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Why database tuning, and revisiting the queries, indexes, and reports are important for a high-performance LIMS system?

Why database tuning, and revisiting the queries, indexes, and reports are important for a high-performance LIMS system?

A LIMS system that is unresponsive is a major concern for lab users, and it is the responsibility of IT to ensure that the system is kept in excellent condition. Database tuning and revisiting queries and indexes are essential for achieving high performance in a LIMS (Laboratory Information Management System). Once in year LIMS system must be tested for performance. IT teams must communicate and conduct workshops with their business to identify performance bottlenecks.  I call it the “LIMS performance checklist” Here it is

  1. Database tuning: Over time, as the database grows and more data is added, the performance of the database can degrade. Database tuning involves optimizing the configuration of the database to ensure that it is running at its best. This may involve adjusting settings such as memory allocation, storage configurations, and other parameters to improve performance. Without regular tuning, the database can become slow and unresponsive, which can negatively impact the performance of the LIMS system.
  2. Query optimization: The queries used to retrieve data from the database can have a significant impact on performance. Poorly written queries can take a long time to execute, and may even cause the database to crash if they are too resource-intensive. Regularly revisiting queries and optimizing them to improve performance can help ensure that the LIMS system is responsive and fast.
  3. Index optimization: Indexes are used to speed up database queries by allowing the database to quickly locate specific data. However, if indexes are not optimized, they can actually slow down queries by requiring the database to perform additional operations. Regularly revisiting and optimizing indexes can help ensure that queries are executed as efficiently as possible, leading to improved performance of the LIMS system.
  4. Data growth: As data is added to the LIMS system, the database can become slower and less responsive. Regularly revisiting the database schema and making updates to optimize performance can help ensure that the system continues to perform well as the amount of data grows.
  5. Reports: Badly constructed reports gobble up all the CPU power. An report that takes more than 1 min will frustrate all the lab users and they develop hate
  • Reducing the amount of data: Narrowing down the date range and applying filters can reduce the amount of data that needs to be processed, which can significantly improve the performance of the report. By limiting the amount of data that needs to be retrieved and processed, the report can be generated more quickly, leading to faster and more efficient performance.
  • Reducing server load: When generating reports, Crystal Reports can put a significant load on the server. By reducing the amount of data that needs to be processed, the load on the server can be reduced, leading to improved overall system performance.
  • Reducing network traffic: When running a report, Crystal Reports retrieves data from the database and sends it over the network to the client machine. By reducing the amount of data that needs to be retrieved and sent, network traffic can be reduced, leading to improved performance and a better user experience.
  • Improving data accuracy: Narrowing down the date range and applying filters can also improve the accuracy of the data presented in the report. By focusing on a specific subset of data, it’s easier to identify any errors or discrepancies in the data, leading to more accurate and reliable results.

In summary, regular database tuning, reports and revisiting queries and indexes are essential for maintaining a high-performance LIMS system. By optimizing the database and fine-tuning queries and indexes, labs can ensure that the LIMS system remains fast, responsive, and efficient, even as data grows and the demands on the system increase

How to allocate a budget for a LIMS team consisting of 2 LIMS Developers and Testers?

Budgeting for a LIMS developer will depend on several factors such as the complexity of the LIMS, the experience level of the developer, the duration of the project, and the location of the developer.

In general, LIMS development projects can range from a few months to several years, with costs varying from a few thousand dollars to hundreds of thousands of dollars. Typically, experienced LIMS developers can charge anywhere from $75 to $200 per hour, depending on their level of expertise and location. LIMS testers would charge anywhere from $60 to $110 depending on their level of expertise

To budget for a LIMS team, project managers should consider the following factors:

Project scope: Determine the scope of the project, including the number of features and functionalities required in the LIMS.

Developer experience: Look for developers with experience in developing LIMS systems or similar software.

Tester experience: Look for testers with negative testing experience and have extensive experience in interpreting FRS and convert them to test scripts.

Project duration: Estimate the duration of the project, including the development, testing, and deployment phases.

Hourly rate: Decide on an hourly rate based on the developer’s experience level and location.

