Modern laboratories generate and store huge amounts of data. With advancements in high throughput technologies and R&D partnerships, the quality and quantity of this data are increasing, as well as the data flowing across organizations. This dramatic rise in information requires a detailed approach to data management. To manage and maintain these vast quantities of on-site data, laboratories must implement a Lab Information Management System (LIMS).
Implementing a proven LIMS helps integrate laboratory operations within the laboratory itself, speeds up testing processes, and streamlines the data management system. It provides labs with simplified technology to combine several different subprocesses and minimize human error.
Laboratory operations provide detailed information under significant time constraints. Unfortunately, human error can cause massive problems in meeting restrictive timelines. Record-keeping solutions like LIMS software help labs save time by reducing human errors and improving the level of data accessible to lab managers and workers. The system also notifies users of any given problem, allowing them to rectify the issue and save money on time and solution costs.
Additionally, a LIMS generates regular laboratory reports to identify the workload by the person, instrument, test, customer, and much more. Producing these monthly reports will detail which systems need improvement and give a clear understanding of lab activity and planning processes.
Installing a LIMS system provides access to resources that help labs acquire and accurately manage sample data by uploading data directly into your LIMS software, including monitoring, prioritizing, and performing runs.
Some of the data a LIMS system can collect for your lab includes:
- Who recorded the sample
- Who or what the sample was taken from
- Which researchers are working on the project
- Workflow stages
- Where the lab should go next in the experimental process
- How workers should store samples and instruments
- Relevant dates of when a sample needs to move onto the next stage of the workflow
- Automatically assign work to team members
- Suggest the type of instruments for a particular stage
- Outline current compliance standards and rules system
- Alert staff of where samples belong in the workflow
- Detail the lab backlog
- Determine how efficient your lab is at sample processing
While it’s clear that every laboratory requires a LIMS, how do you ensure successful implementation? LIMS implementations are often a challenge due to the cost investment, budget restrictions, commitment of resources, competing priorities within the company, and ensuring the correct features are included within the system.
The ideal LIMS implementation process will be within your budget, get done on time, and have all you need to run laboratory processes efficiently. It will also provide the requisite documentation to ensure that a lab and its operations comply with each other.
Although you can expect the implementation process to be fairly easy, you must consider a few things to be successful. Focus on these seven keys as you prepare to implement a LIMS, and your chances of succeeding will increase.
Seven Keys to Successfully Preparing LIMS System Implementation
Key #1: Clarify System Requirements
Labs that need a Laboratory Information Management System need to understand its purpose before implementing the software. To prepare for LIMS implementation, clarify the purpose your lab wants the software to achieve by defining the scope of your work process. Understanding your requirements and how the software will improve your data management will enable you to find a LIMS that prioritizes your needs. These requirements may include generic business needs, user needs, IT needs, data management, or report creation requirements.
Key #2: Leverage Experience
Some labs choose to self-implement, but that doesn’t mean that is the right choice. There is a variety of proven LIMS software available that simplifies the process and ensures successful implementation. A LIMS software-based system from a third-party vendor will enable reliable, automation, and scalable lab records management configured to your lab’s specific organizational needs.
Since the key function of a LIMS is to track and store sample information, implementing the system will require a series of steps, including gathering, recording, and tracking data within the software system. Partnering with a trained implementer, you will configure the system to match your lab practices, including table set-up, nomenclature modification, and an array of other nuances.
A few of the main reasons to trust a vendor is that they have experience. They can also focus completely on setting up the system as it requires a fair amount of time dedicated to transitioning procedures, data, networks, and other systems.
Labworks is a long-standing leader in the LIMS industry. Since 1985, over 400 laboratories have installed Labworks software, ranging from international laboratories with hundreds of employees to single laboratories of few. Labworks has the most experienced team of experts in the industry, with an average tenure of 20 years of Labworks, LIMS, and lab experience. We take a holistic approach and focus on all aspects of a LIMS implementation, namely “People, Processes, and Technology.” Ninety percent of our team members are dedicated to product innovation and customer success, and we do what it takes to make you successful.
