LIMS is an automated software which helps to keep track on the data associated with samples, experiments, laboratory workflows, and instruments.
It helps with large volume lab data management and adherence to strict standards, while improving efficiency and turnaround times, enabling automation and more.
It also helps to produce reliable results more quickly and track data from sequencing runs over time and across experiments to improve efficiency. The features and uses of LIMS have evolved over the years from sample tracking to an enterprise resource planning tool that manages multiple aspects of laboratory informatics.
Evolution of LIMS
Earlier the laboratory work used to be very much time consuming and also full of errors. Therefore there was a need for creating a system that will counter these drawbacks.
The first generation LIMS came into existence in 1982 as a centralized minicomputer, which offered automated reporting tools.
The second generation of LIMS was developed in 1988 when commercial offerings were tapping into relational databases to expand LIMS into more application-specific territory, and International LIMS Conferences were in full swing.
With the popularity of personal computers in 1990s, the third generation LIMS also emerged successfully with the client/server architecture, allowing laboratories to implement better data processing and exchanges.
The web enabled LIMS were introduced in 1996, that helped the researchers to extend operations outside the laboratory. Additional functionality was introduced between 1996 to 2002 that included- wireless networking, georeferencing of samples, the adoption of XML standards and internet purchasing.
The most recent evolved LIMS was introduced in 2012, where features like clinical functionality, electronic laboratory notebook functionality, as well a rise in the software as a service distribution model, were added.
Important Features of LIMS
The important features of LIMS include:
- Audit Management: Audit trails allow lab technicians to follow the path of audit, from the end to the very beginning, that indicates the collaborator and the exact time of particular actions, or to automate the audit process.
- Barcode Handling: The barcodes offer many advantages to laboratory technicians handling samples, such as it reduces the risk of illegible information on the label and minimizes the risk of human mistakes.
- Chain of Custody: The inventory management and configuration of security of LIMS makes the maintenance of Chain of Custody, an easy task.
- Compliance: LIMS can be used in laboratories in a variety of different industries to manage and analyse data about samples, tests, test results, etc.
- Document Management: This includes the functionalities to upload and index documents of almost any file type and size, provide text search, convert and export to relevant formats such as PDF, add documents as attachments in the system.
- Instrument Calibration and Maintenance: It offers the functionality to schedule important maintenance actions and calibrations of lab instruments.
- Manual and Electronic Data Entry: It provides fast and dependable interfaces that allow for seamless implementation of data by a lab technician or electronic component.
- Personnel and Workload Management: It ensures the possibility to schedule tasks and events, consequently streamlining the process of workload management.
- Quality Assurance and Control: It runs efficient quality checks and automates the logging of samples or products, and extract management information quickly, assuring full control over processes.
- Time Tracking: It enables to track the amount of time an employee spends at work in general.
Components of LIMS
There are three main components of LIMS- Sample Tracking, Protocol Execution, and Storage Organization.
- Sample tracking includes recording all data associated with the sample upon its initial accession, such as the sample’s ID, source, collection date, and quantitation information (i.e. concentration, volume, and particulate amount).
- Protocol execution ensures that each lab tech adheres to the specific steps in a published SOP (Standard Operating Procedure) when processing a sample, regardless of who is processing the sample or running a test, is critical to obtaining an accurate and repeatable result.
- Storage organization keeps the track of where a sample is throughout its laboratory lifecycle. The “storage hierarchy” (Sample > Position > Box > Drawer > Rack > Shelf > Freezer > Room) plays a critical role in locating samples quickly in busy laboratories.
LIMS in Forensics
Currently, almost all forensic laboratories have some sort of automated system in place for handling variety of data and reports.
The scientific work involved in forensics is not limited to the lab. It starts at the scene of the crime and continues through the course of investigation to the courtroom and beyond.
The large panel of forensic sciences requires LIMS that encompasses simplicity, reliability, and security.
The implementation of LIMS in forensic laboratories necessitated the development of enhanced features to accommodate the complexity of forensic analyses, specifically:
- Examination results may indicate further examinations and analysis within same discipline or in a different discipline.
- Results may indicate additional requested examinations are unnecessary.
- Some evidence can be examined only after the arrival of additional evidence items.
Features of LIMS to Forensic Laboratories
- Case-centric workflow
- Chain-of-custody authentication
- Interpretation of results
- Courtroom presentations
Despite the fact that forensics laboratories undoubtedly benefit from many of the features offered by a typical LIMS, they are better served by a system that goes above and beyond the basics to take into account the particular requirements.
These capabilities will have ideally been built and designed by LIMS provider whose personnel have vast experience working in the forensic industry.
LIMS Goals in Forensics
- Immediately assess the status and progress of a given evidence submission.
- Produce a quick snapshot of the overall current caseload at any time.
- Types and numbers of current cases.
- Cases completed on a weekly, monthly, or year-to-date basis.
- Number and type of examinations completed.
- Cases not meeting agency guidelines by unit or by examiner.
- Current status and cumulative statistics for each area by subdiscipline.
- Current status and cumulative statistics by individual examiner.
Advantages of LIMS
- Automates repetitive laboratory administration tasks.
- Integrates lab’s instruments and systems intuitively.
- Improves the capacity and profitability of a laboratory.
- Increases reliability by reducing the risk of errors occurring.
- Enables faster, better, informed decisions from real-time reporting.
- Increases efficiency by streamlining process and data management.
- Provides information when and where it is needed, locally or in the cloud.
- Allows access to the right information quickly at any stage of any process.
- Ensures all work meets regulatory requirements and current best practice.
- Enhances data integrity with automatic audit logging and revision control.
LIMS is an automated system to handle the monitoring of case samples and associated data throughout their life cycle and before, during, and after the testing methods. The introduction of LIMS have made the laboratory procedures fast and more accurate from the earlier times.
It works for forensic intelligence from the crime scene to legal proceedings, accelerating the investigative process by streamlining, connecting, and analyzing all aspects of a criminal case. The law enforcement agencies are on a benefit if they select a highly sophisticated, enterprise-level LIMS with fewer needless interfaces.