Laboratory Information Management System, also known as LIMS, are software solutions that handle the full sample and analysis life-cycle. It includes workflow management, data management, automation, reporting, instrument integration, and tools to manage regulatory compliance and certifcations for research and process laboratories in many different industries such as environment, water quality, manufacturing, health, life-science, mining, oil and gas exploration and production, food and beverage and many more. A LIMS effectively manages data and information critical to the work performed in the workflow, testing, and reporting procedures. Modern LIMS solutions include tools such as sample scheduling, sample collection, results entry, violation handling, QA/QC, approvals, invoicing, reporting, document management, regulatory or certification compliance, inventory management, instrument management, personnel management, elctronic laboratory notebooks (ELN), customer portals, barcode and labeling, etc. Other LIMS features included in custom software systems are configuration tools.
LIMS solutions are extremely valuable to business operations and are on par with ERP, CRM and other critical corporate systems as to their importance to business operations and realize an ROI within the first 1-3 years. The overall value of implementing a Laboratory Information Management System (LIMS) includes increased overall operational efficiency, streamlined data collection and workflow, reduced human error, easier access to more accurate and timely information, and helps to ensure regulatory compliance. In addition to operational efficiency, LIMS facilitates communication and collaboration which is of increased importance given today’s pandemic situation. It is common for businesses to under invest in laboratory management technology but those that make the investment, see immediate and valuable results.
Other advantages of using LIMS include:
- Clearly outlines and enforces standard workflow practices that ensure industry regulations are met and followed
- Decreases management costs
- Reduces laboratory management and reporting overhead
- Eliminates data errors by integrating with lab instruments
- Easily integrates with other management systems for total process efficiency
- Increases employee productivity
- Supports regulatory compliance
When looking for a LIMS system, there are a few very important things to consider. One of the most crucial factors is continued support and service. The truth is that there will be several LIMS that meet your needs, LABWORKS being one of them. However, because it is likely that you will have your LIMS for 10+ years it is important to choose the right partner that will not only help you have a successful implementation but one that will work hard to achieve and maintain your satisfaction in the long-term. A key part of your long-term satisfaction is related to support but it will also includes product innovation and improvements. Therefore, it is important to choose a vendor that is not only committed to customer support and satisfaction but also product innovation that is aligned with industry trends and best practices. It is also important to look for LIMS vendors and solutions that provide a simple and intuitive user experience, have flexibility to be easily configured to meet your needs, provide easy upgrades,and can ensure a straightforward and successful installation. While a LIMS must meet your needs it is especially important to choose a vendor with robust reporting and analytical tools. Sometimes a LIMS vendor is only as good as the resources they assign to your project so make sure your implementation and support teams are not only experienced but are experts in your industry. Other factors to look for in a Laboratory Information Management System include:
- Fair and transparent pricing
- Configuration tools to avoid costly customizations
- Industry-specific solutions
- Regulatory compliance or industry certifications solutions
The key function of a Laboratory Information Management System (LIMS) is streamlined data management. The right LIMS finds the balance between record-keeping and report management. A configurable LIMS also provides laboratory solutions that meet unique workflows and data collection needs. Since different industries hold different regulatory standards, your LIMS design should come outfitted to fit your specifications. A few key features include:
- Sample tracking and management
- Standard operating procedure that ensure repeatability
- Automated reporting and data analytic tools
- Staff training and competency management
- Instrument maintenance and integration
- Inventory and supply management
- Quality assurance/quality control
- Quality improvement cycle reporting
- Violation handling
- Validation and approval workflows
Implementing a leading LIMS requires working with a qualified vendor that can design a system that fits your specific needs and industry standards. After selecting a vendor, the vendor will work with you to create a statement-of-work (SOW) that should outline the scope, timeline, assumptions, roles and responsibilities and approach. Much of the SOW should be created prior to selecting a vendor and should be used to determine the best vendor for you.