The labs that depend on Labworks LIMS software also range in geographically distributed locations, making Labworks a pioneer in the knowledge management software industry. As a private company run by our workers, we do our utmost to help our clients succeed. We are dedicated to innovating our solutions and satisfying customers. If you want to learn more about our LIMS software, check out the Labworks software demo.
Key #3: Communicate Objectives
Along with leveraging experience from a third-party vendor, you must implement a LIMS that matches your business objectives. It cannot be emphasized enough that your expectation from the LIMS software must coincide with your lab objectives and strategy. After determining these factors, you will need to find a system that follows your strategy and meets your objectives.
Defining these objectives will give you a clearer understanding of how the system will look post-implementation. An example of an objective could be – streamlining report sharing with clients. As you work with your chosen vendor, you can configure the system to match the necessary workflows specifically to streamline certain reports with specific clients.
Thoroughly document configuration requirements with your vendor. Be deliberate about determining how the system needs to match lab practices and be open-minded about changing lab practices to follow the more efficient flow in a LIMS. Then, your vendor will provide the necessary project management skills to develop an implementation plan and meet the schedule. Together, you will properly prepare and execute a full-scale implementation plan.
Key #4: Know Data Types and Formats
Data collection is the main reason for implementing a LIMS. Lab managers must determine which data types and formats are required for their workflow. Answer simple LIMS software questions such as, ‘What data do I need to capture?”; “What will be the primary key?”; “Can a data string have letters/numbers or both?”; “What is the limit of characters in a column?” Determining these data types and formats ahead of time will help you avoid many post-implementation hiccups.
Key #5: Understand Hardware Needs
Laboratories use a pre-existing set of IT infrastructure, meaning that any LIMS implemented must flow within that given structure. As you prepare to implement a LIMS, ensure that the software and browsers are compatible with the implemented LIMS. Most vendors will include software and hardware, but you must ensure all of that is properly accounted for before implementation.
Key #6: Secure Data
Implementing a LIMS will include transferring massive amounts of data, including information about clients, health, history, medications, and more. You will need to ensure data security as the system is implemented, especially as big data and cloud-based data compromises can occur. Since most LIMS run over multiple systems, facilities, and geography, data security should remain a top priority through implementation and as the system continues to run.
Key #7: Run Test Cases
Implementing a Laboratory Information Management System isn’t always straightforward. What looks easy may become more complicated throughout the process. To ensure that the actual implementation goes smoothly, you can run test cases. These test runs will allow you to see obstacles that might crop up during implementation, as well as comprehend your determined objectives and devise an implementation plan accordingly.
To learn more about LIMS software, check out Labworks’ answers to common LIMS questions.
How to Implement a LIMS System
The success of a LIMS implementation is strengthened by proper planning and execution. Simultaneously, a lack of a strategy coupled with unrealistic expectations will doom the project and waste valuable resources. Now that you prepared for LIMS implementation, you can deliver on your detailed project plan.
Here are some steps that you will need to take as you implement LIMS software.
Prioritize LIMS Training
Using the Laboratory Information Management System is important for each and every user.
Once the LIMS system is ready to integrate into your lab system, you will need to train end-users. This process is called User Acceptance Testing. Your vendor will recommend training as many users as possible while testing the system.
Developers can never perfectly predict all potential scenarios users might run into as they use the new LIMS software. So, the more robust training and user acceptance testing, the better-equipped the final system will be. Commonly, users will discover bugs within the LIMS during this process. If this happens, you will work with developers to make any necessary tweaks to fix any of the issues discovered by users.
You may also formally verify your LIMS. Some laboratory regulatory requirements include software verification, while others do not. If yours does, you can work with your vendor to undergo the necessary verification process.
Other software verification stages include the following:
- Preparing a pre-specified software verification plan
- Documenting system requirements
- Performing tests to demonstrate that the software meets each requirement
- Documenting all test cases in a final summary report
Vendors and users usually perform the appropriate stages during the development and testing process, which will help speed up the verification process. You can perform software verification yourself or rely on software developers or a third party to do so. However, since developers customized your specific system, they are usually best equipped to perform verification.
Fully Integrate LIMS Software
Now that the LIMS software is complete and possibly validated, you can fully integrate it into your system. Our LIMS specialists recommend having a detailed plan on how and when you will switch over to the new system. Once your lab sets the date, ensure that everyone is fully aware of the plan and ready to go.