Contingency: Plan for contingencies, such as additional features or unforeseen delays.

Based on these factors, project managers can estimate the total cost of the project and allocate a budget for the LIMS developer. It is also important to regularly monitor the budget throughout the project to ensure that it stays on track and adjust it as necessary.

Here’s a sample budget calculation for a project (only Dev) with 2 Developers and 3 Testers:

Determine the project scope and duration:
Project scope: Develop a LIMS system with multiple features and functionalities

Project duration: 12 months

Estimate the hourly rates for the LIMS Developers and Testers:

LIMS Developer hourly rate: $150
Tester hourly rate: $80

Calculate the total hours required for the project:
2 LIMS Developers x 40 hours per week x 52 weeks = 4,160 hours
3 Testers x 40 hours per week x 52 weeks = 6,240 hours
Total project hours = 10,400 hours

Calculate the total cost for the project:
LIMS Developer cost: 4,160 hours x $150 per hour = $624,000
Tester cost: 6,240 hours x $80 per hour = $499,200
Total project cost = $1,123,200

Include contingency and other costs:
Contingency (10%): $112,320
Other costs (e.g. hardware, software licenses, project management): $100,000

Total project budget = $1,335,520

Note: This is just a sample budget calculation for US based team, and actual costs may vary.

How can you achieve user support and ensure 100% user adoption following the implementation of a LIMS system?

Gaining user support and 100% user adoption is critical for the successful implementation of a LIMS software in a QC lab. Here are some best practices to achieve user support and adoption:

Involve users in the selection process: Involve key stakeholders and end-users in the LIMS selection and Design process. Solicit their input and feedback on their specific needs and requirements. This will help ensure that the selected LIMS software meets the lab’s needs and gain user support from the outset.

Establish clear workflows: Establish clear and concise workflows to ensure that all users understand their roles and responsibilities. This will help ensure that users know what they need to do and when, reducing the risk of errors and confusion.

Find the bugs: IT team (Dev & Testing) and support team must find and fix the bugs before the lab user finds it.

Provide ongoing support: To ensure a successful implementation of the LIMS software in a QC lab, it is crucial to provide ongoing support to users. This can be done by establishing a dedicated help desk or support team that users can contact for assistance. It is important to have talented individuals who can communicate effectively with lab users, using non-technical language as much as possible. When addressing user issues or concerns, aim to provide permanent fixes rather than temporary workarounds, which can negatively impact the perception of the software. By providing ongoing support, users can feel confident in their ability to use the software and can rely on the support team to address any issues that may arise.

Encourage feedback: Encourage users to provide feedback on the LIMS software’s performance, features, and usability. This will help identify areas for improvement and ensure that users feel involved in the process. Establish incentives to encourage user adoption, such as recognition, rewards, or bonuses. This can help motivate users to learn the software and use it consistently.

Provide comprehensive training: Provide comprehensive training to all users to ensure they understand the software’s features, functions, and benefits. Offer training on an ongoing basis, so users can refresh their skills and learn new features as they are added.

In summary, It is essential to make users feel involved in the process, comprehensive training and ongoing support, establish clear workflows, encourage feedback, establish incentives

-Kat Ganesan

What is LIMS?

A Laboratory Information Management System (LIMS) is a software-based solution that can help labs effectively manage laboratory data, thereby increasing the efficiency of various lab operations. A LIMS acts as an interface between the laboratory staff and the database where all the information is stored.

LIMS entered the market of supporting technologies in the 1980s. The first in-house LIMS was developed by large organizations for handling some of the basic lab operations like data retrieval and reporting. Later, the remarkable progress in Information Technology, specifically the introduction of a personal computer, gave birth to the commercial client/server LIMS. Today, a LIMS has become a necessity for every lab interested to electronically manage data, automate workflows, and enhance efficiency.

Why use a LIMS?

In today’s competitive era, every other lab is striving to produce the best results possible from a technical point of view. They need to reduce turnaround time, enhance customer satisfaction, and meet the regulatory requirements of their industry.

