Researches and experiments are necessary for expanding our scientific knowledge and adding contributions to healthcare, drug trials, agriculture, water testing, food, waste control, and more. There are many laboratories around the world, and their contributions to the world’s future are necessary for progress.
Many professional researchers in these labs analyse samples, compare results and make conclusions daily, generating a lot of data in the process. Unfortunately, a lot of this information is in paper format and a collection of folders. Not all laboratories have software or electronic way of keeping all their data and findings, which provides easy access at any time they need it.
This article will explore the use of LIMS software in laboratories, automation, how it works, its benefits and why you should switch to it in your laboratory.
But first, we need to fully define LIMS software so you have a complete understanding of what we’re talking about.
What is a LIMS Software?
LIMS stands for Laboratory Information Management System, and it is software that supports scientists with laboratory operations and automates many routine tasks. It is a very complex software that allows scientists to process large amounts of data, store it and get easy access to it when they need it. Generally, LIMS software helps users with:
- Automatic reporting
- Workload management and reporting
- Resource and supplies management
- Easy sample management
- Simple and fast data transfer between laboratories
- Data mining, management and analysis
- Designing advanced analytic tables and charts
- Editing, commenting and note-making in documents
The above is just some of the features a LIMS software could have. Each LIMS software can have unique features vital to the company that uses it for its operations. You can easily customise LIMS software by shortening or extending the feature set, leaving only the parts that you need. Everything is dependent on the operations, processes, samples, personnel, and industry your laboratory operates in.
Also, you don’t have to bother about compatibility with the software you may or may not already use in your laboratory. A LIMS system can easily integrate with any software to centralise the control and view, creating a more innovative environment for all processes. LIMS will drastically cut down on your paperwork, address all human mistakes and integrate new employees into the working process seamlessly.
Benefits of LIMS
Check out some of the benefits your lab stands to gain from installing a LIMS.
Compliance and Standardisation
LIMS will let your team abide by the regulations that guide your industry and stay compliant with all processes. Since everyone in the laboratory uses the same LIMS software, it will be easy to get everyone to follow the same procedures, protocols and methods. A LIMS will typically guide you through a standardised process to edit to your unique needs. This is highly beneficial in industries where your lab work must abide by stringent quality requirements.
Your LIMS system is connected to your stock and can detect when your supplies are running low. It can alert you of this status to make orders ahead of time. Also, you can configure the system to automatically reorder when certain supplies get lower than a particular point. Depleting your inventory without knowing about it can put a wrench in your operations and make the laboratory lose a lot of money.
Scalable and Modular
The requirements in laboratories vary from one to the other. Some laboratories have standard requirements, while others have highly nuanced needs specific to their products or industry. This is where the ability of customisation and modular nature of LIMS systems excels. You can let the system develop at the pace of the laboratory and make use of functions only when you need them. All of these reduces costs without affecting the ability to expand and scale up when you need to.
LIMS software streamlines your reporting and record-keeping so you can benefit from improved operational and laboratory efficiency. All of your processes before more focused, and you can stop worrying about redundant tasks and let your focus only worry on critical studies. Also, LIMS significantly reduces your administrative tasks and streamlines them as you can generate invoices automatically, and the HR system can easily log the number of hours worked.
Eliminate Human Errors
The most focused and diligent lab workers sometimes make mistakes while transcribing measurements, readings and sample details manually. Usually, more significant data volumes mean these errors can pile up, making your results less accurate. LIMS helps you avoid all that with its ability to integrate with laboratory equipment and capture readings automatically, fast and accurately. Even when you have to record observations manually, LIMS gives you a simple, easy-to-use paperless platform where any department can view your results anytime they need them. All data is entered only once – no redundant data, no unnecessary typing hence no errors.
LIMS Sample Management Features
Many laboratories work with samples daily, so sample management is one of the essential features of a LIMS. Check out the capabilities of LIMS systems as regards sample management.
You can store all of your data electronically with your LIMS. Many LIMS solutions can easily integrate with an electronic laboratory notebook (ELN) which gives you a secure way to collect data in electronic format and provide access based on permissions and profiles. Some LIMS software also have built-in ELNs, so you do not have to worry if you do not have one.
Processing and Monitoring Samples
LIMS automates sample tracking throughout the lifecycle of a sample and the many steps it passes before results. You can also use it to track freezing of samples, instruments condition and alerts when something is wrong.
