A laboratory information management system is a software solution designed to manage the different aspects of a scientific laboratory. Among other things, these systems allow for storage and tracking of reagents, record keeping, data entry, inventory management, results organization and viewing, method creation, instrument control and much more. Below are some points to consider when choosing a LIMS for your lab.
1) Data Integration
Integration with other software is particularly important in scientific labs because often times there are existing applications that have been used over years or even decades. Systems should be able to import data from these legacy systems into the LIMS without too much trouble. For example an older gas chromatography (GC) application might not be able to natively export raw GC-MS data into a LIMS, but might have the ability to simply export peak lists. If the LIMS has import capabilities for this data type then it will be able to ingest the information without too much trouble.
2) Software Cost & Licensing
Like some other types of software, there are some providers that offer fully functional trial licenses of their software. These are typically good for 30-60 days and can provide some insight as to how well the system would work in your lab. For those who prefer not to use a trial license, many software vendors offer 60 day free technical support so that if someone is having an issue with implementing or using their product they can get help immediately without worrying about being charged.
3) Customer Support
You are going to spend a lot of time using the LIMS, so you want to make sure that you have good support if something goes wrong. Most major LIMS vendors have some type of online chat where someone can talk with a knowledgeable representative immediately. Additionally many large software companies offer phone support which is generally available during regular business hours in multiple regions around the world. You may also wish to find out what kind of service response times are offered by your potential LIMS vendor, as this can be important depending on the needs of your lab.
4) Hiring & Training
A new employee in your lab might not know anything about data management or how the different pieces of equipment work together but they should know their way around a computer. Therefore you might not want to purchase a system that is difficult to use and cannot interface with the equipment in your lab.
5) Data Management
A LIMS can be used for data management, but it is possible that multiple software packages could be needed. For example if there is no way to adequately manage reagents and inventory via a LIMS then additional software might need to be purchased. Additionally some labs will require integration with LIMS-like capabilities for contract research organizations (CRO). If this is the case, make sure that these requirements are met before deciding on or committing to buying any one particular product.
6) Security & Compliance
Many laboratories have regulations such as CFR 21 Part 11, GxP, HIPAA, GLP and others that must be followed. If these regulations are not followed then a lab can face hefty fines or even an investigation by their accrediting body. A LIMS should therefore have the security provisions needed to allow for data integrity and if necessary compliance with legal requirements.
7) Data Analysis & Reporting
Lab data is only useful if it can be analyzed and turned into reports and graphs which lead to conclusions being drawn from the experiments being performed in the lab. The R&D team needs to know what tests have been run when, on what types of samples etc.. In order for this information to be useful there should be some type of reporting capabilities in place that allows for easy reporting of key metrics .