Mar 4, 2024 7:37:51 PM | Blog Seeking a LIMS for Your Lab? Understand the True Costs of Different Options

A period of rapid growth is an exciting time for any laboratory. But it can also expose unexpected challenges that can only be solved by implementing a laboratory information management system (LIMS).

If your lab is searching for a LIMS for the first time or you need to upgrade your existing system to one with more flexible and expanded capabilities, there are many variables to think about — cost being one of the most important.

Before you decide which solution is best for your lab, let’s examine some of the challenges you are likely facing, the true costs of four LIMS options, and the significant benefits of an all-in-one solution.

Types of challenges uncovered by growth

If your lab business is expanding, you might have begun to experience data management challenges. For labs processing a high volume of samples, for example, managing the resulting data can become overwhelming. This can be especially true if your lab still uses manual record-keeping (such as spreadsheets) or relies on several electronic systems. Either of these methods can lead to data loss and errors.

Manual processing can also lead to workflow inefficiencies, bottlenecks, resource waste, and reduced sample throughput. Also, as your lab’s operations become more complex, you might find that a system that works well for a smaller volume of work cannot be scaled effectively.

Sample tracking and inventory management can also become issues. Manually tracking the status and location of samples is prone to error and can lead to sample loss or mix-ups. At the same time, managing reagents, consumables, and other inventory manually can lead to shortages, overstocking, and increased costs.

Many laboratories use a variety of instruments and software applications, which may not communicate well with each other, leading to integration problems and data silos. These fragmented systems can also result in reporting and analysis difficulties, which can make it difficult for labs to meet their regulatory compliance and quality control obligations.

Finally, customer and stakeholder communication can become slow and inconsistent when labs increase their throughput while using manual processes. This puts the lab’s reputation at risk.

Four LIMS options and their associated costs

A LIMS can help labs address all these challenges by improving lab efficiency and reducing errors. However, the type of LIMS you select can have a huge impact on your lab’s profitability.

You can choose to buy a traditional off-the-shelf system, build one from scratch, stitch together several applications, or invest in a highly configurable all-in-one solution. Each option will have the inherent costs of setting up a LIMS and the potential costs you might incur over the lifetime of the LIMS, which you will have to weigh before deciding.

1. Buy a traditional off-the-shelf LIMS

Many LIMS vendors declare that their applications can be deployed “off the shelf” or “out of the box”. However, this is rarely the case. Every lab comes with a unique set of requirements and complexities that change over time as the business evolves. That means they often have to add customizations to support their specific workflows. They will also need to perform software updates to access new features and resolve security vulnerabilities.

In terms of costs, key questions to ask include:

  • How much does the LIMS cost off the shelf?
  • What is the long-term cost of keeping this system up and running, including periodic maintenance and manual work to deploy upgrades?
  • Will this system allow the business to be agile when there are advancements in science, business growth, or shifting regulations? 
  • How much will it cost to implement customizations or add new capabilities to meet business needs?

Other costs might be less easy to assess upfront. Most traditional LIMS do not readily offer integrated inventory management that is connected to laboratory workflows. Because of this limitation, many labs use spreadsheets and chase paper to monitor the vital components of laboratory operations — such as consumables, reagents, and instruments.

Imagine a scenario where your lab runs out of a consumable because no one was alerted to reorder it. Or imagine the cost of over-purchasing reagents because you have not accurately measured stock in volume (for example, although the label specifies 10 uses, the volume is sufficient for 11 uses). 

Other potential costs to consider include: 

  • Decreased productivity.
  • Being offline.
  • Throwing out expired reagents or unnecessary waste.
  • Using expired reagents.
  • Using an instrument that is out of calibration.
  • Delivering poor quality.
  • Damaging your reputation.
  • Losing a client.
  • Not being able to scale.

2. Build a custom solution

Some labs opt to build their own LIMS. They believe that the cost of customizing an off-the-shelf LIMS is as burdensome as hiring developers to build a completely new solution. Furthermore, they think that this option would give them complete control to match the software to their requirements and workflows.

