Automation may be the most powerful and most misunderstood benefit that a LIMS can bring to a lab.
When most lab managers read “automation,” they may jump to workflow automation or the ability to schedule processes. However, there are far more ways a LIMS can automate your lab.
A LIMS can help generate reports, calibrate instruments, re-run failed tests, and more. With powerful automation comes the risk of complexity, so read on to learn how to choose the right platform to speed things up rather than slow you down.
What is a LIMS?
LIMS (laboratory information management system) have been on the market since the 1970s though they’ve evolved considerably since then.
A LIMS is an integral piece of an effective and organized lab as it can help you with the following:
Sample tracking and management: A good LIMS will be an excellent asset for efficiently managing high volumes of samples from receipt to reporting.
Workflow automation: Look for a LIMS with automation features that allow you to streamline and ensure data integrity.
Data integration and reporting: A LIMS can provide centralized storage and easy access to laboratory data, enabling quick report generation and historical data retrieval.
Instrument integration: For a lab with many types of instruments, a LIMS can be invaluable when it comes to seamlessly connecting them while automating data capture.
Compliance and documentation: While not every LIMS can support quality management and compliance, some (like QBench) provide out-of-the-box features to help labs meet regulatory requirements.
Many of these functions touch on automation which we’ll dive deeper into throughout this article. Be sure to check out our free guide on how to choose the best LIMS for your lab to explore other features.
What are the Benefits of Using a LIMS in a Lab?
You may already be able to imagine how a LIMS can benefit your lab. Here are some of the top benefits that come with using a LIMS:
Eliminate manual work and processes: A LIMS automates many routine tasks such as data entry, sample tracking, and workflow management. This saves time and frees up your staff to focus on more complex and analytical tasks, enhancing overall lab productivity.
Reduce data errors: Automated data capture and validation significantly reduce the likelihood of human errors. By integrating directly with lab instruments a LIMS ensures the accuracy and integrity of your data, which is crucial for reliable results and decision-making.
Improve compliance: Many LIMS like QBench are designed to comply with various industry standards and regulations. This can make adhering to certain standards much easier for your lab.
Automation, scalability, error reduction - it’s not too good to be true but you do need to ensure you select the right LIMS for your lab. There’s an important distinction between “customizable” and “flexible” that we’ll explore next.
Customizable vs. Configurable & Flexible Automation
Some legacy systems will claim that they offer “configurable” automation tools however in reality these fall short of easily adapting to evolving workflows or needs of a lab. Often, changes to these workflows require custom code or extensive support, which can become expensive in the long run.
Platforms like QBench are decidedly different. QBench offers configurability and flexibility by providing you with:
Highly configurable systems: Featuring low and no-code tools, these systems enable labs to build custom workflows effortlessly, reducing the reliance on complex custom coding. This allows QBench to adapt to changes in your workflows over time.
Flexibility: The system's flexibility allows it to adapt to a wide range of lab processes, accommodating unique requirements without extensive modifications. Rather than write lots of custom code to run calculations on your test results, simply send your data into an Excel-like spreadsheet and create your own calculations and graphs.
No-code automation engine: QBench’s automation engine is designed to be user-friendly, facilitating quick and easy setup and management. Simply specify what action or data change you want to happen and what triggers that change. This allows seamless integration and connection of various lab processes without custom code. Custom code may get you what you need in the short term, but it makes your system difficult and costly to change in the future.
Thanks to QBench’s highly adaptable and user-friendly interface, you don’t need extra services or expensive setups to change your automations as your lab’s workflows change. Just log in and adjust them directly yourself.
When choosing a LIMS, it's essential to look beyond just 'customizable' labels. A truly effective LIMS is not only adaptable to changing lab needs but also offers ease of use and ease of management, qualities that are embodied by solutions like QBench.
What can a LIMS automate?
There’s no shortage of things a LIMS can help you automate, though the most common use cases we see are:
Workflows: A LIMS automates lab workflows, guiding personnel through each step. This ensures consistent processing of samples, enhances efficiency, and accommodates diverse lab needs, from R&D to clinical testing.
Data Capture: A LIMS integrates with lab instruments for seamless data transfer, maintaining calibration schedules, and optimizing resource allocation. This reduces manual data entry errors and ensures instruments are operating within the required specifications.
Inventory/equipment tracking: Labs can streamline how they manage and track inventory thanks to inventory and equipment automations. Not only does this reduce busy work, but it also brings all of your lab’s inventory data into one place.
