January 29, 2020
With the advancement in technology, modern laboratories now generate a large amount and a wide variety of data. A primary contributor to data generation is the advent of high throughput technologies such as microarray, Next-Generation sequencing, etc. that have increased both the quality and quantity of information generated in laboratories. Besides, with the increase in R&D partnerships, there is an increase in the data flowing across organizations. Together, they contribute to significant data management challenges for both small and large laboratories. One of the most common methods for overcoming these challenges is to implement a Laboratory Information Management System (LIMS).
A LIMS is software that effectively manages samples and associated data. By using a LIMS, you can automate workflows, integrate instruments, and manage samples and associated information. This results in saving precious man-hours and improving the overall efficiency translating into more business opportunities and an enhanced research environment.
Planning is always the top criterion in any implementation. Similarly, careful planning is the first step of a LIMS implementation and should hence, be carried out during the earliest phases of the LIMS implementation process.
It is critical for laboratories to have a project plan before proceeding with the evaluation of any LIMS and subsequent implementation. The project plan should accommodate the time necessary for activities associated with requirements definition, key performance measures, and vendor evaluation and selection.
Another important aspect is to prepare for unforeseen situations and events. Companies investing in comprehensive, upfront planning often experience shorter implementation times and spend less money than their peers on the project.
This brings us to the question of the flexibility of a LIMS. All laboratories have their way of working, and so a LIMS needs to adapt to suit their particular needs. Flexibility in terms of configurability of a LIMS is one of the most desired features of any LIMS . A LIMS must be able to support the various workflow and methodologies followed in different labs. Configuration of a LIMS solely depends on the LIMS’ ability to handle such modifications. If a vendor supports support customization of the LIMS to accommodate specific requirements, it is often a costly affair and requires a budgetary outlay.
The most typical cost factors associated with a license include:
The above points put another picture into perspective: the cost of implementing a conventional LIMS against the cost of implementing a cloud-based LIMS. Factors like having a dedicated and structured infrastructure come into play when implementing a traditional or conventional LIMS on a laboratory’s internal server. For a Cloud-based LIMS, there are zero infrastructure costs, no special hardware requirements, no dedicated IT team, implementation comes easy, and cost-effective. The time to deliver and deploy is also less. Being cloud-based, the LIMS also offers global accessibility.Thus, the time and money required to implement a conventional LIMS are higher than the time and money needed for implementing a cloud-based LIMS.
One of the major concerns when implementing a LIMS is how to deal with the data that already exists. However, focusing on data migration should be done as early as possible in the implementation process. It is a very important attribute of successful LIMS implementation. A company’s data is one of its most important assets and the challenges with migrating data from legacy systems to a new LIMS can have an adverse impact on laboratory operations, especially when those issues transpire late in the LIMS implementation process.
With an increasing number of vendors offering LIMS services, the quality of support is often the deciding criterion for choosing a vendor’s services. Without proper training and support, working with a LIMS becomes an arduous task. Furthermore, top-notch support comes at a price, which is often over and above the cost of the license. If training, configuration and issues are not addressed quickly, a vendor's credibility goes down. Thus, it is safe to select vendors that are willing to provide regular and affordable support to ensure customer satisfaction.
A LIMS implementation cannot be successful without the support of the organization's management. LIMS implementation budgetary outlays, hiring and hardware purchase needs to be authorized before a system can be rolled out organization-wide. The project initiation is likely to begin with the Laboratory Manager with a sign-off from the IT Director, however the support of the Laboratory Director and other department heads is critical. The team together is responsible for setting up and smooth running of the laboratory operations, so they may have the final say on how the LIMS system will be implemented and used.
All the factors discussed above, including time and cost, data migration, early planning, support availability, and configurability, play significant roles in ensuring that the LIMS you implement works to support your laboratory’s and workflow requirements seamlessly. While it is important for laboratories to implement a LIMS to manage their data, address regulatory compliance, and meet business needs, it is worthwhile to spend some time and energy in implementing a LIMS that works perfectly for them.