Information: Laboratory informatics tools Building a Smart Laboratory 2017

to track date, time, user – and, if necessary, what change was made within the system. Tis data may then be used to satisfy quality assurance requirements in terms of data integrity, and can also be used to generate a wide variety of management reports on the laboratory’s performance. A pre-requisite before implementing a

LIMS, or indeed any major computerised system, is to map and optimise the laboratory processes that the LIMS will automate. Te laboratory needs to understand the process and to identify any bottlenecks and their underlying causes. Most laboratory processes have evolved over time to meet local laboratory requirements rather than being specifically designed to meet wider organisational requirements. Any LIMS implementation must simplify and streamline the process rather than automate an inefficient, paper-based status quo. Te commercial systems on the

marketplace have become increasingly sophisticated over the years. Te major challenge in choosing a LIMS is identifying how an out-of-the-box solution is aligned to the organisation’s needs. Most systems are highly configurable and avoid the need for any custom code to be written to meet specific requirements.

What is a scientific data management system (SDMS)?

Te basic functions to be found in a

LIMS are: l Te registration of samples and associated

data, such as provenance, customer, due dates, etc.;

l Te assignment of tests to the sample; l Scheduling and tracking of the sample and tests;

l Recording the test procedure, equipment and materials used during testing;

l Te review, approval, and aggregation of test results for the sample, including specification checking ; and

l Te preparation and communication of customer reports.

Te major business benefits of a LIMS are typically associated with more efficient workflows by eliminating errors due to manual data entry and transcription errors. Tis is achieved through interfacing laboratory instruments to the LIMS for


“ In the academic community, blogging tools have been used to record experimental work and thus provide the basic features of an ELN”

two-way communication of sample IDs, worklists, and results, and by integration with other laboratory systems such as electronic laboratory notebooks (ELNs) and scientific data management systems (SDMS). A LIMS also acts as a major repository

of the records of analytical testing and can be a source of historical data associated with the organisation’s products and production processes. In addition, the transactional nature of a LIMS enables a secondary record system to be maintained as an audit trail

A scientific data management system (SDMS) is, in its basic form, a database application that manages electronic records generated by laboratory instruments. Typically, an SDMS will provide long-term data preservation, accessibility and retrieval. It is complementary to other laboratory informatics systems, such as LIMS and ELNs, in the sense that it can provide a common repository for experiment- and sample- related data files. In this way it provides a more consistent approach to managing laboratory data than local repositories, and off-line media (CDs, DVDs, tape, etc.) Te lines between a LIMS, ELN and

an SDMS are at times blurred through the incorporation of additional features to complement the core functionality. An SDMS is a means of collecting data files from a wide range of laboratory instruments and storing them, along with metadata, in a uniform way in a database; in other words, it is a laboratory content management system. By adding workflow elements and


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