The main feature of a LIMS: management of samples and analyses

LIMS (Laboratory Information Management System) is management software that allows managing the main processes of the laboratory. Sample management is the main function of a LIMS. Samples must be registered in the software by identifying the origin of the sample and the type of sample. Visit https://www.sagit-solutions.com for more about Laboratory Information Management Systems LIMS.

Third parties attached to the samples

Depending on the laboratory’s job, very different data can be entered into the software.

  • The customer
  • The sample collector
  • The third party who is to receive the analysis results
  • The third party to be invoiced
  • The intermediary third party(ies) (doctor, president, …)

The analyses to be carried out

It is then necessary to characterize the sample (matrix) and define the list of analyses that will have to be performed on these samples.

Entering the analyses to be carried out on a sample can be quite complex and it is necessary to analyse the pre-procedure in order to define these analyses while avoiding complicating the work of the secretariat.

Specific business data for the samples

The entry of ‘business’ information relating to the sample (sampling date, sampling temperature, nature of the product, etc.) which will be used to interpret the results must also be done in the software.

Taking into account the diversity of sample types and the very different trades, the software must be able to be parameterized to manage these specificities. In complex cases, it is possible to call upon the editor to carry out specific developments to capture this information.

The identification of samples

The identification of samples is very important for its traceability. The software must therefore be able to deliver a unique tracking number. Most software programs use barcode labels.

The software must be able to print a defined number of labels per sample. It must also be able to edit these labels at the time of sample registration or prior to registration by editing label sheets that will be used to identify samples upon receipt before the secretariat intervenes. This makes it possible, for example, for certain samples to be prepared before they are registered. They are, however, identified by the unique number of the laboratory.

Have certain information entered by the sampler on a tablet or by the client

Some software solutions allow the sampler to enter the information directly on a mobile device: tablet or smartphone.

It is also possible to have the customer register the samples directly on a web portal knowing that the customer must then identify the samples. Web-based systems allow the customer to enter the information and print labels directly at the customer’s premises. This solution is interesting for industrial customers who will gain in the traceability of their samples and in the quality of data entry since there will be no more re-entry.

Attention to productivity

All these steps are very time-consuming and can increase the cost price of a sample quite significantly.

It is therefore important to analyse the time taken to capture different types of samples so as not to degrade the profitability of the laboratory.

In this field, the solutions provided by the software can be differentiated.

Production management

Once the “administrative” data have been recorded and the analyses to be carried out on the sample, the LIMS “Laboratory” functions must take over to start the analysis of the samples.

Management of the control plans

For in-house laboratories, the management of control plans must be configurable in the software. These functionalities should allow the planning of the sampling of the samples.

The control plans must allow the management of sampling orders and sample orders to be received. This notion of “order” allows planning the activity of the laboratory.

Monitoring the laboratory’s workload

The LIMS should ideally manage the production chain by identifying for each sample the production lead time that has been defined with the customer.

The laboratory manager must be able to follow the workload of his teams by consulting his stock of samples and analyses to be carried out.

Management of series of analyses / Bench top sheets

The software must be able to generate work lists for each workstation. A workstation must correspond to one or more analyses depending on the work organization. These workstations must be configured in the upstream software by the administrator. It is important that this configuration is the responsibility of the laboratory, which can thus modify the organization of its production if necessary.

These work lists must allow a bi-directional link with the analysis equipment:

  • Sending of sample identifiers and possibly of the analyses to be carried out,
  • Retrieving results from the device.

Entering results

Independently of the import of results, the LIMS must allow the results to be entered directly into the software.

The authorizations, the traceability of the result entries are important functionalities to study when choosing a LIMS.

Interfacing with automated analysis systems

The LIMS must offer different possibilities for interfacing with automated analysis systems in order to avoid re-entering the results. The traceability of operations is a key point in the management of these interfaces.

As far as possible, the interfaces between the LIMS and the PLCs should be configurable: interface type (txt, csv, excel …), file format (import and export), separator … As some PLCs can retrieve a list of samples to be passed in a series, the LIMS should be able to manage this type of file.

In some cases, it is a peripheral application to the LIMS that manages these working series and the links with the analysis automata.

LABO.DIGITAL can accompany you in the analysis of these tools.

Validation of the results

A release workflow must be used to release the samples. Ideally, a configurable workflow will allow you to define validation rules according to the type of sample (technical validation and global validation of the sample).

Management of subcontracting

Internal and external subcontracting management functionalities are also important to study to facilitate the use of subcontracting:

  • Sending samples to be analyzed by a subcontractor,
  • Monitoring of subcontracting deadlines,
  • Importing subcontractor results.
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