When you’re considering implementing a Laboratory Information Management System (LIMS) system in your lab, there are many elements that you must consider. This includes understanding how the LIMS system will affect, or instead benefit, the lab. By knowing more about the four core functions of a LIMS, it will be easier to understand how it will fit into the lab and the advantages you can expect. 

In this blog, you’ll discover these four core functions: sample management, workflow automation, data management, and quality control and assurance. Please continue reading to learn more about each function and what it means for a lab.

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Sample management

The first core function of a LIMS system is to help with the management of samples. When you operate a laboratory, samples are constantly being brought in for testing. A LIMS will help you document the arrival and keep track of the sample as it moves through the lab. 

It all starts with sample registration. Depending on the LIMS setup, a barcode is often used when the sample enters the lab. This barcode is linked to a patient profile on the LIMS. Every time the barcode is scanned at different sites throughout the lab, the patient’s profile is brought up and can be updated by the lab technician working with it. 

This also means that you can track the location of a sample at any point, as the system keeps a note of where it is at all times. When samples need to be stored, they are scanned into the system and checked into the storage unit. This helps to guarantee that samples are stored under the right conditions. 

Sample management also helps ensure that your lab remains compliant with regulations. It guarantees the integrity of samples to reduce waste and result errors. It also means that you have comprehensive documentation and reports for each of the samples that enter your lab. These can be easily organized and used as evidence in audits for regulatory compliance. 

Workflow automation

The second core function of a LIMS system is to help automate certain aspects of your lab’s workflow

The level of automation you can expect depends on the specific LIMS and its capabilities. However, LIMSs usually come with features that allow the system to automate various tasks, such as scheduling the analysis of specific samples. 

Templates are also usually included with these systems. These templates can be adjusted to create a customized workflow that’s perfectly tailored to your lab’s operations. 

Consider a situation where a sample enters the lab and needs to go through multiple processes. The system can schedule the initial analysis and work to be done. Once this step is completed, the system automatically assigns the sample to another technician and schedules the required analysis. This reduces downtime and enhances research processes.

The workflow automation function of a LIMS goes beyond just sample data. By integrating the LIMS with existing systems in your lab, it can report low stock and even faulty equipment. It can also remind technicians to maintain specific equipment and automatically add this to their schedule. 

Overall, it not only automates but also improves collaboration between different lab personnel. 

Data management

A LIMS’s core function is not only helping with sample management in the lab but also offering data management. 

Data is a critical component when it comes to laboratory management. However, the way that you store and use the data matters. With a LIMS system, you don’t have to rely on pen and paper to keep records. Instead, everything gets recorded onto a digital system and linked to appropriate profiles. 

The data management component of a LIMS can use either local hardware or cloud technology. A solution such as Sapio LIMS stores data on the cloud, which offers enhanced data safety, secure access controls, and the ability to easily access the data when needed. 

The LIMS system categorizes data, tracks samples throughout the lab, and can be used to add tags and other elements to data points. This makes it easy to draw up reports later on and enables data preparation for audits. Version control ensures that you have backup data of previous versions and can create a complete archive of prior reports, audits, notes, and more. 

Quality control and assurance

The fourth core function of a LIMS is the quality control and assurance features. These systems are designed to offer real-time monitoring of your data and provide an easy way to draw up reports. Once the system is set up and in operation, it can help your laboratory better comply with regulations and quality standards. 

With LIMS, you can consistently monitor deviation management and non-conformance tracking in real-time. The system can also help you understand several laboratory quality metrics. 

Quality control measures such as instrument calibration and proficiency testing can be automated within the LIMS system to book these procedures regularly. The results are stored securely within the system for any compliance investigations.  

Pre-defined programs in these LIMS solutions help ensure your lab complies with industry standards. Electronic signatures can be set as a standard within the system to improve accountability and show who has interacted with data and samples across research stages. These ensure regulatory compliance, and if there is an issue, it can be tracked to individuals within the lab.

Further quality control and assurance are provided by the system’s ability to conduct audit trails and provide reports on any incidents related to your lab’s quality management. 

Why use LIMS in modern labs?

Traditionally, laboratories relied on pen and paper to document everything inside the lab. Then, with the advancement of technology, Excel spreadsheets became the management tool for data and samples. However, this type of system has various downsides and challenges. 

LIMS is a modern solution for laboratories that want to use the latest technology. These solutions help to streamline many of the operations you conduct in a laboratory. Data and sample management becomes simple, and many of the operational parts of your workflow can be automated due to how the LIMS integrates into the lab. 

Another primary reason modern labs should use a LIMS is that it helps with regulatory compliance. With pen and paper or even spreadsheets, finding specific data that’s required at any given time can be complex. It’s hard to set up audits, and when you have legal trouble, compiling everything to build a strong case can take time and effort. 

LIMS solutions overcome these challenges by keeping a record of everything that happens in the lab. 

Unleashing the potential of LIMS

A LIMS system offers four powerful main functions: sample management, workflow automation, data management, and quality control and assurance. Choosing the right LIMS system is crucial and can significantly improve the effectiveness of these core functions. 

Using a system such as Sapio LIMS can provide you with these benefits while boosting your laboratory productivity, enhancing your overall workflow, and effectively streamlining several operations. To see what Sapio LIMS can do for you, book a demo.