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How Advanced LIMS Are Reshaping the Scientific Experience

Young female scientist looking at a sample.
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Today’s labs face a plethora of challenges, from growing demands to do more with less, to increasingly complex workflows. Amidst such a rapidly changing and challenging landscape, digital transformation has emerged as a key solution, offering a route to increased operational efficiency and productivity.

However, digital transformation has a less commonly considered but equally important benefit: a radically improved scientific experience for those in the lab.

In this article, we discuss how the most advanced laboratory informatics software can enhance the scientific experience across both physical lab work and data management and analysis, enabling analysts to better focus on what matters science.

Transforming day-to-day operations in the lab

In the physical lab, scientists can face high workloads, tight timelines and complex workflows, all of which are compounded by disconnected instruments and systems and a lack of control. As a result, analysts may struggle to progress their work, work less effectively and have less free time to innovate. Ultimately, this could impact efficiency, productivity and overall business performance.

Advanced informatics tools, however, are reimagining the lab, addressing these common challenges and more, by deeply connecting instrumentation, expanding control over workflows and processes, and ultimately unlocking simpler, smoother and more intuitive ways for scientists to perform their tasks.

Advanced laboratory information management systems (LIMS) software solutions are enabling a better physical lab experience by optimizing informatics system accessibility, navigation and interaction, as well as eliminating manual work.

Easy accessibility on the move

Lab scientists are always on the move and may use different rooms, workspaces and instruments in a single workflow. Accessing informatics tools and recording the required information in a way that maintains integrity can be cumbersome, especially when having to rely on a stationary desktop computer. This can disrupt mental flow and focus, leading to a greater cognitive load than necessary.

Advanced informatics software has features that can eliminate this challenge. For example, a modern LIMS can be accessed via portable devices such as laptops and tablets to offer easy remote access. Armed with such a system, scientists don’t need to rely as heavily on stationary desktops, meaning they are able to record data more flexibly, within their workflow. Workflow disruption is therefore minimized, preserving thought flow and focus, which enables a smoother working day.

Smoother navigation

Increasingly complex workflows with high-throughput demands are the norm in many laboratories. To meet these demands, labs often rely on barcodes for more efficient scanning, to identify reagents, locations or people.

However, while barcodes can accelerate some elements of a workflow, in-between actions still often demand mouse and keyboard use, as well as awkward navigation across different computer screens. Continual switching and “stop-start” processes can be mentally draining as well as physically intensive, adding to the burden on lab staff.

Advanced LIMS software solutions are now available that can use barcode scanning for these in-between actions (for example, replacing navigation buttons with barcodes). The same scanning action can therefore be used across multiple workflow steps, minimizing activity switching and aiding greater flow and focus.

What’s more, with the most advanced LIMS, scientists can take advantage of hands-free, voice-activated workflows, further simplifying and streamlining LIMS operation.

Eliminating tedious manual work

Tedious and repetitive manual tasks pervade laboratory workflows. And they can have significant consequences for scientists, including a feeling of not fulfilling their scientific potential, and even repetitive strain injury.

The most advanced LIMS address this by more deeply connecting everything in the lab from tools and instruments to people and processes handing analysts a greater level of control to automate a wide variety of manual tasks. Accordingly, lab staff no longer need to be drawn into burdensome, repetitive activities, freeing up more time to innovate and focus on value-adding work.

Removing obstacles in your lab’s data landscape

While the physical lab can hinder the scientific experience, it’s not the only aspect of the lab to be concerned about. The lab’s data landscape can be equally detrimental to the scientific experience.

Laboratories generate vast amounts of data, which must be properly collected, stored, tracked, accessed, analyzed and reported on, as well as used to appropriately manage the lab and make complex decisions. While doing all of this, scientists also need to meet strict data integrity standards. But relying on manual processes for data management and analysis can be time- and resource-intensive, error-prone and stressful.

Advanced LIMS help alleviate this by offering more control of and deeper insight into data. This, in turn, helps laboratories to comply with regulations more easily, as well as improve and de-stress decision-making to better predict and solve challenges.

Levelling the path to data integrity and compliance

By helping labs ensure data integrity, advanced LIMS help improve the data landscape. They do this in several ways. First, advanced LIMS can connect, record and meticulously track the data and metadata from all instruments in the lab, offering a full audit history detailing the who, what, when and why of data and events. Some LIMS also help better secure lab data on-site or in the cloud with passwords and eSignatures in compliance with FDA 21 CFR Part 11. Moreover, the latest LIMS can ensure only qualified analysts run approved methods using in-service instruments, facilitating ISO 17025 compliance.

With deeper control of data quality and integrity, labs can more easily meet requirements with minimal stress, leading to smoother operations and a more fulfilling lab experience.

Deeper insights, better decision-making, fewer challenges

As well as smoothing the path to data compliance, advanced LIMS offer several capabilities to aid decision-making and better solve even the most complex challenges.

Real-time telemetry data through data-rich dashboards

The most advanced LIMS, for example, offer rich and easy-to-interpret current data on everything from lab management to turnaround times and incident tracking metrics all displayed in intuitive, user-friendly dashboards. Armed with contextual information, lab personnel can more quickly and painlessly make informed decisions to improve their laboratory processes.

Predictive analytics and trending capabilities

Some LIMS can make use of historical data, too, leveraging it to identify trends, predict future events or issues, and reveal deeper opportunities for process optimization.

For instance, LIMS are available that can use historical data and machine learning capabilities to predict test results, enabling researchers to determine if a sample will ”fail early” with fewer tests, reducing costs and saving sample analysis time and stress.

Similarly, some LIMS boast forecasting capabilities, whereby historical data is used to help a lab better plan for what’s coming. With better insights into future work requirements, lab teams replenish stocks at the right time to avoid frustrating delays; hire, train or reallocate analysts to meet future demands with minimal issues; and better define their future goals to ensure everyone is aligned for maximum chances of success.

What’s more, the latest informatics tools can even leverage metadata to anticipate when an instrument will need maintenance, meaning labs can better plan for equipment downtime to minimize disruption.

Overall, with greater control over their data, and armed with the ability to leverage it to its full potential, scientists get smoother lab operations with minimal surprises and fewer challenges.

The modern LIMS: 360-degree control and connectivity for a better scientific experience

Digital transformation tools such as advanced LIMS have redefined what’s possible when it comes to lab productivity and efficiency. However, the value of LIMS doesn’t stop there. The latest systems can reshape and bolster the everyday scientific experience, offering more holistic control, connectivity and workflow optimization that can topple obstacles across both the lab’s physical and data environments.

Free of these obstacles, and with more engaged and inspired people, laboratories can pursue, unhindered, the work that matters their science.

About the author:

Chad Stanton is a senior product manager at Thermo Fisher Scientific responsible for overseeing the iterative development, optimization, and lifecycle of Thermo Scientific™ SampleManager™ Laboratory Information Management Systems (LIMS) software solution. With his team, and in collaboration with colleagues across the company, Chad aligns user feedback, market insights and business goals to meet customers’ needs, quality standards, and market demands for leading-edge LIMS software.