Data storage is a common problem for organizations such as laboratories that generate and analyze large amounts of data. This is a particular concern for data that is of a sensitive nature and subject to strict industry standards. Labs, therefore, need a data storage solution that has been specifically designed to handle these complex requirements and high volumes to ensure data quality, security and effective collaboration. That’s where a LIMS comes in.

In this article, we’ll explain what a LIMS is, what it’s used for, and how it improves on legacy methods to provide a comprehensive data management solution for laboratories.

We’ll cover the following topics:

What is a LIMS?

A LIMS is a piece of software used by laboratories, providing a central repository to store, manage and access data. LIMS stands for Laboratory Information Management System. As well as storing all essential data relating to samples and results in a single location, a LIMS can automate digital processes. This helps labs to optimize workflows, minimize human error and efficiently analyze large amounts of complex data.

Why use a LIMS?

Historically, laboratories have used manual record books and spreadsheets to manage data and reporting. However, these methods simply aren’t sufficient to meet the demands of modern laboratories. As well as being complicated, time consuming and prone to error, they don’t meet current legislative standards like GDPR.

Rather than using a generic data management system, implementing one that is specifically designed for use by labs helps to ensure the presence of all necessary data and security functions. LIMS solutions are able to handle the large volumes of data created by labs, while being reliable and scalable to cope with changing output requirements. They also offer versatile tools with automation capabilities for data monitoring, analysis and reporting.

Top 10 benefits of a LIMS system

  1. Manages large volumes of data quickly and efficiently
  2. Maintains strict industry standards for laboratory data management
  3. Enables automation of complex data analysis
  4. Increases productivity, efficiency and turnaround times
  5. Integrates seamlessly with other essential systems
  6. Offers a single point of access to ensure data consistency
  7. Leverages no-code process modeling for easy adaptability
  8. Provides operational insights via meaningful dashboards
  9. Improves data quality and security across the organization
  10. Reduces paper-based processes to improve green credentials

How does a LIMS work?

A modern lab needs to support proper tracking of processing details as well as materials, samples, instruments and more. Data is one of the most prized and valuable assets of a pharma, biotechnology, research or clinical laboratory. The system used to collect, manage and analyze its data therefore needs to be extremely robust, offering secure storage and flexible reporting capabilities. It’s also important to be able to accurately analyze and manage samples, enabling the lab to carry out its core functions.

The main purpose of a LIMS is to improve lab efficiency and accuracy by reducing manual operations. It supports a variety of essential tasks, including workflow process tracking, sample management, materials management and data reporting, all in one place. Modern LIMS solutions unlock seamless cross-functionality across other digital platforms to enable more efficient collaboration with internal and external departments.

From properly collecting samples to ensuring data accuracy and enabling easy access, visualization and analysis, LIMS solutions improve process efficiency and enable the successful digital transformation of a life sciences organization. All of this adds up to improved efficiency, greater data security, and a reduction in errors associated with manual tasks.

Types of LIMS

Just like the fast-paced industries that use them, laboratory information management systems are continually evolving. Some LIMS software is very specific to certain types of tasks, such as data capture, sample management, or analysis and reporting. Other options are much more extensive, incorporating many different processes within a single product.

However, like many other digital solutions, modern LIMS software is scalable, allowing it to meet the changing needs of a modern lab environment in the longer term. Investing in a flexible LIMS solution allows labs to grow and diversify without impacting productivity or data quality.

What is a LIMS used for?

There are a variety of different LIMS options available on the market, each with its own unique set of features. Here are some of the most common tasks that a LIMS is used for.

Sample management

Modern labs often deal with huge numbers of samples that need to be analyzed, and manual processes are susceptible to errors and delays. LIMS solutions help to track and trace individual samples by generating a barcode that technicians at various stages of testing and analysis are able to scan to retrieve existing details or record additional information.

By using a centralized database, a laboratory information management system allows team members throughout the organization to securely access accurate, up-to-date details in moments. This adds for greater efficiency and accuracy as samples move throughout the laboratory’s various departments and processes.

Workflow management

High-quality, traceable results are essential to the success of any lab. LIMS solutions are designed to adapt to the way your laboratory works, helping to optimize lab management and efficiently provide your customers with exactly what they want.

