Image credit: ASTM | ATS GmbH
Laboratory information managements systems (LIMS) are used to manage information and data in scientific and commercial laboratories. LIM systems are sophisticated software packages that serve a wide variety of purposes, including operations management, data/records management, quality control, compliance, and information sharing among a lab's many stakeholders, including technicians, operators, scientists, clients, and compliance specialists.
The image below shows a common conception of a LIMS as the interface between an organization and a lab. This basic framework shows samples as an input by the organization; these samples are then analyzed by the lab, which collects data and outputs it back to the organization as useful information.
Image credit: LabAutopedia
LIMS software suites typically feature multiple components in order to provide different functions for appropriate levels of laboratory. Components may include:
Electronic lab notebooks
Sample management programs
Process execution software
Records management software
Applications to interface with analytical instruments or data systems
Client tracking applications
Best practice and compliance databases
Enterprise resource planning (ERP) software
The image below displays a more complex view than the above diagram and shows the primary components and interfaces of a LIMS.
Image credit: LabAutopedia
While a laboratory information management system represents a comprehensive system, it is rarely static and may evolve with the laboratory. Traditionally, LIM systems have been initially installed to manage samples, including:
receiving and tracking samples and associated data
assignment and scheduling of the sample into the lab's workflow
processing associated with the sample
data storage related to analysis
approval and compilation of sample data for reporting and future use
As the functions and demands of the laboratory change, the functions of the LIMS may also change to include additional features such as auditing, customer relationship management (CRM), quality assurance, and instrument calibration.
Many labs that implement LIMS see vast improvement in the areas of efficiency, accuracy, compliance, and cost. The video below illustrates the features and benefits of a LIMS at a large government laboratory.
Video credit: DGSVirginia
Buyers will need to ensure that a LIM system is able to meet the demand of their organization, laboratory, and/or stakeholders. Some manufacturers provide LIMS software tailored to a specific instrument or discipline — such as spectrometry or microscopy — while others provide more integrated solutions.
Software platform is an important specification when selecting LIMS. Manufacturers may specify that their product is suitable for use with PC, Macintosh, Linux, Unix, or web-based systems. Many suppliers now provide cloud-based software due to its low cost and flexible terms, while others may provide complete workstations on which to run their software.
LabAutopedia - Risk-based validation of LIMS
Wikipedia - Laboratory information management system