Laboratory information management system (LIMS) is customized software designed to support operations of a laboratory. Such software is available from several sources with a range of application features which help manage the internal flow of information within the laboratory or the organization’s locations as well as its authorized clients.
Majority of laboratories adopt manual procedures for control of laboratory operations such as inventories of chemicals and glassware, instruments, sample receipts and generation of reports. Increased demands for higher laboratory throughputs necessitates introduction of highly sophisticated automated instruments. High productivity would become meaningless if reliability of results is sacrificed. Good Documentary Practices prescribe guidelines for ensuring accountability of results but the process is not foolproof and tampering with results and records is not fully avoidable. LIMS in addition to offering automation ensures greater reliability on generated data through audit trails.
Conventionally laboratory records are maintained as notebooks, logs, worksheets, instrument outputs such as absorption spectra, chromatograms, etc. Tracking of reports for verification of results and audit purpose can at times be a tedious exercise if not impossible. LIMS offers a ready solution in such situations and the required information can be accessed in a matter of seconds.
The initial investment on purchase of LIMS software can be prohibitive and further it may take a few months or even years to customize it to your specific laboratory requirements. However, LIMS over a period of time promotes corporate objectives of automation, cost reduction and improved service to clients. In several situations it becomes necessary to take immediate corrective actions to prevent wastage and improve quality of manufactured goods. LIMS provides instantaneous exchange of information to take corrective action. Online access of results by laboratory management and clients goes a long way in improving interpersonal and client business relations.
Scope of LIMS applications
The main application of LIMS in most laboratories is sample management and sharing of results with clients. However, the scope can be expanded to include:
- Audit trails
- Bar coding based identification of samples
- Establishing sample custody chain within the laboratory through analyst assigned codes
- Document control on issuance and validity
- Inventory of stocks such as glassware, chemicals, working standards, reference materials and instrument spares. Warning messages can be generated when stocks begin to fall below a set value.
- Calibration and maintenance of instruments with provision for warning messages when calibration or maintenance becomes due.
- Workload management of laboratory personnel
- Quality control to display warnings if non – validated methods are adopted
LIMS is in its nascent stage today but it holds great promise for future with regard to higher levels of automation, traceability and adaptability to your laboratory conditions for achieving higher productivity without compromising high standards of quality.