As a laboratory, it isn’t uncommon that you’ll get audited. LIMS makes this easy for you with its ability to integrate auditing and reporting tools into your workflows so you can comply with healthcare requirements. All of the processes for generating these reports are automated; you have to fill a table or chart.
Is a Custom LIMS System Right for Me?
Software optimisation is paramount in selecting a LIMS for your laboratory. There are two main options to go with this – either choose a ready-made solution and pay a license or subscription fee or develop your custom LIMS solution uniquely adept at handling your workflow. Getting a ready-made solution is affordable and convenient, but it won’t give you a high level of customisation like the one you built from scratch.
Determining the option to go for could be challenging, and you must focus on your core business needs in selecting a solution. The purpose of a LIMS is to optimise workflow, so the most appropriate option will vary depending on the laboratory. If you’re choosing a ready-made option, you should fully explore all the options you have available and analyse them to see if they fit your requirements. You should also consider the present challenges with performance and if the desired LIMS solution will address them.
If your operations are highly specified, we’ve found that many LIMS options off the shelf do not meet many of the requirements and do not have customisation options for support. Even though it is possible to integrate these systems with many services and ensure work is smooth, they may lack some features that you cannot add. If you find yourself in a laboratory with niche experiments, it is better to develop a custom solution and hire a reliable team. The specialists that can help you build a custom LIMS include:
- Front-End Engineers
- Back-End Engineers
- Software Architects
- QA Engineers
- Scrum master
- Business Analyst
All of the above specialists will understand your requirements then they’ll be able to select the appropriate technology stack build and test the solution. They will also ensure the UI and UX is responsive, intuitive and easy to understand for your operations. The UI/UX design is crucial since numerous employees will use the LIMS daily.
If you already have an ERP, CRM or EHR, they will also integrate all of these systems with your LIMS. It is essential to ask the specialists to check the compatibility, connectivity, and other factors to run seamlessly. It takes an average of 10 months to develop an excellent LIMS solution and test its performance. However, this time could vary depending on your specific laboratory needs since you may include some complex features.
Signs You Need a LIMS
If you’re still not convinced that a LIMS will help your operations in your laboratory. Here are some signs that you need a LIMS in your lab:
High Cost on Daily Transactions
Paying for workforce costs like documentation and other manual tasks can add up over time. This happens when your employees spend a lot of their paid time on transactional tasks instead of other duties that can add value to the laboratory. LIMS helps with cost-effectiveness as it cuts down on a lot of manual work and handles redundant tasks automatically. Also, you can cut down on costs associated with purchasing paper, folders and other items used for documentation.
Difficulty Retrieving Data
Apart from data availability, retrieving the desired data at the right time is another challenge in laboratories. If you find that your employees find it difficult to find records of old patients or experiments, then there is a problem with your processes. LIMS solves this quickly as LIMS stores all your data on servers and computers that you can access from any computer in the network. All you have to do is navigate to the data location or search on the LIMS portal. No more searching through heaps of paper folders to find desired documents.
Even though manual processes have been the norm for a long time, they aren’t very effective in turnaround time, and finishing tasks can take a while. If you have noticed it takes a long time for the process to be complete, or results take a long time to get uploaded, etc., your processing speed is un-optimal. This usually occurs when all your processes are dependent on human intervention. Implementing a LIMS will change all this as it follows all standard operating procedures (SOPs), so there is no deviation, and you can have better outcomes.
One of the most dangerous places to make errors in reports is the laboratory. If you have observed that you had errors in your reports at any point of the lifecycle, it is a sign you need LIMS software to help with your operations. LIMS automates many processes that would typically involve human intervention reducing the possibility of errors. LIMS will automatically follow all the standard operating procedures that employees may sometimes ignore while delivering results quickly. LIMS will reduce the scope of error significantly and make your processes more efficient.
Slow Decision Making
With ever-changing customer needs and markets, modern labs must accommodate that change and make decisions fast in today’s world. So, if you notice that it takes a long time before making plans for the next step or it takes too long to connect all the stakeholders with the required data to make decisions, then a LIMS can greatly help surmount this challenge. A LIMS will integrate all the departments in the lab and provide them with the data needed to make decisions. A LIMS will connect everyone with accurate time information that will improve the lab’s quality of results, turnover, and patient care.
It is almost impossible to do without systems in your laboratory in today’s world. Many experiments and lab work requires high-quality solutions for management and data storage. They keep getting more complicated by the day, making LIMS a necessity in your lab.