Does Your Lab Really Need a LIMS?

Test Engineer Writing on a Clipboard

Whether or not you need a Laboratory Information Management System (LIMS) depends on the specific needs and requirements of your laboratory. Here are some things to consider if you’re wondering if a LIMS might bee needed for your lab.

Number of Personnel

Some of the biggest benefits of LIMS comes when there’s more than just a few people requesting testing or performing the testing. When there’s just one or two people, managing the requests and testing can be handled relatively easily using spreadsheets or other similar tools.

However, once there’s more “cooks in the kitchen”, it becomes very difficult to keep everyone involved properly informed and the testing organized. Spreadsheets get overwritten on accident, testing gets forgotten, and priorities are impossible to keep straight.

A LIMS helps solve these issues by providing a central and “authoritative” location for what’s happening in the test lab. Requesters, technicians, and managers can review the same data without having to hunt down the latest spreadsheets paper forms.

Searching Data

If your lab rarely has to search for current or historical testing data (to avoid retesting the same thing), then spreadsheets and paper forms might be Good Enough TM. If things are decently organized and you know what you’re looking for, searching those types of records periodically isn’t that big of a problem.

For many labs though, searching for data is a very common task.

  • When was the last time we tested Acme Labs TNT?
  • How have Acme Rockets performed over the last year?
  • When was the last failure of our Acme Anvils?

If these sorts of questions are relatively common, a LIMS can certainly be helpful in saving time and ensuring that you get right answers. Retesting things you already have data for but can’t find can waste a lot of technician and equipment time.

You Need Metrics

While this is related to searching data, metrics can be extremely helpful in monitoring performance (technicians, products, equipment, etc.), justifying additional resources, identifying bottlenecks, and proving the laboratory’s value to the organization.

Metrics can certainly be compiled from spreadsheets and paper forms, but it’s probably not something that can done very regularly or accurately.

A LIMS can very easily connect to popular tools like Microsoft Power Bi or Tableau and generate accurate metrics every day. This kind of data can be very valuable during those daily standup meetings.

Data Security

Protecting testing data from unauthorized access, modification, or accidental deletion is very important to a test lab. Spreadsheets and proper backups can protect labs against these sort of problems to some degree, but it’s certainly not as robust and configurable as most LIMS are in authentication, authorization, and backups.

In addition to the above, many LIMS can also track every single change that’s happened to a record. This isn’t just helpful for security, this is also very helpful during audits (see ISO 17025 Accreditation Audit Tips).

Final Thoughts

A LIMS can be a valuable tool for laboratories, but it’s not a one-size-fits-all solution. Carefully assess your lab’s specific needs, workflows, and objectives to determine whether implementing a LIMS would be beneficial. If you find that a LIMS (see The Ultimate LIMS Guide) could enhance efficiency, data management, compliance, and overall productivity, it may be worth considering.

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