LabLynx LiMS Features

The LabLynx ELab LIMS is a platform-based, cloud-hosted, comprehensive Laboratory Information Management System (LIMS), which can also be configured to be a patient-centric LIS for medical/clinical applications.

LIMS functionality in general is an evolving concept, with new features and abilities being introduced every year. And LabLynx has been the foremost leader in the advancement of LIMS for over 20 years, from a simple sample tracking app to essentially a full-featured, cloud-based ERP for the laboratory, managing every aspect of all the data involved in running today's laboratories.

Here is a list of the many functions and features the LabLynx ELab LIMS/LIS brings to your lab:


Contents

Sample, inventory, and data management

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Sample login and management

Sample (material, specimen, etc.) accessioning (medical) or receiving and management is one of the core functions any LIMS is tasked with, whether it's in a manufacturing, water treatment, clinical, research, forensic, pharmaceutical or any other type of laboratory. For instance, researchers are unable to complete their experiment-based goals without an effective method of generating and managing samples. ELab's process of sample login and management includes, but is not limited to:

  • storing related sample information, including aliquot (sample fraction) numbers, dates, containers, collector, subject/patient, product line, any external links, etc.
  • assign tests/assays
  • automatic sample statuses
  • setting user alerts for sample status
  • creating and documenting viewable sample container schemas with name and status
  • assigning sample access rights
  • assigning custom unique sample IDs
  • configurable receiving/accessioning screens, capable of capturing the information you require
  • the ability to designate any data fields as required or optional
  • ability to generate and print sample labels any time
  • pre-logging
  • automatic scheduled samples
  • ability to add, change or cancel tests

Additional ELab functionality that could potentially fall under this feature:

  • barcoding of samples
  • defining sample points and series
  • creating data associations for samples, such as pedigree for sample/aliquot relationships or relationships based on experiment, study/project, client, collection point, insurance information, etc.
  • issuing sample receipts
  • client or physician web portal for test requests/orders and sample submission (also status, reporting, etc.)
  • bulk sample receiving
  • sample pooling, composite samples
  • filter available tests by sample type, ICD code, etc.
  • ability to assign groups of tests/assays as quickly as a single test
  • duplicate samples, tests (auto-assign unique IDs)

Sample tracking

Where's sample 20110512_122GJH? Sample tracking functionality will let you know which lab oven it's in.
For most laboratory personnel, knowing that a sample has arrived to the lab isn't good enough; they need to know where it's located and what actions are being performed on it at any given time. Enter the sample tracking feature. Without it, many problems arise. In the forensic world, for example, many samples are linked to a criminal investigation. In this case, mis-identification, contamination, or duplication can become significant issues: a lost sample is essentially missing evidence, while a duplicated sample can render it useless as evidence.

Sample login/receiving/accessioning features really provide the basis for sample tracking to a great extent. After sample reception and its initial handling procedures, our ELab LIMS can then track sample location as well as chain of custody. Location tracking usually involves assigning the sample to a particular freezer or cabinet location, even down to the granular level of shelf, rack, box, row, and column. The process of tracking a sample has become more streamlined with increasing support of barcode and radio frequency ID (RFID) technology. While handwritten labels used to be the norm, barcode and RFID support in ELab can tie together a vast amount of information, clearly relating each sample to a specific case, project, patient, submitter, sample point etc. Other event tracking such as freeze and thaw cycles or test process steps that a sample undergoes in the laboratory may also be required. As each laboratory's needs for tracking additional data points can vary widely, the modern ELab LIMS has implemented extensive configurability to compensate for varying environments. Any sample can be called up in the system by any related criteria to see all details, including location, status, etc.

The functionality of sample tracking strongly ties into the audit trail and chain of custody features of a LIMS.

