Are Paper and Excel Limiting Your Laboratory Capabilities?

May 21, 2018 / by Sophie Blackburn

Are paper and excel limiting your laboratory capabilities

It’s a question I ask daily; how are you currently managing your QC data? More often than not the answer is through the use of a paper based system and/or Excel spreadsheets.  Organisations at the forefront of their industry are seen to be on the cutting edge of technology, developing new products in their pipeline, but on the other hand their routine laboratory operations are somewhat archaic – a paradox.  Of course, it is likely that most lab operations started out by recording results on paper followed by entering data into spreadsheets.  Today, not much has changed.  Why?  Well, if you consider that most businesses own a Microsoft Office license, combined with the fact that Excel is relatively easy to use, universal, and versatile, it’s actually understandable.  In fact, Excel is so prevalent that many software offerings even replicate some of its features within their products.  These days, even instrument suppliers provide spreadsheet export capabilities that enable data exchange.  So why should labs change?

The bottom line is, Excel is not a database, and it is not meant to handle or store the large volumes of data generated by a busy QC lab.  There are numerous ways Excel can yield errors which is the very reason why using it in regulated industries raises far too many data integrity concerns.  Not forgetting that if you’re currently relying on transcribing results onto paper and then into Excel, it is extremely likely that the labour intensive nature of this process can be streamlined to generate significant efficiency gains.

As data volumes grow and the laboratory related processes mature, most labs begin to realise that paper and Excel will no longer be able to manage their requirements.  As such, it becomes desirable to capture QC data by other means.  It is at this point that most businesses will turn to a Laboratory Information Management System (LIMS).

Ask yourself these questions:

  • Is your lab sample throughput increasing?
  • Do you have trouble making financial justifications to senior management for more lab help?
  • Has your lab experienced a decline in quality because of inadequate resources to handle the daily workload?
  • Is your lab accredited to an internationally recognised standard or do you work in a regulated environment that governs how samples are processed?
  • Do you spend too much time tracking sample details and information for customers or other departments within the business?
  • Do you spend too much time managing and reporting sample information?
  • Is your lab regularly told that you’re delaying production by hindering production cycles and time-to-customers?
  • Do you consistently put other projects on hold due to a lack of resources?

If you’ve answered yes to even one of these questions, it’s time to consider a LIMS. Why wait until things become too chaotic and your day job becomes too stressful?!

It was the late Apple visionary, Steve Jobs, who said “You have to start with the customer experience and work backwards to the technology”. It’s exactly why we listen to our clients and continuously improve our products by working with our client base to implement their feedback. We understand and appreciate the dynamism and ever changing needs of a business and the laboratory environment.

LabHQ LIMS not only offers a modern approach to handle your laboratory requirements, but also provides context to your data, giving you an increased understanding of your products and the quality of their manufacture.

Our process-orientated deployment schedule and validation options simplifies complexity; helping to eliminate the lengthy timeframes commonly associated with other LIMS implementation processes. This enables our clients to start using our software immediately and begin to take advantage of its benefits.

Upgrades are free, (that’s right a commercial person has used the ‘F word’) which not only prevents software obsolescence but ensures LabHQ LIMS is able to grow at the same pace as your organisation.


Paper based systems may be fulfilling your current requirements and MS Excel is a great tool, but the benefits of a single, harmonised platform for data storage, reporting and analysis is a no brainer. With business growth comes the need for more organisation and additional resources. While it may appear counterintuitive to introduce a new system into the lab at such a busy time, LabHQ LIMS may be precisely what your lab needs!

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Topics: LIMS, Data Management, Data Integrity, best practices, Quality, Laboratory Management, Tips

Sophie Blackburn

Written by Sophie Blackburn