This post will explore how the use of a Laboratory Information Management System (LIMS) can not only enhance the data quality in a laboratory, but also offer significant savings in time, money and other resources. These savings happen as a result of automation and better access to the data in the laboratory.
A LIMS offers significant opportunities for laboratory cost saving and productivity improvements – examples are:
- Improved sample and test turnaround time
- Reporting quality (better information) and automated generation/distribution
- Regulatory compliance, i.e. better audit readiness
- Electronic links to instruments and other company computer systems e.g. MRP/ERP systems
These improvements can in turn deliver significant cost savings, for example:
- Finished products are released from production faster
- In-process problems are spotted sooner and corrected faster
- Improved monitoring of raw material supplies for better quality products
These tangible benefits influence project approval but it is also important to identify the intangible benefits that can offer hidden cost savings and can be useful as backup information to help project approval – examples are:
- Procedural consistency
- Convenient access to reference material e.g. test methods
- Image of the laboratory e.g. to external clients and new recruits!
- Better information available for decision making and planning.
To identify the opportunities for cost savings in some detail, it is necessary to:
1. Describe your current situation
- identify functional areas
- analyze the workflow
- quantify sample & test throughput
- identify productivity bottlenecks
2. Consider future business objectives
- management objectives
- need for new technology
- introduction of new computer systems, e.g. MRP/ERP
- regulatory pressures
3. Assemble the data into a meaningful form
4. Identify the areas that will benefit from the introduction of a LIMS
5. Estimate (calculate!) the costs savings in each functional area once a LIMS is introduced
The last step is obviously the most challenging and it can be accomplished in as much detail as you feel necessary with the aid of time-and-motion type studies.