Updated: Sep 12, 2022
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
System configuration reports
Sample and analysis counts
Freezer space available
A LIMS will also provide laboratories with a solid audit trail and a variety of sample management reports that lab managers can create.
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.
Key Advantages of LIMS
There are several key advantages of LIMS. First, a laboratory information management system can help laboratories to manage complex workflows, maintain required data, and manage daily operations. A LIMS can effectively replace outdated paper processes. It can also manage parts of laboratory operations that are presently maintained using separate tech solutions: spreadsheets, accounting programs.
A LIMS doesn't just replace paper. The LIMS dashboard and reporting system can also offer insights into work processes and results that aren't possible using older tech solutions like spreadsheets. And, a LIMS can also help to reduce errors in the laboratory. For example, replacing hand-written reports with a barcode system can reduce simple transposition errors in dates or numbers. Using a barcode system as part of the LIMS can provide a strong chain of custody throughout the testing lifecycle.
A LIMS also helps to support collaboration and strengthen work processes within the laboratory. Automating repetitive tasks gives technicians and managers the time to work together to develop new, stronger protocols and solve problems.
Compared to other solutions or fragmented software that doesn't coordinate in an overall management system, a LIMS can support effective:
Storage and Inventory Organization
Instrumentation and Maintenance
Invoicing and Billing
What Kind of Laboratories Can Benefit from a LIMS?
A variety of different laboratories can benefit from a laboratory information management system. Each has different needs for their LIMS, but they all benefit from similar workflow management features, and all can and do use a LIMS dashboard to see their laboratory's operations at a glance, and prepare essential reports. Laboratories that can benefit from a LIMS include:
Biorepositories and biobanks: These laboratories need good record-keeping and management for storage. They need the ability to track biological samples and locate them quickly and efficiently. A LIMS contributes to their ability to track samples and retrieve them when necessary.
Clinical research and diagnostics: Clinical laboratories need to manage patient data, billing and invoicing, and specimens. They have stringent storage and record-keeping requirements. They can benefit from automating many aspects of their workflows. The workflow tracking and management benefits of a LIMS are particularly helpful to clinical laboratories, whether they are performing tests ordered by clinicians or conducting research.
Food and beverage testing: Food and beverage laboratories can benefit from the ability of a LIMS to help them manage their samples, maintain accurate records, and generate reports as needed. Like other high-volume laboratories, food and beverage labs will benefit from automated testing and workflow management.
Cannabis testing laboratories: Whether they are in the CBD or THC sectors, or both, cannabis testing laboratories need to generate ISO 17025-compliant certificates of analysis (COA) as well as maintain the proper equipment and supplies to test for heavy metals, other contaminants, and the THC or other cannabinoid and terpene components of the sample materials.
Oil and gas testing laboratories: Energy industry laboratories need to maintain efficient testing schedules, monitor samples, and validate results with complete traceability. A LIMS will assist in meeting required monitoring and validation standards, and will provide traceable audit records.
Agricultural laboratories: Whether they are testing soil samples, seeds, insects, feed samples, or oils, husks or pollen, agricultural laboratories have many different standards to meet and many different requirements for sample tracing, reporting, and quality control standards. A LIMS will support an agricultural laboratory with its many and varied record-keeping and reporting needs.
Why Is LIMS Important?
A laboratory information management system is important because of the large amount of information that laboratories need to collect, maintain, and manage. There's too much data involved in contemporary laboratory work and operations to rely upon paper systems or systems that combine paper processes and separate software programs that don't coordinate together.
A LIMS can help to reduce and even potentially eliminate human error in the laboratory. It will also support audit processes that are required for nearly every type of laboratory, whether it's a diagnostic lab in a busy city or a laboratory specializing in testing agricultural samples.
And for those laboratories that want to improve their productivity and work culture, a LIMS can also be an important tool. Reports through the LIMS can help lab managers to assign staff, manage staff, manage workflows, and also come up with new and improved procedures and workflows. The time that staff members and managers will save by using the LIMS can be used to work more collaboratively together to solve problems and increase productivity.
Working With 20/15 Visioneers for Your LIMS
No two labs are alike, and 20/15 Visioneers can help your lab solve its unique record-keeping, chain of custody, and audit trail requirements through a LIMS that meets your exact needs. You can integrate all of your lab functions into a LIMS that is right for your lab.
20/15 Visioneeers has over 30 years of hands-on experience with legacy and next-generation scientific software.
Including Agilent, Citrine Informatics, Labware, Scilligence, Xavo, and many others. The 20/15 Visioneers team has provided thought leadership for large Biopharma and Next-Gen startups in the sector. Their highly-skilled consultants can tailor the solutions you need to have a smoothly-operating LIMS that can not only make your laboratory workflows run smoothly and error-free, it can also help you to direct your laboratory toward more profitable and innovative work in the future. Contact 20/15 Visioneeers today to learn how a LIMS can make the difference for your laboratory.