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What is LIMS: Everything You Need To Know

Updated: Sep 12

Have you heard of a laboratory information system (LIMS)? Laboratory requirements for automation, data management, and regulations are growing more complex every day. A LIMS can increase laboratory productivity, manage automation, and support lab regulatory compliance. We're going to cover what a LIMS is, how it works, and the ways it can benefit laboratories now and moving into the future.


What is LIMS?

A laboratory information management system (LIMS) is either a cloud-based or on-premise software offering technology that can manage both transactional and results data and information produced by laboratories. Traditional lab record keeping has always involved a lot of paperwork, including spreadsheets, batch documents, and testing records. A LIMS can manage and store this information whether in the cloud or on-premise.

This collection of transactional and results data and information can also help lab managers assess and see trends over time.


lims benefits

How does LIMS work?

A LIMS uses technology to drive efficiency for record-keeping, inspections, and recording batch documents, all while decreasing the need for human interaction in the laboratory.

to reduce the amount of time humans in the lab need to spend on record keeping, inspections, and recording batch documents. Typically, LIMS use barcodes to scan samples and record work processes throughout the laboratory. At each step, lab technicians and others can scan the barcode and the work steps and results will automatically be recorded in the LIMS.


A properly-configured LIMS helps to reduce human error by employing concepts like barcoding, defined processes, review steps, and data dictionaries/phrases. They can support workflow planning and process management because they offer a clear view of the way a sample moves through the lab. And, they make reporting, analysis, and billing much easier and less time-consuming than paper-based systems.


How do LIMS systems work?

A LIMS combines elements of other electronic and paper-based laboratory systems into a single, integrated platform that operates in the cloud or on-prem.

A complete laboratory information system can replace ELNs (Electronic Laboratory Notebooks), patient portals, barcode-exclusive management systems, and also separate accounting software and process management software.


Today's LIMS usually provide cloud-based software technology that supports the entire laboratory process, from when a test order is received throughout the testing process, up to issuing a certificate of analysis (COA) and finally, ending with billing, invoicing, and payment.





What Is LIMS Used For?

LIMS can be used throughout the more static workflow processes in a laboratory.

The laboratory information management system isn't just a record-keeping type of software, It can also generate reports and help you manage all of your processes in the lab. Additionally, it can assist with billing, invoicing, and financial planning and management. Here are some of the detailed ways a LIMS can support your laboratory's work and help to strengthen productivity, efficiency, and profitability.


Sample Management

A LIMS can support best practices in some sample management environments, including providing a complete Chain of Custody for a sample from when it enters the lab throughout the testing and sample management lifecycle. Laboratory information management systems (LIMS) can eliminate data loss and prevent human error. A LIMS can provide tracking of the sample's location and custodian at each step throughout the testing and reporting process.


Inventory Management

Keeping stock supplies and reagents in good order and condition is essential for your lab's functioning. A good LIMS can assist in maintaining lab inventory, including sending automatic reorder alerts for supplies and equipment. The LIMS will help to optimize workflows, improve planning, and will provide accurate, up-to-date information on consumable supplies and equipment that may need maintenance or an upgrade.


Test Management

A LIMS supports test management in many ways. First, it will assist the laboratory in creating and managing standardized workflows for tests. Second, it will provide batch entry for tests and results. It can manage approvals and validations of results, and generate reports for use within the lab as well as Certificates of Analysis (COA). Managers can use the LIMS to assign tests to specific users and also to automate provision of results.


Reporting

Laboratories need internal reports to manage their own workflows and processes. And, there are many reports which are essential, from providing results for individual clients and customers, to managing reporting for major projects and studies. A few of the reports that a LIMS can provide include:

  • Sample tracking and summaries

  • Inventory reports

  • System configuration reports

  • Sample and analysis counts

  • Freezer space available

  • Instrument calibration

A LIMS will also provide laboratories with a solid audit trail and a variety of sample management reports that lab managers can create.


Study Management

On a larger scale, a LIMS will help with study management. A LIMS will assist in management of clinical research studies in addition to ordinary diagnostics and similar testing. Whether your laboratory is performing tests as part of government or foundation-funded research, or you are conducting a study commissioned by private industry, a LIMS can provide you with all the information and cloud-based analysis to manage the study at scale, with a large number of records and a complex workflow.

A LIMS can support the organizational structure you need to group related samples together. It will also support human subject management, scheduling, and any and all necessary protocols and regulations. Laboratories can benefit from many management tools available through a LIMS to conduct studies from start to finish.