Your LIMS integration plan should include the following details:
- Switch-over date and time
- When users can start using the new LIMS system
- Who will deploy the software
- Any system blackout times, where users won’t have access to lab systems
- Whether lab data is backed up before the deployment
- Any final testing or verification processes that must take place to secure system deployment
Additional Use Cases
As your lab begins using your LIMS, you can evaluate how well it performs and determine if you require any additional features. As a customer, you must judge the new laboratory information management system against the test cases you prepared and the objectives you set to achieve. If you determine that new features would enhance your LIMS capabilities, your vendor can immediately work on a system update.
Every run must be shared with the implementation team, and changes can be made once noted. Feedback after implementation is crucial to perfecting the system. Make sure that your feedback is honest and timely so that developers can solve any problem before as quickly as possible. Working with your vendor, you can create the perfect LIMS system that promises your lab enhanced data collection management.
The Challenges of Implementing a LIMS System
While LIMS implementation is more straightforward with a proven vendor, you will need to overcome challenges to ensure success. Familiarize yourself with the top three ways LIMS implementation can fail to prepare for the process properly.
Not Fully Understanding Your System Requirements
If you invest in LIMS, there are some questions to ask yourself as you plan for implantation. What data management system do you need now, and what do you need in the future? The success of implementation is based on the specific usage of a LIMS.
The actual expense of the LIMS itself can be very costly, not to mention the effort of implementing and maintaining the system. A successful implementation is largely determined by the quality and clarity of the requirements that a lab determines ahead of time. Without giving the appropriate time and effort into analyzing system requirements, implementation failure can have lasting consequences.
Take time to assess your laboratory’s needs by looking at what you need now and what you might need in the future. Don’t ignore future technological advancements by solely basing your requirements on the immediate state of your lab. Ignoring potential developments could force constraints on future developments. As a result, you will need to undergo another LIMS implementation process shortly.
As you configure a system, it can be easy to overload the software with features. Be careful to focus on your main system objectives from the onset. Getting the Minimal Viable Product (MVP) first will help you stay focused on functionality. If you had too many requirements to the project scope that aren’t necessary, there could be gaps between system capabilities and requirements, resulting in a compromised implementation process.
Focus on your MVP, and then you can add any unnecessary elements after implementation. Using a phased approach to your implementation can be beneficial. The first phase will deem what is necessary, while each subsequent phase addresses what features can help but may be surplus to lab system requirements.
Choosing the Wrong LIMS
Another challenge in LIMS implementation is choosing the right vendor. Making a LIMS purchase based on word of mouth or a colleague’s recommendation is almost always a bad idea. In a process-based so much on data, using qualitative assessments to determine your LIMS won’t work in your favor. Instead, spend time and effort comparing prospective LIMS suppliers.
Factors to consider when considering LIMS software include:
- IT architecture
- Internal and External Communication
Your chosen LIMS supplier should be capable of serving your laboratory’s main function requirements, along with configuring software to meet any additional needs. Together, you can implement a LIMS that ensures long-term data management success.
Learn everything you should consider when choosing LIMS. Look for LIMS software providers with good reviews and a solid reputation.
LIMS Systems by Labworks
Leading LIMS software industries since 1985, Labworks is committed to excellence in all that we do, from product development and innovation to customer satisfaction. We do what it takes to guarantee your success. Count on Labworks to provide all of the functionality and tools needed to manage and automate the full sample/analysis processes in your lab from end-to-end.
Our latest 7.0 software features E-LIMS and mobile platforms, allowing users to work off-network while still running a traditional desktop system. The 7.0 web-based platform includes additional analytical tools such as an operational dashboard that optimizes the software’s front-end with easy-to-use technology.
You can trust Labworks for all your LIMS software needs. While Labworks easily configures your lab’s specific needs, Labworks has also incorporated into its DNA many industry and lab best practices that will immediately improve your lab operations. Our team of experts will work closely with you and your team to ensure Labworks meets your immediate and long-term needs.
Learn more about our LIMS implementation process through the Labworks software demo.