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Looking for a LIMS? Here Are the Top 5 Elements to Consider

February 19, 2024

With countless systems, complex workflows, and vast amounts of data, navigating the complex world of informatics is enough to make your head spin. Homegrown systems and disconnected data silos decrease productivity and increase risk in already complicated industries. Laboratory Information Management Systems (LIMS) are essential for productivity in laboratory testing, helping teams manage samples, workflows, and inventory to keep processes and workflows moving forward. But how does one determine which LIMS system is the best on the market?

No LIMS on the market is one-size-fits-all, as there is variation in functionality across the industry. The  best LIMS system will be one that aligns with your business goals, IT infrastructure, and laboratory workflows. Choosing the right LIMS is a substantial step forward in improving your lab’s overall efficiency and productivity. In this blog, we’ll discuss our top 5 things to consider when purchasing a new LIMS.

1. Get Aligned on Overall Business Goals and Define Your Return on Investment

Before anything else can be done to determine what the best LIMS system is, it is essential to start by identifying your key business goals for purchasing and utilizing a LIMS. The entire process of research, vendor comparison, demo reviews, selection, and onboarding, from start to finish, can take upwards of 12 to 18 months. This rigorous process is a significant investment of time and resources. As such, it is key to define your goals beyond “digital transformation” and “lab automation.” What does your organization need to see from this investment for it to be deemed a success?

  • Increased new product introductions (NPI)?
  • Accelerated time to market?
  • Improved lab efficiency and productivity?
  • Reduced risk?

Establish metrics and key milestones in relation to these business needs. Start by defining, documenting, and achieving stakeholder alignment on these objectives. To establish a rough budget, it is good to quantify the value of each of your objectives.

2. Collect and Document Laboratory Needs and Requirements Up Front

Prior to building a vendor shortlist, it is essential to understand the needs and requirements of your users. If your organization has multiple labs, there are a variety of ways to gather user requirements and expectations. Surveys, focus groups, and one-on-one interviews are great ways to measure the pulse of the organization and understand the needs of your teams at scale.

Once you have a solid understanding of the types of workflows and processes you need automated in your labs, make an outline of the key activities your LIMS should support. The best LIMS system you can choose should be a powerful tool for digitalizing your lab processes, such as:

  • Sample tracking and management
  • Batch management
  • Inventory management
  • Instrument/system connectivity and management
  • Audit trail creation and compliance support

It is also essential to research and document the handoffs needed among different groups and where any interdependencies exist, as well as understanding what LIMS will best serve R&D, quality control/quality assurance, manufacturing, and other departments. These steps will help your team build a list of vendor requirements and narrow your search. Aside from search engines, software review sites like G2 are powerful tools for comparing and contrasting options.

3. Evaluate Vendor Expertise and Support

Once your organization aligns on business goals, prioritizes laboratory needs, and identifies requirements, it’s time to do your research and create a shortlist of technology vendors for demos and evaluations. During these assessments, consider not only the technical software features, but also the expertise and partnership capabilities of the vendors.

A technology vendor with a proven track record in your field is more likely to understand your unique challenges, rather than one stating that they have the best LIMS system to choose from. Emphasize the importance of vendor expertise during demos. Discuss the training and support that will be provided during and after implementation. A detailed training program and ongoing support are crucial for the successful integration of the LIMS into your lab operations. You’ll also want to assess the vendor’s approach to maintenance and updates. A vendor committed to proactive maintenance will keep the system current, secure, and aligned with industry standards.

By prioritizing vendor expertise and support services, you set the foundation for a successful partnership that goes beyond software features to encompass ongoing collaboration and assistance.

4. Review Connectivity – Look for a Flexible, Configurable System

Connectivity is crucial in a lab environment. With multiple instruments, devices, and systems, collection and organization of data can be complex. A robust informatics platform will enable you to connect your LIMS to instruments and devices, automate data collection, and connect with other lab systems. Look for a LIMS that is flexible, configurable, and can seamlessly integrate with tools like Electronic Lab Notebooks (ELNs) and Scientific Data Management Systems (SDMS).

Is the technology you’re evaluating able to connect existing systems, laboratory instruments, and other third-party applications? You should also consider its compatibility with broader enterprise infrastructure such as SAP. A system that can easily adapt to your existing technology landscape will enhance overall efficiency. It can also provide a holistic view and deeper visibility into lab operations and performance.

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5. Seek a Vendor with Whom You Can Have a Long-Term Partnership

Selecting the best LIMS system is not a short investment. Ideally, the LIMS you select will set your lab up for success for the next decade and beyond. Prioritize finding a well-established informatics partner with a strong technical roadmap for the years ahead. You’ll want to work with an organization that is making strategic investments in emerging technologies and has the capability to evolve with the changing needs of your business. Assess the businesses plan for the next 5-10 years, the availability of training resources, and the vendor’s commitment to user support.

Finally, if your organization has multiple labs dispersed geographically, make sure to consider the benefits of having all your labs consolidated into one, centralized LIMS, to drive better knowledge transfer and collaboration. Learn more about the value of having all your labs consolidated on one of the best LIMS, here.

Example Questions to Ask Your Vendor

  • How does this LIMS align with our specific industry requirements?
  • Can the platform seamlessly integrate with our existing systems and instruments?
  • How scalable is the platform, and can it accommodate the growth of our laboratory operations?
  • Is the system flexible enough to adapt to evolving business needs and changing regulatory requirements?
  • How can you support our compliance initiatives and deliver strong data security?
  • What is the platform’s roadmap for future enhancements and updates?

Time to Take Action

How you approach the process of determining the best LIMS system for you is a critical step in driving your laboratory toward the future. By aligning your business goals, understanding laboratory needs, evaluating vendor expertise, reviewing connectivity, and prioritizing long-term relationships, you lay the foundation for a successful implementation.

Use this article as a guide when evaluating LIMS and informatics platforms. Make an informed decision based on your specific needs, confirming that the chosen system aligns seamlessly with your organizational objectives. This strategic approach will help you determine what is the best LIMS system so you can maximize the return on investment and contribute to the success of your laboratory operations for years to come.