Lims - Evolution From One-off Systems to Open Flexible Systems

By: Dan P.

LIMS - Laboratory Information Management Systems are software systems designed to manage laboratory data, workflows and processes. They are applicable to research & development labs, testing labs, Quality Assurance (QA) labs, etc. LIMS also provide a means of automatically integrating the data generated by the various analytical equipment processors within the laboratory into a single data repository. Lab instruments collect the data while the LIMS integration interface collects the disparate data into a single database. Once unified in this way all the data associated with the sample or material under test is available for analysis, reporting or delivery to people or systems that require the information. Full-featured LIMS aid laboratory technicians and managers to manage, process and understand all the lab data generated within the laboratory as well as deliver the required information to the required information consumers.

Early LIMS Systems

Early LIMS were custom-designed and built as point solutions to meet the needs of specific laboratories. This type of in-house systems can take significant amounts of effort to develop and while they may produce a very close fit to the initial requirements, they can prove difficult to change or modify in response to changing laboratory and business practices

Commercial LIMS products were initially developed in the early 1980s. At first these systems often required significant customization to meet a specific laboratory's needs as far as workflow and reporting were concerned. This increased the cost of the LIMS setup and extended the implementation time required.

Open LIMS Systems

As computing technology changed, LIMS technology developed in parallel and a move towards more open and configurable COTS (Commercial off the Shelf) systems took place. This provided laboratories with greater flexibility to meet their needs within a standard commercial package

Today's LIMS solutions offer even greater flexibility and functionality. Many popular commercial LIMS packages utilize open system architecture to offer client capabilities and enterprise-level access to lab data within a client server environment. Some vendors offer the same capability within a truly Web-based LIMS using technologies such as Microsoft's .Net platform. XML (eXtensible Markup Language) enhances the data in documents, maintains data longevity by storing it in an application neutral format, simplifies automation, and integrates data and information within organizations. This, together with the adoption of technologies such as Web Services, allows for enhanced and simplified integration with other systems within the laboratory or organization. Combined with a fully integrated Scientific Data Management Systems (SDMS), LIMS now has the potential to bring all laboratory data together in a single unified repository.

Latest LIMS Systems

This latest generation of LIMS moves away from simple sample test and result management to provide the laboratory with a sophisticated Laboratory Informatics architecture. This model allows all the data and information generated or used by the laboratory to be managed; enhancing the ability to effectively manage the delivery of the laboratory product as well as optimize the performance of the laboratory organization. In addition, the value of historical data assets can be maintained by ensuring continued accessibility of this data in a single application.

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