LIMS vs. QMS: What’s the difference and when do you need each?

Free Guide

How to Choose the Best LIMS

A comprehensive overview of the six key factors every lab must consider when picking a LIMS.

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Most laboratories handle massive amounts of data while simultaneously trying to meet various regulatory guidelines.

Needless to say, scaling a modern laboratory can be a challenging task. Fortunately, software applications can come in handy when your lab needs help organizing and automating processes while complying with specific regulatory requirements.

Choosing the optimal software application can be an endeavor in and of itself. Along your journey, you may come across two different options: a LIMS and a QMS. In this article, we will break down the key differences between these software applications and when you should consider each one.

What is a LIMS?

LIMS is an acronym for Laboratory Information Management System; the first LIMS hit the market in the 1970s, and they have been an integral piece of an efficient and organized lab ever since. 

Today, LIMS have evolved into sophisticated systems that support a wide range of laboratory activities, including:

  • Managing samples and tests
  • Generating reports
  • Providing a portal for customers
  • Handling billing and inventory
  • Syncing data from lab instruments
  • Automating repetitive tasks

As you can see, a LIMS can be a great asset for a lab looking to scale and better organize its operations. Be sure to check out our free guide on how to choose the best LIMS for your lab.

What is a LIMS best for?

A LIMS shines when it comes to organizing data at scale and streamlining your lab’s operations. 

Here are the most common use cases for a LIMS:

  • 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 for seamlessly connecting them while automating data capture.
  • Compliance and documentation: While not every LIMS can support quality management and compliance, some (like QBench) do provide features out of the box to help labs meet regulatory requirements. 

When do labs need a LIMS?

From scientific labs to quality control or R&D labs looking to scale, a LIMS can be an invaluable tool. While some labs might get far with pen, paper, and Excel spreadsheets, here are a few signs that it is time for your lab to switch to a LIMS:

  • Sample volume is increasing: When manual tracking with pen and paper becomes inefficient due to growing sample numbers, a LIMS ensures accurate and efficient processing.
  • Workflows are becoming complex or need to adapt: For labs with involved testing procedures, a LIMS can streamline and standardize workflows. A good LIMS can support your lab as it adapts as well.
  • Errors and double-work are increasing: If you notice an uptick in mistakes, data entry errors, or retesting, then it’s time to digitize your operations and set up a LIMS for your lab.
  • You need to integrate multiple systems: As labs expand or integrate new equipment, a flexible LIMS can seamlessly adapt and connect disparate systems.

Now we see how a LIMS can benefit your lab, so when would you want to consider using a QMS?

What is a QMS?

Like a LIMS, a QMS is a software platform that helps labs organize and standardize processes, procedures, and policies. 

QMS stands for Quality Management System; as you can guess from the name, this serves a more narrow use case than a LIMS. A QMS aims to meet customer requirements and regulatory standards, ensuring a company produces products and performs services consistently and efficiently.

A QMS can help with:

  • Monitoring quality control
  • Calibrating instruments
  • Tracking processes and modifications
  • Helping labs meet regulatory requirements (such as ISO 17025)
  • Ensuring labs follow Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP)

As you can see, a QMS is an invaluable tool for quality assurance and control.

What is a QMS best for?

While a LIMS excels at organizing and reporting on data, a QMS shines when it comes to ensuring your lab is organized, compliant, and correctly following the procedures you set out. 

A QMS can be used for:

  • Quality control: A QMS helps you standardize processes to optimize your lab’s operations while monitoring for quality.
  • Instrument calibration: Calibrate instruments, monitor their performance, and store maintenance records to ensure your lab operates at peak performance. 
  • Corrective and preventative actions (CAPA): A QMS can help you manage CAPA processes, ensuring that any quality issues are identified and resolved quickly.
  • Meeting regulatory standards: Helping your lab maintain compliance in its processes and meet several regulatory requirements (such as ISO or FDA 21 CFR Part 11).
  • Increase customer satisfaction: Minimize the potential for errors, which can slow things down or create a negative experience for customers. 

When do labs need a QMS?

Most labs will find they need a QMS to meet specific regulatory requirements, but there are other times when a QMS comes in handy. 

Here are the most common signs your lab might need to purchase a QMS:

  • Your lab is trying to become compliant: If your lab is trying to meet a compliance standard (such as ISO 17025), then a QMS is an invaluable tool in helping your lab become compliant. This is especially important for labs in chemicals, plastics and packaging, food and beverage, or manufacturing.
  • Inconsistent processes are slowing you down: For labs experiencing variability in test results, procedures, or methodologies, a QMS can help standardize and monitor processes. 
  • Instruments accuracy is not being maintained: If your lab is slowed down by instrument inaccuracies, then it’s time to implement a QMS to calibrate them and keep a log of maintenance records. 

Many labs may find they need a QMS (for quality management) and a LIMS (for data management, customer management, and reporting). This can quickly become an expensive endeavor if you are buying two separate systems. As an estimate, this could set a lab back $15,000 - $25,000 for 5-10 users, with at least $5,000 in integration costs.

Fortunately, we have a recommendation: with QBench, you get quality management and information management all under one roof. 

Let’s explore the benefits of QBench LIMS + QMS next.

Benefits of QBench LIMS + QMS

We’d understand if the prospect of evaluating and purchasing a LIMS and QMS seems daunting. 

Fortunately, with QBench, you don’t need to purchase multiple platforms, and you do not need to compromise on quality either. QBench has a QMS tightly integrated directly with its LIMS to make managing lab data while monitoring quality a snap. 

Here are a few benefits that come with QBench’s LIMS + QMS:

  • An all-in-one system saves time and money. An all-in-one LIMS + QMS means that you only have one piece of software to implement for your lab and one subscription to pay. This can be a significant time and money saver for any lab looking to scale and improve its operations.
  • Tightly integrated QMS + LIMS. Purchasing a LIMS and separate QMS means you’ll need to make the extra effort to integrate the two. Not only can purchasing two software platforms be costly, but integrating them also carries an additional fee. As your lab processes change, you will also need to update these integrations. With QBench, this happens automatically, as we provide QMS features inside of and tightly integrated with our LIMS.
  • Move faster and get more done. Spend less time implementing and managing two platforms and more time getting work done with QBench LIMS + QMS. With only one software platform to manage, implementation goes much faster. QBench also boasts a highly configurable and flexible LIMS to adapt to your processes as they change – no custom code or additional integrations required.

If your lab is looking for a LIMS, QMS, or somewhere in between the two, then we recommend scheduling a demo of QBench’s LIMS + QMS for a walkthrough of the platform.