August 30, 2022
A Laboratory Information Management System (LIMS) is a software solution that increases the productivity of a lab by automating processes and streamlining workflows. There are different kinds of LIMS in the market that vary based on their unique features and costs. When choosing a LIMS, it's important to factor in how long it's going to take to get it up and running. While some LIMS can be deployed in a few weeks, others may take months and this can have significant ramifications on your business.
There are a number of factors that affect how long it takes to implement a LIMS, regardless of the type you choose. Understanding how these factors come into play and planning ahead of time help eliminate delays and make the implementation process easier and faster.
The first phase begins with defining and putting boundaries to the project. What will be entailed, what are the objectives, and who will be involved? A risk analysis is carried out and project requirements are outlined.
At this stage, the team specifies each of the requirements of the project, such as what data needs to be migrated, configurations needed, permissions required, etc. All these requirements need to be planned ahead of time.
Prior to going live, the project team needs to test the LIMS to ensure that everything is in place. Parallel testing is conducted to compare the old and new systems.
This is the actual implementation phase where the new LIMS is deployed. The LIMS vendor should offer technical support to the lab team until the LIMS is running smoothly and the team is satisfied with its performance.
LIMS implementation involves bringing together different elements, people, and processes, and this makes it a complex process. Here are some factors to have in mind when estimating how much time to allocate to LIMS implementation:
1. The current data management process in use by your laboratory. It may take a longer time if you're shifting from paper records or spreadsheets to a LIMS.
2. The unique operational and business needs of your company.
3. Current workflows that need to be transferred to the new system.
4. The scope of the project, for example, the number of sites that will be managed by the new system.
5. How familiar your staff members are with the new system and how much training will be required.
6. The availability of resources that can be used during the implementation process.
7. The amount of configuration that will be needed. A pre-configured LIMS will take a shorter time to implement.
8. The nature of the industry; regulated industries may need more rigorous LIMS validation.
9. The nature of the infrastructure that will need to be put in place for deploying the new LIMS. While on-premise LIMS may need new infrastructure, a cloud-based LIMS can be deployed without investing in costly IT infrastructure.
10. The nature and extent of instrument and software integration required. You can decide to do the integration immediately or later.
11. The level of technical support needed for the implementation process.
So, how much time should you allocate to LIMS implementation? Below is a ballpark estimate of how long it should take to implement a LIMS based on different scenarios.
If you are implementing a LIMS for the very first time, and hence moving from paper records or excel files to a LIMS, you should be prepared to spend a couple of months in this process. If more than one site is involved, this could take up to a year. Back-and-forth communication that may arise is likely to be due to a lack of a clear understanding of what is required or a lack of adequate resources to support the process.
Your lab may be switching from the current LIMS to one that has better features or is more supportive of your lab's core functions. This can take from a couple of weeks to months, depending on the level of switching and configuration required. Labs with multiple sites that need to implement the new LIMS are likely to take a longer time to implement.
Your lab may be upgrading to the latest version of an existing LIMS. This is likely to take a few weeks but may vary depending on the level of updates and configuration required.
As you have seen above, implementing a LIMS can be an intense process that may span several months. It's important to plan ahead of time and ensure that you have taken into consideration the different factors that influence the implementation process. Don't over-analyze the process to avoid getting trapped in the "analysis-paralysis”.
Get your entire team involved in the process right from the start and have all the required resources at hand before you commence the process. While systems may break down, humans are vulnerable to illness or other factors that may affect their availability or performance. Therefore, do not be overly confident about the implementation time of the new LIMS. Always leave room for adjusting to hiccups that may come up along the way.