The main focus of a LIMS is to increase the efficiency of lab operations by reducing manual tasks. Each LIMS available in the market today may vary from each other depending on the LIMS vendor and the target industry. Some of the core lab functionalities that a LIMS typically takes care of includes:

  • Sample management
    • Storage management
    • Lab inventory management (reagents, analytical instruments, etc.)
    • Workflow management
    • Work allocation
    • Report and Invoice generation
    • Instrument integration

How to choose a LIMS?

Selecting a LIMS that best meets your requirements has become difficult than ever due to a number of options available in the LIMS market. So how do you go about deciding which LIMS is right for your lab?

Some of the factors to consider while choosing a LIMS are:

Industry Type: The type of industry under which your lab functions or your lab type (QA/QC or R&D) is a very important factor to consider while choosing a LIMS. This can help you decide the LIMS that will support your lab environment. There is a diverse range of LIMS available, most of which are customized per the workflows or the regulations followed by the various industries (for example, food and beverage, cannabis, clinical research, etc). Therefore, every aspect of the lab including data management, workflow automation, and regulatory requirements should be considered while selecting a LIMS.

IT Infrastructure: The decision to implement a LIMS typically depends on the coordination between different departments, involving not only the lab but also the IT department. It is important that the IT department must have the infrastructure to support the LIMS deployment. Alternatively, the lab can consider choosing a cloud-based LIMS that can be easily accessed, 24×7, using any internet-ready device, without support from IT personnel.

Budget: It is one of the most important factors that govern the LIMS selection process. The core responsibility of a lab is the generation of quality data under the estimated budget and time. It is advisable to choose a LIMS that does not require huge capital investment.

In short, choosing a LIMS requires careful consideration of the various factors that could influence its successful and sustainable deployment and use.

Benefits of a LIMS

  • Some of the key benefits of a LIMS are:
    • Enables workflow automation, thereby eliminating human errors
    • Enables flexible configuration/setup
    • Centralizes access and storage of quality control data
    • Facilitates labs to meet regulatory compliance
    • Tracks laboratory inventory
    • Enables downstream data analysis

Conclusion

Industries, such as food and beverage, healthcare, cannabis, clinical, biobanking, etc., are evolving with time. The challenges that arise in the path of these industries with respect to data management are also never-ending. Massive amounts of data can cause significant data management problems and solutions are needed to manage it. One such data management solution is a LIMS. However, selecting a LIMS is not an easy job. It requires careful consideration of several factors such as requirements, budget, IT infrastructure, etc. A well-defined LIMS is central to a range of lab operations which ensures enhanced productivity and high-quality data. Additionally, it should be able to manage various documents required during audits. To conclude, a LIMS is a solution that can yield great profits if employed correctly.

Time to Implement LIMS?

A Laboratory Information Management System or LIMS is a software application that automates the proceedings of a laboratory, right from the intake of a sample, through its entire life cycle in the laboratory. In plain words, LIMS is an upgrade from spreadsheets, which cannot safeguard against human errors. Automation not only reduces errors but also increases the speed and efficiency of laboratory operations. Some of the key benefits of LIMS include:

  1. Saving time spent in maintaining records.
  2. Easy data traceability and accessibility.
  3. Elimination of human errors and improved efficiency.

In short, implementing a LIMS saves time, money, and effort. Your laboratory personnel is not drowning in entering data manually and maintaining them correctly, thus enabling them to focus more on their research. That roughly translates into more business and profit capital for the laboratories.

Is it Time to Implement a LIMS?

Now that we understand what a LIMS is and what benefits it offers, the next question that arises is when to start using one. Before we address the elephant in the room, here are a few questions for your consideration:

Are you meeting the turnaround time for your processes? In other words are your laboratory personnel able to meet all the steps listed in your SOP’s without deviations and delays in process execution and validation?

  1. Is your laboratory personnel spending too much time managing daily transactions and maintaining documentation of transactional processes?
  2. Is your business facing losses due to erroneous test reports?
  3. Is data-retrievability a major issue for your day to day laboratory operations?
  4. Are you able to maintain data integrity, meet customer expectations and deadlines and take major decisions simultaneously?

