What is a LIMS and What is it Used for?Ryan White
When it comes to recording and processing all the data that goes along with analysing samples in a research laboratory, lots of systems can be time-consuming and complicated. From record books to spreadsheets, traditional forms of recording data often do not meet up to the demands of information-intensive research labs. To combat these issues, many labs choose to use a laboratory information managing system, or LIMS, which not only makes it easier to track data, but also reduces the time taken to record it. LIMS software is designed to make the processing of the large amounts of data associated with laboratory samples both easier and quicker.
If you aren’t familiar with LIMS software in your laboratory you might wonder what it is and how it can make life easier for the scientists in your laboratory. Read on for a quick guide to all things LIMS.
What Is It?
LIMS is used in the laboratory primarily as a reporting tool, allowing research scientists to enter essential information about a test sample, such as the inspection number, the batch of material it was drawn from, the time and date, where the tests were conducted, and other data. As the sample moves through the testing process, the LIMS holds all the information of where the sample is in that process. This is often done using a barcode generated by the system, that can then be scanned by each user at it passes through the process. As well tracking tests, it can also schedule testing and pass test results to other systems used in the supply chain.
LIMS also remove the need for manually recording data, as it automatically captures the information, both reducing the time spent on administrative tasks and reducing the possibility of inaccuracies. There are different types of LIMS systems with different functionalities, depending on the requirements of your laboratory and research focus. Depending on the system you choose, your LIMS will differ in how it captures data, how information enters the system, and both when and how it is stored.
What Is It Used For?
Each LIMS system operates a little differently depending on the manufacturer and the needs of your lab, but there is a range of general functions that the system can perform. One of the most common uses for a LIMS system is sample management. Detailed and accurate records of each sample are created by the system to reduce the chances of it becoming lost or mixed up as it moves between lab workers or even lab locations. When you create a sample, the LIMS system will record who or what the sample was taken from, which researchers are working with it, which parts of the process it has passed through and where it needs to go next, how to store it, and when it needs to move. With many systems, most or all of this information tracking can be fully automated, reducing the need for laborious administration.
Workflow management is another area where a LIMS can be incredibly useful, as it streamlines decision making in the lab. The system can be set up to automatically assign work to scientists and even suggest which instruments should be used based on the current rules system in place. It also identifies who or where the sample should be passed to next, once you have finished working with it.
Some LIMS can also be used for reporting, maintenance, and inventory management, completely automating this kind of record keeping in the lab. The system can quickly identify how long your sample backlog is, how long it takes your lab to process a sample, and which instruments are used the most in your lab. It can also record maintenance data on your instruments, providing alerts when an instrument is due for maintenance. This is particularly useful for instruments such as centrifuges that suffer a lot of wear and tear and must be maintained on a regular basis to provide accurate readings. Information like this is not only useful for the day to day running of your lab, but also for data analysis auditing and providing an audit trail. Additional features are available, but these are often industry specific, as the needs of a clinical lab do not match those of, say, an oil and gas company laboratory.
If your lab needs redesigning to work optimally with your LIMS system, the team at InterFocus can help. For more information about our bespoke fitted labs, visit our homepage or call our team on 01223 894 833.