By Vivek Bhachawat
Yes, why are LIMS (Laboratory Information Management System) applications so popular? Is it just a new fad where everything is blatantly put on an information system irrespective of the organization’s needs? Is LIMS a necessity for every lab? Let’s try and reflect on each question one by one and try to come up with a logical view on LIMS, its effectiveness and the need to equip a lab with it. According to recent public data the annual spending on Research and Development crosses 1000 Billion US Dollars. This fact emphasizes the importance of R&D and the dependence of global economy on R&D efforts. LIMS like other information systems have gained in popularity due to several reasons; let us consider them briefly before going deeper in the topic.
First and foremost LIMS provides an end to end integration of the lab within and across the organizational functions. Second it helps increase efficiency and assigns ownership of activities. Third it helps improve the agility of the operation and helps disseminate information faster and gives correct info to the correct person. Last but certainly no the least, LIMS can be used to gain competitive advantage by modeling it to reflect and amplify the core competencies which are unique to a particular lab and its operating process. LIMS if applied only because it is popular and bought off the shelf, without even considering the process and needs of the R&D function of the organization, it becomes a fad. Although LIMS is a vital tool, buying it off the shelf and ignoring the actual process and needs can be a huge mistake.
LIMS is a necessity because of its ability to improve the internal capabilities of an Organization and can provide a sustainable competitive advantage if applied and managed effectively. There are certain aspects that organizations need to consider internally before selecting a LIMS vendor or a LIMS application. The organization needs to analyze what type of lab they have currently, what do they want from it in the future, how is the technology changing in their industry, what are the needs of process owners from a LIMS perspective and what are the competencies unique to their lab and how can it be preserved and amplified by the application of LIMS. So let’s say that you have a Global R&D lab, which works on developing new products for all your operations world-wide. You need to analyze what is it that makes your lab unique (not necessarily better) and how can you use LIMS to ensure your R&D efforts can improve through LIMS.
Once you have conducted a thorough internal review and established the key areas of the process that make your process unique, you will know to a certain extent how a LIMS application can be beneficial to your lab. The vendor selection and application design should be based of the requirements manifested after the internal review and the final application should be able to make your process more integrated, agile and visible. If you follow the above methodology, I believe your lab will be able to reap the maximum benefit from a LIMS application. So to sum up, LIMS is a necessity, buying LIMS off the shelf is more a waste of money, to realize true benefit of LIMS analyze your R&D process and select a vendor who can help you effectively meet/exceed your needs.