Any laboratory investing in a LIMS needs to ask these questions to themselves. Each of these questions roughly translates into a telltale sign that it is high time for your laboratory to implement a LIMS. Let’s take a closer look at these answers:

  1. If the answer to this question is no, you need to consider investing in a LIMS. Maintaining turnaround time is one of the basic requirements for the smooth running of a laboratory. Your personnel should be able to refer and follow set SOPs without deviations and difficulties.
  2. If you are thinking no to this question as well, here is your sign number 2. Daily transactions and documentations, while highly important activities, should not make up for the bulk of your personnel’s responsibilities or job roles.
  3. A yes here means you are close to tough times. Erroneous test reports translate to lost business opportunities. Errors in reports often rise from manual data entry and human intervention. A LIMS automates this, thus eliminating error percentage.
  4. Pulling up data easily saves time. Time is money and thus, needs to be saved. A LIMS stores all data in one place, making retrieval easy.
  5. Fast decision making is critical for improved business transactions. Another requirement is meeting customer expectations by providing service at par with the industry standards.

Conclusion

The questions discussed above and the answers that followed each point in a direction that says what an ideal laboratory operation looks like and what could be done to achieve it. There are multiple parameters to consider while implementing a LIMS. If the questions discussed above apply to your facility, it may be time you start looking into a LIMS to automate your laboratory workflow and choose a vendor that best fits your requirements.

Choosing a LIMS

Choosing a LIMS is complex, but NXG is here to help. With the most modern platform, industry accelerators, and comprehensive services, it’s never been easier to deploy a solution that meets your needs.

The basic function of a LIMS is to track samples and store sample workflow related information from the time it enters a laboratory until it is disposed. In this blog, we highlight some important factors to be considered while evaluating a LIMS solution for your laboratory. Finding a LIMS with desired features requires several factors to be considered, right from the deployment process, services offered, customization costs, and support and training packages offered by the vendor.

Here are some important factors that must be considered while selecting a LIMS:

Technology

When choosing a LIMS platform, technology plays a significant role. A LIMS built on a technology platform that serves as an enabler and helps in the implementation process is much more conducive to your laboratory environment than a LIMS built on archaic platform. A solution that enables to scale, is flexible and leaves a small IT footprint is a robust solution to your operational needs.

Security

It is important that the data is accessed by authorized users, at the appropriate authorization level. Provision should be made that even if there is a breach, the data still cannot be extracted since it is encrypted at rest as well. If the solution is a web based LIMS, should be hosted on AICPA developed, SOC compliant world class infrastructure along with multi-layered application level security. Additionally, ensure that regular database backups are taken and stored in a geographically distant data center for seamless data recovery in case of man-made or natural disasters.

Regulatory Compliance

Some of the regulatory bodies and guidelines laboratories need to follow are – ISO 17025:2017, ISO 9001:2015, HIPAA, GMP AND GAMP, EPA, FDA, USDA, GFSI, FSMA, CLIA. Please check if the LIMS you choose helps you follow and therefore comply with the guidelines applicable to your laboratory.

Price

You may need to consider the license cost, third party tools that may need to installed, customization charges, installation fee, hosting charges, technical support provided, cost of upgrades and the services the LIMS vendor offers.

Configuration

Configurability enables a LIMS to be modified to mirror laboratory workflows by altering screen designs, menu designs, terminology, report design etc. without the need for a software customization project than needs engineers to write code and modify the product. Configuration enables a LIMS to adopt to the changing operations and business requirements of a laboratory and can be done by laboratory personnel themselves instead of hiring a vendor to do so for them. A LIMS that offers configuration tools should be preferred since it saves on costly customization that require a large budgetary allocation.

Custom Reports

Reporting is an indispensable part of a LIMS because it enables users to get a clear picture of collected data and potential trends. The selected LIMS software should provide custom reporting templates based on your requirements and facilitate professional custom report generation by enabling you to add signatures, company logo, user notes, and images with a caption.

Do cross check all rating and reviews before buying a LIMS.