Laboratory information management systems (LIMS) are known to deliver substantial efficiencies to laboratory operations. From sample management, data comparison and reporting, LIMS can transform the most time-consuming, mundane and critical tasks to simple, easy-to-complete tasks within a click of a button. So, why doesn’t every lab have a LIMS? In this blog, we highlight 4 reasons why laboratories don’t have LIMS, and if this resonates with you, we’ve included tips on how to overcome them.
Getting budget approved for a LIMS can be a challenging task. Most of the time, the laboratory sees the benefits of using LIMS, but financial justification is the final hurdle to jump. When you’re looking to get budget approved, there are various cost factors to consider such as:
- Cost of the system, purchase or rental (for hosted solutions)
- Cost of the deployment
- Cost of on-going technical support
- Cost of integration or bespoke development requests
These costs are not the only factors to consider. Your time has an associated cost, and you should also consider your time spent in making the project a success. Tips on how to address this to ensure minimal impact to your routine laboratory operations are discussed in more detail below.
Next, look at the potential savings your laboratory will realise once the solution is deployed and in-use. This could be anything from time-savings on routine tasks such as reporting to time-savings in production through product trending and catching potential failures early. Once you have both the cost and time-saving factors, you can then calculate a return on investment (ROI) that will support your LIMS project. Use our free template to help you calculate ROI and pull a case together for your LIMS that will impress your Finance Director.
Many laboratories that embark on the journey of LIMS implementation can get hung up on functionality. There are many LIMS on the market to choose from, and all of which are just as feature-rich as each other. The risk is that your team can get bogged down by the plethora of choices and functionality that it drives your project to a standstill. To ensure this doesn’t impact progress, list all the functionality you and your team would like to have in a LIMS. In regulated industries, this list is usually referred to as a User Requirements Specification. For each requirement, work with your team to categorise it as either mandatory or desirable. The more mandatory requirements you have, the more effort it will take for your team to ensure the chosen solution meets those requirements. This document will also give you a solid baseline to use when comparing and evaluating different solutions.
More often than not, we encounter companies who are in the process of, or have just finished deploying an Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system, and the last thing they want to do is embark on another software deployment project. Or we encounter a laboratory or team who has previous and negative experiences of deploying LIMS. With all improvement projects, there will be an element of time to invest to make it a success so that your team can realise the benefits. Therefore, if time is a barrier to the progression of your LIMS project, the only way to address it is to make more time.
Making more time can come in various forms. You can make time by introducing more resource whether you choose to hire a new employee or buy time from your LIMS supplier or a consultancy firm. If you do choose to obtain more human resource, be sure that LIMS knowledge remains or is effectively transferred to your operational team before the end of the project. A LIMS deployment will not be successful if a key person involved in the project leaves when it’s finished.
Reducing laboratory throughput or identifying slow periods in the year is another way to make time. Temporarily reducing throughput can buy your team time to dedicate to a LIMS project. You may look to see if this can coincide with the shut-down of a production line or slow periods in the year. Reducing throughput isn’t ideal, but if it is the only solution to create time for LIMS implementation, then the impact of throughput reduction should also be considered in your ROI assessment.
Some teams that we encounter are pushed by management to implement LIMS, and the laboratory operations team is reluctant to the idea. Conversely, lack of initiative can also occur when the laboratory operations team wants to use LIMS, but management doesn’t see the benefits. Before you look to overcome this barrier, identify why there is a lack of initiative with the team. Some of the most common reasons for a lack of initiative are:
- Not comfortable with computer technology – This is where the team are not familiar or comfortable with using software or computer applications. They may feel intimidated by using computers, and their concerns are that it will be more difficult to use than the trusted pen and paper. If this is the case, ensure a thorough training programme will be executed to help your team become comfortable with using LIMS. By showing them the time-savings, they can realise through the generation of certificates and trend reports or simple sample management, they can visualise how LIMS will make their job easier. Including them in demo meeting when evaluating a LIMS is also a key way to get them on-side.
- Job security – The team may feel like the reason why LIMS is introduced to the lab is to reduce headcount. Having job security is an important aspect for anyone employed, so this barrier should be dealt with sensitively. In most cases, companies looking to introduce LIMS are looking to build foundations for growth which in turn provides further job security with increase in laboratory throughput and custom.
- Taking money off the bottom line – Management may not see the benefits of LIMS and view it as a cost to the business that eats into profits. When looking to justify your LIMS project, a positive ROI will build the most logic case for progressing your project and help persuade the management team to become pro LIMS.