If there is a word that you can say to most laboratory professionals to make them cringe, LIMS would be up there. Why has LIMS gained such a bad reputation in industry? When LIMS was first introduced to industry, technology was primitive and there were limited commercial systems available to choose from. Larger organisations created their own in-house software team to develop bespoke systems. Developing a complex system such as a LIMS can take years, and undergoing a project like this in-house will inevitably create tension between the laboratory and software teams.
Fortunately, technology has advanced, and LIMS which are developed on the latest platforms will provide more robust, reliable and flexible functionality to meet the evolving needs of your laboratory. With the availability and access to more variety on the LIMS market, your laboratory should be able to easily find and implement a LIMS. In this blog, we share with you a few reasons why LIMS doesn’t have to be complicated for your laboratory.
Focus on Value-Added Steps of Your Process
Many laboratories that embark on the LIMS selection process will list every single feature known to mankind as a requirement. It’s almost like shopping for a car. Yes, I need a Ranger Rover that can perform off-road, but I’ll never drive off-road. In fact, I only drive 20 minutes to work and back down the motorway. When shopping for a LIMS, be conscious not to rule a system out because it doesn’t have the bells and whistles of functionality that you will use 0.5% of the time – unless budget and time is not your concern.
Your LIMS selection process doesn’t have to be complex. Focus on the value-added steps of your process. By value-added, we mean those steps of your process that add value to the service you are delivering to your customer. We suggest mapping your process to get an understanding of the key inputs and outputs at each step. Once you have a visual representation of your routine daily process, you will be able to highlight which steps are value-added. For these steps, focus on the LIMS functionality required to deliver a level of automation. Let’s take sample registration, for example. Most laboratories would use sample registration as a key step for issuing unique sample IDs, assigning test methods and labelling samples. LIMS will have functionality to allow you to automate these activities, and it is these activities which are key to ensuring the sample analysis is conducted correctly to the customer’s requirements and adding value.
Approach Deployments with Care
Once you’ve found the LIMS of your dreams, you’re ready to embark on the deployment project. The complexity in functionality of your LIMS will most likely dictate the level of complexity for your deployment project. Naturally, if there are highly specified features in a system, it will take you longer to learn how to effectively use and administer this functionality. In addition, the level of regulations your company must comply with will also affect the complexity of your deployment. Nonetheless, deployments do not need to be complex, and we would recommend that you approach deployments with care.
When you commit to deploying LIMS, deployment projects are most successful when there are committed parties on both sides of the supplier-client relationship. Don’t be under any false pretentions that your supplier can do the deployment for you. You and your team will be key in the success of this project and the transition from your legacy system (whether its paper-based or an existing LIMS system) to your new ways of working. At the end of the day, it will be your team responsible for executing this change within your laboratory, so it’s important to lead with commitment.
Another helpful tip is to stick to simple project management techniques. Develop an overall plan and divide it into manageable sections. Schedule and maintain regular meetings. As tempting as it may be to cancel a meeting when someone is absent, don’t. Always stick to regular meetings with progress updates to keep the rhythm your project needs to reach successful completion.
Maintain Your System and Your Relationship
A LIMS isn’t just for Christmas it’s for life. Ok, so that saying may only work with puppies, but the point we are making here is to be conscious that your LIMS system will need maintenance throughout its lifetime. As technology progresses, your system will require updates to maintain security and compliance. A lot of laboratories that have LIMS skip the planning around regular maintenance activities, but it will be worth your time in the long run to develop a process to deal with maintenance and updates. This could include receiving updates on a copy of your system for testing, and a formal review and approval for release onto your live system.
In addition to system maintenance, it’s also important to maintain a relationship with your supplier. Technical support doesn’t need to be the only interaction you have with your LIMS provider. Some LIMS companies look to their clients to help shape their products and support the delivery of new features from which you can benefit.
LIMS doesn’t have to be as complicated as it was in the past. With technology available today, your LIMS project should be fun and exciting. Keep it simple by focusing on value-added functionality, approaching your deployment with care and being conscious that your LIMS will need maintenance in future.