What is LIMS software?
LIMS is a specific type of software installed in laboratories, developed to speed up and improve workflows, productivity, and efficiency. LIMS is usually designed to fulfill the following tasks: data and samples collection, analysis, management, archiving, merge, evaluation, traceability, calibration of measurement devices, and much more.
LIMS is an acronym for Laboratory Information Management System and takes a more specific meaning according to the scope-industry of input. LIMS are known worldwide for their reliability and being flexible to adapt to specific requirements and complex workflows. Nevertheless, LIMS software is also a very convenient solution for small laboratories with a few users and measurement devices. To learn more about functions, properties, and particular applications of LIMS, please scroll below.
Working without LIMS software and why installing it
Before implementing LIMS software, laboratories usually have numerous separated processes, generate different files, and are organized in a decentralized way. Even if operations are well coordinated with each other and have functional solutions in many places, it is not possible to evaluate all the generated data simultaneously, which is unfortunately not profitable. They mostly have the scope to fulfill just one purpose, like displaying a protocol or listing the results. Furthermore, automation and digitalization play an essential role nowadays due to the decisive upcoming standards of Industry 4.0.
Having many single solutions to coordinate extensive processes and workflows sometimes involves more money than installing one single solution. Not to forget is the practical way of managing everything in just one solution. To sum up, this optimizes costs, speeds up and improves production and productivity, and reduces errors. Therefore, lab technicians can improve their quality of work with less effort and complications, also from a satisfaction point of view: think of LIMS as your ultimate lab assistant!
How does LIMS software work?
LIMS software works within a generic workflow due to its pre-structured, standardized, and generic form for different industries. Its working steps lead back to a sample registration to the specific purpose of the analysis. At the same time, LIMS software will consider the data acquisition, the measurement results, evaluation, as well as reporting.
The most significant need for a lab technician is the software’s functionality. The sophisticated software architecture enables many functions, such as the followings:
LIMS: start small to expand!
There is a multitude of further functions that are offered in the LIMS software basic package or as an extension.
The basis of the LIMS solution is adapted to the individual characteristics of a specific lab during the conception and implementation phase. Depending on their complexity, LIMS systems often evolve during use, up to highly specialized operations. In the beginning, the essential functions are mostly used, which need to be supplemented over time with individual evaluations, statistics, or quality control charts. Besides, the LIMS installation is designed to grow and can be extended by connecting further measurement devices via open interfaces or add additional users.
LIMS software in summary
Lab IT Extensions
ELN (Electronic Laboratory Notebook)
ELN is a database system for planning and managing experiments in the form of an electronic lab-journal. Its strength concerns the administration of recipes and examinations’ or syntheses’ unstructured data. Dialogue forms are also supported, which are allowed in adapted forms, tables, or sizeable free text fields. Reaction equations or images can also be entered. ELNs are therefore very user-friendly, which are to rely on for detailed research and data development.
LES (Laboratory Execution System)
LES is a software application for a systematically documented execution of analyses, preparation steps, or reagent production in the laboratory. The user is not only guided in a dialogue with notes or instructions but also prompted to manually or electronically enter the relevant data for the respective work step (SOP-oriented dialogue forms). LES applications are often found in exceptionally strictly regulated areas such as the pharmaceutical industry, but can also be found in other laboratories with high documentation requirements.
SDMS (Scientific Data Management System)
SDMS is a database application for managing scientific lab-data, such as raw data, result files, and documents. The software applications are often designed for the orderly long-term storage of complex analysis data such as spectra or chromatograms. In addition to data acquisition and transfer, they can also include data visualization and, in some cases, report generation. Besides, SDMS functions can be found in some LIMS products, which often rely on XML-based data storage, such as in the standardized AnIML format (Analytical Information Markup Language).
Database-oriented application systems require powerful IT technology to efficiently support sample processing and to securely collect the resulting data in a structured, evaluable way. This process can be realized through:
…a server system that hosts the LIMS or lab database. It allows the installation of a LIMS application software as well. The database and the application are often distributed over several servers, which can be operated internally or externally by IT service providers. Common products such as ORACLE or MS SQL Server are used as lab-databases. More rarely they count as open-source solutions. Finally, the server hardware is normally meant to be using Windows or UNIX / LINUX server operating systems.
…workstations that are usually connected to the server system via a local network. they are usually operated with MS Windows and offer the user the LIMS application with a graphical user interface. The LIMS is often structured as a client-server program: the application and database part is separated and communicates via a network. Besides, many systems are now completely based on web technologies. As a result, more and more LIMS applications can be operated partly or completely via Web browsers simplifying their use as cloud-based solutions. Finally, many LIMS manufacturers are gradually making application parts available on mobile devices such as tablets.
…a network infrastructure and wide area networks (LAN, WAN) predominantly based on Ethernet. TCP/IP is used as the most common network protocol. Servers and clients are connected via the network infrastructure so that the LIMS user has access to all necessary and released resources.
In addition to these basic components, there are also further aspects of a LIMS implementation. These extend from networking with higher-level planning systems such as ERP or MES to the integration of customers or suppliers via the internet.
The integration of peripherals, especially the connection of analyzers for online data acquisition, represents an important step towards increasing work efficiency and minimizing errors. Furthermore, electronic data exchange with other IT systems in the company offers considerable potential benefits. This includes not only production’s integration planning and warehouse management systems, business-oriented applications, but also external systems, such as those of the customers or for the department administration.