboratory manager or attendant ensures the sample analysis and storage align with the rules and regulations laid out on ISO’s systems. Standard is an essential aspect of any sample storage system, which helps improve product quality and consistency. Following standards also help guarantee the safety of staff and shareholders.
Storage standards aren’t only about guidelines; they are more concerned with differentiating good labs from inadequate facilities. Your company needs to follow the relations set out and monitor the facility’s activities. Sample storage standards are a core part of the laboratory system, and they serve to enable good transportation, quality control, and stability of samples.
- Store samples in a dry, clean, cool and well-ventilated room.
- Store foodstuff samples differently from others. Freeze perishable items or keep them in a refrigerator and maintain the required temperature.
- Store flammable samples according to fire safety rules.
How To Create a Sample Storage
- Create a location for local storage
The highest level in your facility is where you begin for your sample storage architecture. In the LIMS tool, “location” is used for a parent room or principal rooms/subspaces, your lab space, and any room containing equipment. In contrast, “sublocations” or sub-space” denote the smaller rooms/spaces within the bigger ones; they are usually at the front or back of the lab and usually where samples are stored. “Location” is used to denote/represent each room, including labs, storage, and the room.
It is essential to be specific about the sample storage locations in the LIMS tool to enable your staff to identify a sample quickly.
- Creating sample storage equipment designations
Once a location has been created for local storage, the next step is creating dossiers to identify the storage units. A sound LIMS system will make it so you can classify your equipment into “freezers,” “nitrogen tanks,” and “refrigerators” as a result of them having different attributes for sample storage.
LIMS should enable a custom sample storage configuration to give you the specific location of a sample stored without wasting time. After creating each sample of storage equipment (shelves, racks), assign each instance of storage equipment (shelves, racks) to any of the locations created in step 1, either front or back.
Anyone using the LIMS will know which equipment is in what room and the configuration of the sample units after this process.
- Creating containers for sample storage
This is the last stage for creating sample storage. Make containers within the storage units. These containers will each contain the samples; the “box” or “plate” is for classifying containers in LIMS. It is necessary to be able to show each sample’s position in its box visually and also to customise each box.
Likewise, LIMS enables you to link samples to plates without any obstacles. After assigning the samples, assign each container to its rightful shelf or rack in the storage equipment.
Creating an excellent storage ecosystem for your lab will take some time, and it is a continuous process. Continually update records as appropriate and ensure your LIMS is up-to-date with what you have in your laboratory.