Build vs Buy LIMS


Post-genomic era led to a generation of large volumes of data, making it necessary for laboratories to modernize their approach for managing and tracking data. As a result, an increasing trend is observed in laboratories to switch their laboratory operations from paper records to a technologically powerful and secure Laboratory Information Management System (LIMS). A recent survey conducted by the Astrix Technology Group indicated that approximately 90% of the companies with R&D laboratories are using a LIMS. In a global LIMS market analysis, the LIMS market is expected to grow from USD 650.70 million in 2017 to USD 1,155.67 million by 2025. These statistics clearly indicate the increasing demand for and acceptance of a LIMS by laboratories.

With growing interest of laboratories in deploying a LIMS, there also exists a continuous dilemma for whether to build a LIMS internally or to switch to a commercially available LIMS. In the early 90s, developing a custom LIMS from scratch was a common practice. It took some years for organizations to realize the real cost of developing and maintaining a home-grown LIMS and to identify the impediments of a software development and maintenance process. Whichever route is taken for LIMS deployment, it is necessary that the chosen option not only fulfills the current laboratory requirements but also should be flexible to accommodate the future development needs. Several factors need to be taken into consideration while comparing and considering a LIMS deployment method in a laboratory, the main ones are listed below:


The primary reason for developing a LIMS internally is supported by the belief that only a home-grown LIMS can adequately meet the unique specifications and quality criteria of a laboratory. However, very few laboratories are truly unique. All laboratories obtain samples, perform analysis using defined protocols to obtain results, compare the observed results with the expected outcomes and later on, report the results after approval from the authorized person. It is generally the type, number, and flow of samples, sets of instruments and the types of analyses that sets them apart. These variable specifications can be easily accommodated and implemented using a commercial off-the-shelf LIMS.

Time of Implementation

Longer implementation time comes as a huge penalty for any laboratory. Building a custom LIMS internally is most likely to suffer from delays as compared to the implementation of a commercially available LIMS.

Cost of Implementation: The ‘cost’ factor has been a key player driving the ongoing dilemma of building or buying a LIMS. While in-house projects are very likely to suffer delays, and will invariably be more expensive than expected, on the other hand, purchasing a commercially available LIMS allows its users to manage their laboratory workflows right from the day one. Additionally, the existing extensive documentation and technical support provided on switching to a commercial LIMS absorb much of the cost of purchasing a LIMS.

Adaptability to Ongoing Modifications

The technology is constantly progressing both inside and outside the laboratory and the specifications important today may not be required tomorrow. As a result, there is a continuous urge to develop and modify an existing LIMS to fit the required specifications. However, constructing a customized LIMS internally may lead to rigid core structures that are difficult to modify and accommodate the variability in technology and workflows.

Adherence to Market Rules and Guidelines

It is really hard and time-consuming to adhere to the emerging new LIMS regulations and guidelines in the market. This process demands time, effort, and highly skilled professionals to accommodate the required modifications and document them appropriately. This may also create an additional financial burden for an internally created LIMS. On the other hand, a commercially available LIMS is developed and tested for its adherence to the defined regulatory guidelines.

Data Migration from a Legacy System to a LIMS

Data migration while purchasing a commercially available LIMS is both time and cost-efficient. Some of the LIMS companies also provide data migration as a complimentary service, thus facilitating an easier and speedy LIMS implementation.

Utilization of Internal Resources

Switching to a commercially available laboratory information management system removes the burden of developing, testing and documenting the LIMS functionality on the available internal resources. Instead, these precious resources can be allocated to focus on important tasks, thus enabling their best utilization.

Taken together, it is suggested that the road to buy a commercially available LIMS presents a more promising and smooth journey as compared to building a LIMS from scratch that can end-up into an inefficient and amateurish LIMS after spending a lot of time, efforts and money.

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