A laboratory information management system is software which is usually, but by no means always used in a laboratory setting. A LIMS system is used to manage and track materials and data including samples and instruments, work flow, invoicing, reporting and a variety of other functions.
These information management systems may either be designed for a relatively narrow range of capabilities or built to be a flexible, versatile system which can handle tracking and management of any task in the laboratory.
These systems are also widely used by companies who manufacture goods; the same kind of functionality which makes a laboratory information management system nearly indispensable in a high sample volume laboratory environment also suits LIMS systems to use in industrial scale production processes. There are many similarities between these software systems and process development and laboratory information systems, though they may be used in nearly any environment where the storage, management and retrieval of large amounts of data is mission critical.
The systems are used far beyond the medical and scientific fields, being part of production and quality control systems in the pharmaceutical, petrochemical and nuclear energy sectors, environmental analysis, water testing and many other applications across a broad spectrum of economic sectors as well as the sciences. In nearly every environment where they are used, LIMS systems are integrated with instruments, whether in the production environment or with measurement instruments or other laboratory equipment when used as a laboratory information management system proper.
With a growing interest in scalability in data management systems, these software solutions offer research institutions and industry a user friendly method of managing large volumes of information across a single laboratory or many different facilities worldwide. These information management systems provide the ability to increase efficiency and throughput in the laboratory or production facility by facilitating automation and reducing the possibility of human error by integrating instruments directly into workflow, one of the chief advantages of LIMS systems.
One of the challenges of managing a laboratory or production facility is ensuring regulatory compliance. Another reason why an increasing number of laboratories are adopting the use of a laboratory information management system is to streamline the regulatory compliance procedures in place in the facility by increasing the level of accountability and improve the accuracy of internal audits, something which many of these systems are designed to carry out.
Not every laboratory has yet begun using these software systems to handle the management and tracking of their samples, reagents, instruments and to monitor workflow and to provide an easy to use framework for the large volumes of data generated by the modern laboratory, but the trend towards LIMS systems is a rapidly growing one. The advantages of these systems is well known, however and it is a near certainty that nearly every laboratory and production facility will have a laboratory information management system in place in the very near future.