Have a clear scope prior to choosing a vendor also avoids the all too common vendor game of them saying they can and will do everything only to get a “Foot in the door” and then “Change order” you to death by charging extra for every little thing that may not have been stated in the initial agreement.
Once the details of the SOW are finalized, a kick-off meeting should be held to get all project participants on the same page. The kick-off meetings are followed by a series of meeting to map our the various processes and begin to align the processes to the LIMS and visa versa.
In some cases it will be best to change a process to meet the LIMS software and in other cases the software should be configured to meet the process. The balance of these two choices depends on the flexibility of the LIMS software and the experience of the implementation team. This alignment should be an iterative and highly collaborative process.
LABWORKS employs an implementation methodology called Rapid Protoyping Method (RPM) that is iterative, highly collaborative, and hands-on. It helps to ensure a very efficient process that users find to be non-intrusive to their day-to-day jobs and that gains user “buy-in” and ownership. Once the LIMS is configured, in-depth training will be conducted. Training should be role based (e.g. admin, analyst, manager, etc).
Your vendor should provide on-site support during go-live to quickly answer questions and help refresh training principles. Post go-live support and training should be offered plus a 30 day check-in should be conducted to address issues, refresh training, validate proper use, etc.
The best chance of successfully implementing LIMS software is working with a reputable vendor. It would be best if you found a vendor that also offers continued success and a custom approach to your LIMS system. Labworks is a trusted LIMS provider that focuses on your satisfaction and success. Our extensive customer base has resulted in 100% customer retention and a 98% Net Promoter Score. This Net Promoter Score is a customer satisfaction metric based on recommendations. You can start the vetting process by narrowing down your choices based on the Net Promoter Score and client reviews.
There are many factors that determine the cost of implementing a LIMS, such as, the size of your laboratory (number and type of users), system needs-scope, industry requirements, instrument integrations, integration with other corporate systems, and data migration from legacy systems. It is often best to start small and then expand and evolve over time but that will depend on how mature your current processes are. Your LIMS vendor will work with you to determine how far and how fast.
Implementation costs primarily fall into two categories, namely, software costs and services. Software is licensed as “Perpetual” licenses or “Subscription” licenses and it is important to understand the differences and the benefits of each.
With a Perpetual license, the customer buys the licenses and thus owns the software and pays an Annual Support and Maintenance (ASM) fee each year that is equal to 20%-25% of the license costs. With a subscription license, the customer leases the software by paying an annual subscription fee that includes the ASM. Perpetual licenses cost more upfront but subscription licenses cost more over time. The two models usually “Break-even” in year 4-5 after which subscription cost more annually.
Also, perpetual licenses are usually treated as a capital cost whereas a subscription is treated as an expense. This may not matter to you but it may matter to your accounting department so talk to them about the options. Many vendors today only offer subscription based pricing. Cloud/hosted vs. On-premise will also have an impact on your costs. Therefore, it is important for you to determine if you want your vendor to host your solution in their cloud, or if you want to host it on-premise (i.e. in your data center managed by your IT department). It is important to know this upfront as not all vendors provide options.
Some small LIMS vendors only provide cloud/hosted/SaaS, and some of the older vendors only offer on-premise. However, there are some, like LABWORKS, that offer both options. Because there are so many variables that go into the cost of any system it is probably best to share that we have customers that have implemented for as little as $20k for a 1-3 person lab with basic needs to >$1M for customers that have hundreds of users located in multiple globally dispersed labs with complex requirements.
The timeframe for implementing a LIMS or Lab System mainly depends on the scope and complexity of the solution, the number and location of the labs/teams involved, and how fast the customer can go. However, with a highly flexible product like LABWORKS, a highly experienced team, and the right implementation approach on average a LIMS can be implemented in days and weeks that usually span a few months.
What does this mean? The best way to explain this is through an example. We recently implemented a LABWORKS system for an average size water/wastewater customer where we quoted 30 days of services which included system install, system configuration, instrument interfaces, reports, training, etc. However, those 30 days spanned a total of 3 months. This was primarily due to the preference of the customer, meaning they were only able to go at that pace due to the fact that they had day-to-day jobs, vacations, covid restrictions, etc.