By combining all your data in a single location that integrates with a wider network of collaborators, a LIMS empowers laboratories to better manage workflows, improve communication and increase outputs. With robust automation processes, this can all be achieved without impacting on quality and reliability.

Materials management

Lab processing relies heavily on tracking materials used, typically reagents. A LIMS enables detailed monitoring of inventoried reagents, how much is on hand, lot numbers, expiration dates and reorder levels, allowing organizations to track materials throughout the entire process and maximize productivity.

Traditional enterprise resource planning (ERP) and stock management systems are designed for simple warehousing and distribution applications, and aren’t able to keep up with the complex laboratory environment. A LIMS allows for complete visibility of the entire lab, including fridges, multiple lab locations and disposal bins, as well as recording where a particular reagent lot was used, and what samples it was combined with.

Instrument management

Precision and accuracy are of the utmost importance in a laboratory setting, and monitoring the status of equipment is essential to prevent costly mistakes. Even if an instrument isn’t malfunctioning, its performance and reliability could diminish over time. LIMS solutions allow you to keep up with a regular instrument testing and maintenance schedule, allowing your lab to quickly identify a drop in performance before it becomes a bigger issue.

A laboratory information management system can also help you to manage storage capacity across multiple facilities, as well as monitoring their conditions. This makes it easier to ensure that samples, reagents and solutions are always kept in the right environment.

Inventory management

Laboratories are consistently under pressure to reduce their running costs while also maximizing productivity. One of the most effective methods to do this is by improving inventory management, helping your lab to not only track resources but also to use them as efficiently as possible.

LIMS software supports lab inventory management by allowing you to create unique barcode labels and assign a physical location to each sample, so technicians are able to locate individual samples at all times. The system also supports the management of lab consumables, alerting you to low stock, preventing duplicate orders and managing shopping lists to minimize downtime and reduce costs.

Plate management

LIMS software allows for efficient plate management and 3D plate design, helping lab technicians to keep track of solutions throughout processing. Assigning barcodes to individual plates allows the contents of each plate to be shown when scanned, reducing error caused by manually typing ID numbers when logging samples. 3D plate design allows for the layering of samples, reactants and reagents in each plate location, as well as providing the ability to show the sample lineage from parent to child samples, such as aliquots, derivatives or pooled samples.

Request management portal

As a web-based platform, a LIMS supports wider collaboration by making it easy to request, send and receive samples through the integrated request portal. Authorized researchers and physicians can then securely track and access samples to improve and extend your research team. A request portal enables your lab to manage client orders via a secure, intuitive web interface. Multiple NGS services can be made available for each sample requested and other NGS instrument-specific request items. As an extension of a lab platform, the request portal should be easily be configurable to meet your lab’s requirements.

Physician portal

A physician portal unifies your clinical workflow from order placement, status tracking, and report delivery. The portal becomes a one-stop-shop for your physician network, allowing them to create and submit lab orders and track status and results.

Scientific data management system

LIMS solutions include built-in scientific data management systems (SDMS) to manage documents and catalog data generated by laboratory instruments and applications. As a tool designed specifically for use in labs, an SDMS integrates with other relevant systems such as LIMS or ELN software, while ensuring that all data is stored and managed in line with industry regulations and standardized structures.

Reporting, maintenance and laboratory management

LIMS software incorporates data visualization and reporting tools to facilitate fast, accurate and repeatable reporting processes. With flexible automated reporting features built in, technicians are able to produce detailed custom reports for collaborators, customers and stakeholders.

In addition, a secure centralized data network that integrates with other processes and applications is much easier to maintain than siloed systems or one-off data solutions. This is particularly useful when it comes to overall laboratory management, including monitoring inventory, backlog and equipment status, as well as supporting laboratory auditing.

Discover Sapio LIMS

A laboratory information management system supports the everyday processes of pharma, biotechnology, research or clinical labs, improving data management and digital collaboration at all stages.

The right LIMS for your organization should provide everything you need to manage your laboratory in one place. Sapio LIMS is a complete management platform created with uncompromising functionality in mind. As a no-code, no-SQL platform powered by a simple rules engine and user-friendly drag-and-drop workflows, it empowers laboratories to change and adapt on the fly without additional development and transformation costs.

To find out more about Sapio LIMS, or any of our solutions, get in touch or request a demo today.