Laboratory Information Management Systems, or LIMS, are essentially software programs which support the work of labs and their staff. They are extremely popular in Germany, as they help researchers keep track of and organize data and samples, and operate more efficiently.
On the more advanced side, however, they can double as full enterprise resource planning tools, handling entire product life cycles, tracking and logging times, dates, and users, and making recordkeeping virtually effortless.
LIMS may be used to automate manual lab processes, create quotes and invoices for the lab’s clients, track reagents and stock levels, and even integrate with artificial intelligence and virtual manufacturing applications.
What is a LIMS system used for?
Modern German laboratories – whether they are in the scientific, forensic, or product development field – generate an enormous amount of data. And because accuracy is so important in the lab setting, making sure every experiment, sample and workflow is measured and recorded is vital.
The larger the lab or team of researchers, the more time-consuming it becomes for the staff themselves to keep track of all that data – and the more likely mistakes, omissions, and human error become.
Laboratory Information Management Systems aim to eliminate as many of the tedious and time consuming (but nonetheless critical) processes as possible, so lab workers and scientists can get on with what they do best.
In addition, LIMS can double as extensions of the research team, crunching numbers, sorting data, ensuring proper controls and chain of custody are in place and the correct procedures are followed at all times, as well as helping their human counterparts more easily identify patterns and interpret results.
Who uses LIMS in Germany?
While we might associate laboratories mainly with the medical, forensic, healthcare and scientific industries, a diverse range of companies and organisations make use of them. Some of these might include:
- Food and beverage producers – quality management and compliance with food industry guidelines
- Chemical, petrochemical, and refining operations – ensure quality, efficiency, and throughput of continuous processes for chemical manufacturing
- Pharmaceutical and biotech firms – drug discovery, development, and manufacturing
- General manufacturing – everything from automobiles to packaging manufacturers
- Environmental sciences – helping labs ensure their results and processes comply with international methodologies and standards
What information can be stored on LIMS?
While the exact nature of the data managed on a LIMS program will depend on the nature of the product and industry, broadly they handle five types of information / data processing:
- Reception and logging of samples
- Sample assignment, tracking, and scheduling through the laboratory process
- Quality control, processing, and inventory
- Data compilation, storage and archival
- Sample inspection, approval (or reassignment for further analysis), and reporting
In addition, the ability to exchange information between the LIMS and laboratory instruments and equipment, and across different departments (which may be continents apart in some cases) thanks to the internet, means the functionality and usefulness of LIMS is growing and evolving all the time.
For instance, LIMS may be configured to allow for more effective lab employee training, allow remote field workers or staff outside of Germany to access lab data or upload findings in real time, and even schedule instrument maintenance and calibration for the most optimal times.
What are the advantages of LIMS?
Laboratory Information Management Systems can be adapted to solve the key challenges faced by the individual laboratory, but hold some key benefits across the board:
- Allows labs to go ‘paperless’. As the volume of data captured by laboratories continues to grow, keeping physical records becomes cumbersome and inefficient. Digital records can also be shared and accessed remotely, and backup copies can prevent records becoming lost.
- Standardization. Set protocols, procedures and fully compliant processes are built in from the start.
- Increased productivity. By replacing repetitive manual tasks, LIMS free up time and resources for researchers.
- Reduced costs and improved profitability. By increasing lab efficiency and productivity, labs can handle more projects while simultaneously lowering their overheads.
- Less room for error. Transcription errors are commonplace when humans are capturing details and sample info by hand, especially when there is a significant amount of data to be captured. LIMS can integrate with lab instruments and equipment to record precise measurements and results with incredible speed and accuracy.
- Effortless compliance. Because processes are standardized and designed in accordance with all applicable regulations and requirements from the beginning, ensuring compliance becomes simple.
- Flexibility and easy integration with other software applications. LIMS software can ‘talk’ to other programs – such as HR, email or accounting software – as well as integrate seamlessly with web-based applications.
And on a business level, all the above benefits of LIMS can help make a company’s laboratories more profitable – in turn giving them room to expand their offering, develop new techniques, and ultimately make a greater contribution to science!