Sample Tracking: How to Track Your Lab Samples

Sample tracking is the process that helps laboratories know where samples are in the testing process or during experiments. Sample tracking lets a laboratory know the lab samples’ what, where, and why.

Suppose a laboratory needs to perform additional tests on samples. In that case, the sample tracking processes or systems will allow you to quickly identify the information you need and all the previous tests you have done on the sample.

Every laboratory needs a sample management method to stay operational and organised.

What Sample Tracking in a Laboratory Entails

For a lab to be able to use and understand the context of a sample after collecting, you should contain the following information at the minimum:

  • Location of the sample
  • Current status of the sample at any instant
  • Properties of the sample (name, source, unique ID, volume, etc.)
  • All the assays and activities you have carried out on the sample

There are two ways of capturing this method – manual or with a laboratory information management system (LIMS).

Manual Sample Tracking

This is when you use methods such as categorising physically, collecting the information on paper/spreadsheets, and other manual methods for handling your samples. Many manual methods typically involve using humans to take all the tasks needed for sample tracking.

Even though manual tracking doesn’t need any significant capital investment, in the long run, this can pose a lot of dangers to your lab and even make you lose money later.

Dangers of Manual Sample Tracking

Manual filing, verifying, and logging patient details can expose you to multiple points of error. Some of these errors include:

Reliance on Handwriting

If you are using your handwriting for labels or details, any form of illegibility or anything less than perfect can lead to mistakes in interpretation. When reading labels, you can easily confuse a ‘5’ for an S. Also, the laboratory technicians responsible for reading patient slides are humans, and after a long day, they may start misreading handwriting.

Errors When Sorting Slides

In manual sample tracking, you will typically sort cassettes and slides into different testing phases to simultaneously perform the same procedure on multiple samples. You would typically sort these samples according to each patient. But, when you are doing this in batches, there is the risk that you may match the wrong slides into a block.

Re-labelling Slides

During processes, you may need to re-label the slides or samples at different stages. Every time you do this, there is a chance for error due to handwriting or just mistakes in labelling the slides or samples with the wrong description.

Data Entry

After you have completed your experiments for the day, it is only standard that you will want to record the results or progress on a computer. Humans perform data entry tasks which introduces a risk of errors. Even well-trained data entry operators aren’t above making errors.

Laboratory Information Management System (LIMS) Sample Tracking

LIMS helps you track the containers and samples in your laboratory through barcodes and other computerised methods. You can use it to locate where each sample is in your lab instantly from the comfort of your devices.

Using a LIMS for sample tracking ensures that each tested sample has detailed, accurate, and up-to-date information. Implementing a LIMS in your laboratory drastically reduces the occurrences of misdiagnosis and provides each person gets their relevant test results.

Why You Should Use a LIMS For Sample Tracking

LIMS is integral in every modern laboratory because it makes sample management efficient and accessible. Check out the ways you can benefit from using a LIMS for sample tracking:

  • Coordinate and automate lab workflow
  • Give each sample a unique identifier to reduce the number of errors drastically
  • Quickly search and locate samples from any location
  • Plan and deliver test results seamlessly
  • Collaborate with other units of your team and work asynchronously

Lab Tracking Features on LABA LIMS

Check out some of the features that a LIMS solution like Laba has for sample tracking and management.

Sample Timeline: Easily view the chain of custody and events for all your samples. You will be able to track all the changes in testing and even set a notification to trigger. These events include volume changes, inclusion in workflow jobs, assays performed, and any additional comments.

Easy Tools to Track Sample Lineage: You can use a lineage graph that gives you a visual representation of the percentage of samples in your laboratory. These tools can also help you view derivation histories and lengthy lineages.

Sample Source: Allocate sources to each sample to have the complete picture when you are handling it for any processes or experiments.

Naming Patterns and Unique Sample IDs: The system will automatically assign a unique ID/name for easy identification and tracking. You can input a unique ID yourself or let the system generate it with a naming convention as chosen by your administrator.

Cost Efficiency Tracker: You can use this feature to view the cost of sample testing and track it as it increases. It is flexible to check the cost changes at each stage of your samples. You can use this for budgetary planning and get a picture of your financials with one click.

Sample Types: Easily arrange all your samples according to their types. You can also add data fields according to your study/experiment as needed to describe attributes of the sample for easy tracking and management.

Get Your Laboratory Processes in Check with LABA LIMS Sample Tracking

Check out what you stand to gain from using LABA LIMS for sample tracking:

Track Status: Check your metrics with customisable dashboards and reports that show you the state of your samples at any given time.

Safe and Secure: An impenetrable system built on one of the most secure cloud systems to give your data the highest level of protection.


If you don’t want your sample tracking to become a problem for your laboratory, the best path forward is to use a LIMS system. It reduces the strain on your employees, makes processes far more efficient, and reduces any occurrences of errors.