Book:Justifying LIMS Acquisition and Deployment within Your Organization/Introduction to LIMS and its acquisition and deployment/What is a laboratory information management system (LIMS)?

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1. Introduction to LIMS and its acquisition and deployment

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Your laboratory was created to carry out specific tasks that its parent organization needed to meet its business goals. The lab's biggest output is analytical results of tests it conducts, and it's imperative those analytical results are accurate, timely, and unaltered. Today, labs more than ever depend on a laboratory information management system (LIMS) to better meet those requirements. But justifying the benefits over the costs can be a challenge, particularly when upper management or critical stakeholders aren't keen on increasing spend, let alone aren't always well-informed about what LIMS can actually do for the lab.

The point of this guide is to give you the background you need to better make a case to your organization's management and key stakeholders for acquiring and deploying a LIMS. While pursuing this topic, we're going to make a couple of simple assumptions. We'll assume that your organization's senior management may not understand what goes on in your lab and how it carries out its work. We'll also assume they have a lot of things to contend with in their roles, giving them limited time to fully understand your lab's needs and the tools required to help it succeed. You want to make the explanation and justification for LIMS acquisition and deployment as easy and succinct as possible while at the same time demonstrating that this is the right decision.

The justification process for LIMS has a long history, and a lot has changed since the 1980s, when the technology was first introduced. Therefore, we need to examine what a LIMS is; what alternatives people commonly turn to; how the technology has evolved; what the history of LIMS justification is; what organizational, economic, and practical considerations surround LIMS adoption; how to develop a LIMS project proposal; and how to address any concerns management may raise during the justification process. This guide will attempt to address these things and more. First, however, we need to look at what LIMS is, what alternatives exist, and what the acquisition process looks like then and now. We'll also begin to address why a LIMS matters to today's laboratory in this chapter, with further points of justification coming later.

1.1 What is a laboratory information management system (LIMS)?

A LIMS is a specialized, software-based information management solution that offers a set of key features that support a modern laboratory's operations. Introduced in the late 1970s and early 1980s[1], the design and functionality of this software has changed significantly over the years, such that today a majority of a laboratory's processes can benefit from the LIMS' implementation and use. A LIMS has functionality that addresses most of the workflow phases of a laboratory, including[2]:

  • the reception and log in of a sample and its associated customer data;
  • the assignment, scheduling, and tracking of the sample and the associated analytical workload;
  • the processing and quality control (QC) associated with the sample and the utilized equipment and inventory;
  • the storage and access management of data associated with the sample analysis; and
  • the inspection, approval, and compilation of the sample data for reporting and/or further analysis.

Related is the laboratory information system (LIS), which is tailored to the workflow of a clinical laboratory. That said, the distinction between the LIMS and LIS has blurred over time, with some LIMS having the same clinical information management features of an LIS. In both cases, the software—when developed, implemented, and maintained well—can improve laboratory workflows and workloads while enhancing safety, quality, and compliance. A well-implemented LIMS can reduce the silos of information and data in a laboratory, while at the same time make that information and data more secure, readily accessible, and actionable. Additionally, many modern LIMS are able to be pre-configured out of the box with analytical and QC workflow support tools that can be further optimized to a lab's unique industry-based workflow. When integrated with instruments and other software systems, fewer transcription errors occur and traceability becomes easier, while monitoring of supply chain issues, QC data, instrument use, and more is further enabled, particularly when paired with configurable dashboards and alert mechanisms. This also means that the lab can react more rapidly to issues that compromise compliance with certification to the ISO/IEC 17025 standard, as is necessary in, for example, the food and beverage industry.[3][4][5]


  1. Gibbon, G.A. (1996). "A brief history of LIMS". Laboratory Automation and Information Management 32 (1): 1–5. doi:10.1016/1381-141X(95)00024-K. 
  2. Skobelev, D.O.; Zaytseva, T.M.; Kozlov, A.D. et al. (2011). "Laboratory information management systems in the work of the analytic laboratory". Measurement Techniques 53 (10): 1182–1189. doi:10.1007/s11018-011-9638-7. 
  3. Smith, K. (2 July 2019). "Integrated Informatics: Optimizing Food Quality and Safety by Building Regulatory Compliance into the Supply Chain". Food Safety Tech. Retrieved 19 July 2023. 
  4. Apte, A. (20 October 2020). "Is Your Food Testing Lab Prepping for an ISO/IEC 17025 Audit?". Food Safety Tech. Retrieved 19 July 2023. 
  5. McDermott, P. (31 July 2018). "How Digital Solutions Support Supply Chain Transparency and Traceability". Food Safety Tech. Retrieved 19 July 2023.