In terms of costs, key questions to ask include:

  • What will it cost to build and maintain a custom solution?
  • Can we find talent with the skills needed to build a LIMS?
  • What will hiring and retaining that talent cost?

Other potential costs to consider include:

  • How to implement guardrails to ensure the system remains efficient over time as new features are added and maintenance performed, and what it will cost if these guardrails fail.
  • What it will cost if the team cannot deploy changes in a timely manner or if talent with critical skills and knowledge of the system leaves the company.

3. Stitch together multiple solutions

Other labs choose to purchase multiple software applications and combine them. A common issue with these types of systems is that they are not well integrated. They often require that users navigate between many screens and search for information across multiple applications to complete a task. Plus, they can lead to duplicated effort, inefficiencies, and errors.

In terms of costs, key questions to ask include:

  • What will it cost to purchase multiple applications?
  • How much will it cost to build and maintain over time custom integrations between the applications?

Other potential costs to consider include:

  • Reduced productivity.
  • Time away from testing and other higher-value activities to perform simple, repetitive tasks that could be automated. 
  • The length of time it will take to generate reports out of data from different sources.

4. Buy a highly configurable all-in-one solution with professional services

A modern approach to LIMS implementation is a truly all-in-one solution that can be configured to meet your business requirements and workflows. If the solution is well supported by the vendor, you can expect a solution that better meets your lab’s unique needs and supports increased productivity, fewer errors, and faster turnaround time. You should also see decreased waste due to never over-ordering reagents and having to discard them, and easier accreditation and compliance.

In terms of costs, key questions to ask include:

  • What is the initial upfront cost of purchasing the system?
  • How much will it cost for ongoing improvements, performed by either internal staff or external professional services?

Other potential costs should be significantly less in this scenario due to the system’s high degree of configurability and the fact that maintenance costs are already accounted for.

The right type of LIMS offers many benefits 

A full-featured, scalable LIMS can put your lab in a stronger position for further growth and increased revenue. Specifically, it can:

  • Streamline data entry, storage, and retrieval, reducing errors and improving accessibility.
  • Provide comprehensive sample tracking capabilities, from collection to disposal, ensuring traceability and integrity.
  • Automate workflows, schedule resources, and track samples in real time, leading to improved efficiency and productivity.
  • Adapt to increasing workloads and complex workflows, facilitating growth without sacrificing performance.
  • Integrate disparate systems into a cohesive platform, improving data flow and decision-making.
  • Automate report generation, provide customizable templates, and allow for real-time data analysis.
  • Monitor inventory levels, track expiration dates, and automate reordering, ensuring that the lab operates smoothly.
  • Help maintain compliance through audit trails, quality control processes, and standard operating procedures.
  • Provide secure, online access to reports and real-time data for clients, enhancing transparency and customer satisfaction.
  • Enhance business reputation and institutional trust.

Labbit is an all-in-one solution that has been developed to embrace this philosophy. With configurable modules to support labs’ various workflows, it offers all these and more. It uses business process model and notation (BPMN) and is built on a knowledge graph database, which significantly reduces the time and resources required to implement and adapt the LIMS to evolving needs.

With a simple user interface, it’s an end-to-end solution that is easy to learn (requiring a shorter training time) and more efficient (with fewer clicks, less navigating between screens, and faster searching). It permanently captures data and includes full data provenance. When integrated with automated inventory management, Labbit can also help ensure there is enough inventory and calibrated equipment to keep the lab operating.

As you evaluate the different LIMS options and your potential return on investment (ROI), it’s important to remember that the true costs include not only the original price tag but also ongoing maintenance, integrations, customizations, and usability, and the true return is an increase in lab productivity. An all-in-one LIMS is a cost-effective solution that can enable your lab’s profitability and success.

Ready to learn more about Labbit? Book time with a member of our team for a personalized demo.





Written By: Labbit