In another example, a large chemical manufacturing company wanted to implement LABWORKS in 15 labs in 10 different countries. They had to have some of the labs up and running by Jan 1 and we started in mid September. In this case, we spent hundreds of days in about a 90 day period. Finally, we have implemented many customers in a week or two where we hosted their solution in our cloud and where their requirements were very standard.
Contact a leading LIMS vendor and get educated. What do we mean by this? Very early on, contact a vendor or two and have them show you everything a leading LIMS solution can do. This will educate you on what is out there and options there are.
Once your mind has been opened to what is possible, continue to refine your requirements and have follow-up demonstrations that are specific to your specific needs. Get a quote from a vendor or two early on to understand the costs and to start to socialize the costs with management and so you can budget and plan properly. It is best to narrow your vendors to 2-3 finalists, have them do a series of demonstrations, meet the team that will work on your project, and compare costs.
While costs are important, please don’t go solely off cost. There are some LIMS vendors that will “low-ball” the cost just to get you in the door and then they will nickel-and-dime you for every little thing via change orders. FYI – LABWORKS has not issued a change order in over 5 years. This means we clearly define scope, we do what we say we are going to do, and we provide an expert team.
Yes! Leading LIMS vendors will have tools that integrate with both other systems as well as lab instruments. LABWORKS for example, has hundreds of out-of-the-box connectors that allow you to easily connect to your lab instruments. LABWORKS also provides hundreds of services that allow integration with corporate systems such as ERP (SAP, Oracle, Microsoft, Datacor, etc.), CRM, finance, etc.
A LIMS by nature will help you accomplish your audits or achieve regulatory compliance and certification in an easy and timely manner through consistent processes and accurate data. Additionally, leading LIMS solutions, like LABWORKS, provide specific modules or functionality that will further achieve compliance such as instrument management, personnel management, inventory management, audit trail, corrective action/preventative action, method management, regulatory reports, and more.
ISO 17025 Certification
ISO/IED 17205 Certification applies to food testing laboratories and others in the food vendor market. Implementing a LIMS offers the benefit of achieving ISO/IEC 17205 accreditation as it eliminates the need for supplier audits. LIMS also verifies robustness, capability, and operation workflow efficiency. Without ISO/IED 17205 accreditation, labs will need to overcome technical barriers that the food industry faces. A LIMS overcomes that barrier and is an indispensable tool for receiving certification.
NELAC Certification is an essential compliance certificate for data management in the water / environmental laboratory industry. Implementing a LIMS system that automates the lab’s workflow will preconfigure the data collection system to adhere to regulatory requirements, like making sure your personnel has the necessary training to perform their job. A LIMS designed to address your water testing labs’ specific workflow and regulatory requirements will allow your lab workers to make informed decisions and disseminate information quickly.
LIMS also makes it easier to respond to ongoing regulatory and industry demands. Then when NELAC / NELAP / TNI audits occur, typically every two years, your LIMS system will simplify the process by giving an end-to-end review of all related information.
Good Laboratory Practices (GLP) relate to laboratory testing industries. GLP certifications set standards that protect scientific data integrity and provide the EPA and FDA with a clear and auditable record of open-ended research studies. A LIMS system simplifies the regulation process by providing labs with clear information that proves their business practices. A few factors that apply to GLP certifications include quality assurance, testing facility management, standard operating procedures, equipment, written procedures, master schedule, records and reports, and CAPA system. As you can see, LIMS provides much of the information needed to prove the practices in many of these areas.
LIMS Software Training
You can work with your vendor receiving LIMS software training during the implementation process. Certain vendors may also offer ongoing support for updated training sessions. There are also online courses available to walk you through the features built into a traditional LIMS model. For more information on LIMS software training offered by LABWORKS, contact our team.