Control charting: A LIMS can automatically generate control charts, or Shewhart charts, which are a Statistical Process Control (SPC) tool. Some examples are X-bar, R, P, NP, C, and U charts. The system can update these charts continuously as new data comes in and automatically alert you when test results fall outside the control limits.
CAPA (corrective and preventative action) management: A LIMS can be an excellent asset in maintaining your systems (and meeting compliance requirements) by monitoring and flagging equipment or inventory for your team.
Next, we’ll explore some of our favorite ways to automate your lab with a LIMS.
10 Ways to Automate Your Lab With a LIMS
Here are 10 things you can start automating to immediately make your lab more efficient and streamline your operations. Whether you are looking to scale or improve compliance, these 10 automations will save you time and speed your lab up.
Automate Data Transcription: Eliminates manual data entry from instruments, reducing transcription errors with a LIMS. This ensures accuracy in data recording, crucial for labs dealing with high volumes of samples.
Automate Customer Invoicing: If your LIMS has built-in invoice support (QBench LIMS does) you can streamline your accounting and billing processes directly in your LIMS. Qbench LIMS can create quotes, handle discounts, and integrate with your accounting software to seamlessly sync your data.
Automate Testing Statuses: Set your LIMS up to automatically update and track the status of each test, from initiation to completion. This aids in managing lab workflows and provides real-time progress updates to clients.
Automate Instrument Calibration: Your LIMS can keep track of calibration schedules and maintenance records, ensuring that all instruments are functioning optimally. This is a must for maintaining a consistent quality of test results.
Automate Environmental Monitoring: In labs where environmental conditions like temperature, humidity, or cleanliness are critical, your LIMS can automate the monitoring and recording of these conditions. This ensures that samples are stored and tested under optimal conditions, and alerts can be set up for deviations from the set parameters.
Automate Batch Testing: A LIMS can manage and streamline the testing of sample batches, enhancing efficiency in processes where large numbers of similar tests are conducted, like in food safety or pharmaceutical quality control. What’s more, QBench LMS can automatically trigger a re-test if there are invalid results, eliminating manual checks and testing.
Generate Automated Reports: A LIMS can compile data and generate comprehensive reports for internal analysis or regulatory compliance, saving considerable time and effort in documentation processes.
Automate Client Workflows: For labs dealing with external or internal customers, QBench LIMS can integrate with your CRM of choice or the QBench Customer Portal can be used to automate client-related processes. This allows you to handle sample submissions, status updates, and result delivery on autopilot.
Automate Inventory Management: A LIMS can track and manage lab inventory, including reagents and consumables, automating alerts for restocking or expiry, which is vital for uninterrupted lab operations.
Automate Quality Assurance Checks: Improve your compliance with a LIMS by conducting automatic quality assurance checks at various stages of the testing process.
Automate Quality Control Processes: LIMS can automate quality checks at various stages of the testing process. If a test result falls outside predefined thresholds, the system can trigger alerts or hold the data for review, ensuring that only data meeting quality standards is reported.
Each of these automation features offered by LIMS (like QBench) plays a crucial role in enhancing the efficiency, accuracy, and reliability of your lab’s operations.
Best LIMS With Automation Capabilities
Not every LIMS offers robust support for automation. Here are the top three LIMS on the market that feature automation as one of their core capabilities.
QBench is a fantastic option for labs of all sizes and many industries looking to get more done and scale.
Boasting powerful automation features, the ability to configure your LIMS to adapt to your lab's needs, and a growing list of integrations, it’s no wonder that QBench was awarded numerous badges in 2023 from G2. Here’s a sample of what customers are saying about QBench:
Labguru is a great option for small labs looking to streamline and scale their operations with a focus on simplicity, ease of use, and user-friendliness. Like QBench, Labguru is well-reviewed on G2 with a 4.5/5 star rating.
Price: No available.
Reports and visualizations in premium tiers
Automation in premium tiers
API support in premium tiers
Labware is a good option for labs looking to digitize their operations thanks to their built-in ELN and LIMS automation features. Labware boasts many automation capabilities along with QA/QC features and instrument integrations. Labware is well-reviewed on G2 with 4.5/5 stars.
Price: Not available
Reporting tools and data visualizations
Ready to Automate Your Lab? See QBench LIMS in Action
For labs looking to save time, get more done, and scale automation is a must.
While many LIMS will claim they provide “simple” or “easy-to-use” automation features, some may introduce more complexity in the long run - especially ones that rely on custom-coded automation.
QBench provides powerful automation features in a no-code platform that makes setting up and adjusting your automations simple and scalable. This allows your LIMS to adapt to your changing needs and processes to speed you up rather than slow you down.
Ready to streamline your lab? Check out QBench LIMS today!