Sample and result batching

Path Definition with Time-Based Criteria.png
What is batching? The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) defines a batch as "a group of samples which behave similarly with respect to the sampling or testing procedures being employed and which are processed as a unit." This definition can be applied to many laboratories which handle large quantities of samples for some form of analysis or processing. The LabLynx ELab LIMS has the ability to check in, link, and track groups of samples throughout their assigned test processes as well as across multiple facilities (including outsourced labs). Additionally, batching the analysis results of multiple samples or groups of samples gives laboratories more flexibility with how you manage your data. Batching also offers the benefit of mimicking the production groups of samples while also capturing quality control data for the entire group.

Batches generally are created according to the test process step that is common to more than one sample. They can be created manually at any time or automatically. In defining a test, ELab allows you to specify a sequence of process steps (batches) the sample must undergo, in a specified sequence and even with time constraints for each and overall. For example, if a sample type has a finite shelf life, the test may specify a "finish by" date or duration. Or "no later than" values in minutes/hours/days for each step, counting from a defined point (end of last step/batch, sample collection datetime, etc.).

Batches can also specify instrument and materials used (eg. reagents, etc.), and analyst. As shown in the screenshot here, batches are grouped into a Path that defines the process steps, their sequence and other criteria for a given test. The ELab LIMS makes sure each is performed as specified. A sample may not move forward to the next process step until the previous one has been completed. Additionally, it does allow for steps to be "not required", allowing flexibility in your workflows.

Task and event scheduling

Within the context of a LIMS, the ability to schedule a task or event is a natural extension of how work was done in a laboratory before the advent of data management systems. Workloads are assigned to technicians, maintenance schedules are created and followed, and any deadlines must be observed. While these tasks have in the past been performed without LIMS, LabLynx's modern data information management system can now optimize those tasks and provide additional scheduling functionality to streamline the operation of a lab. ELab, for example, offers a scheduling module for its LIMS that allows users to automatically schedule multiple jobs, data backups, alarms, and reports. Additional functionality within this feature includes the ability to configure automated assignments of analysis requests, establish recurring events, and in most cases, create printable schedules.

Examples of tasks and events that can feasibly be scheduled in a LIMS include:

  • registration of received samples into the system
  • production of reports
  • creation and sending of e-mails and alerts
  • maintenance of equipment
  • assignment of workloads to personnel

Any event can be either scheduled or triggered by another event.

Option for manual result entry

While many LIMS vendors tout the ability of their product to automate the entry of results into the LIMS database, the need for manual data entry of analysis results still exists. ELab allows for manual entry by default. This feature is important to laboratories obtaining analysis results from multiple sources, including non-digital paper-based results and instruments that can't be connected to the LIMS. Additional functionality associated with this feature includes a customizable spell check dictionary and the ability to add comments, notes, and narratives to most anything in the LIMS.

Multiple data viewing methods

Laboratories produce data, and LIMS exist to help manage those data. Additionally, even before the existence of LIMS software, scientists have had a corresponding need for visually representing data. Today, our ELab LIMS can not only collect and analyze data from samples, but also represent those data in reports, graphs, gradients and spreadsheets. Users can simply call up results in the data entry screen, view reports, look at control charts, retrieve a set of records using multiple search criteria and export them as a spreadsheet in real time or view in some other, custom fashion.

Data and trend analysis

Analyze sample data directly from the software or export to 3rd party application.
Sample experimentation and analysis play an important part in laboratory informatics, helping laboratories make better sense of their testing and reach valuable conclusions about them. While this important phase of laboratory work has often been done externally from the LIMS, it's now common to see data analysis tools being included. Such tools allow raw instrument data as well as other imported and internal LIMS data to be analyzed, which then can be stored, processed, and reported on. Additionally, in ELab, built-in calculations and functions used in the analysis are definable and editable for further flexibility, and custom calculations and functions are able to be made by the end user. Additionally, the included reporting tool also supports calculations as well as logic. Calculations can include results from other analyses.

As with the feature "multiple data viewing methods," data and trend analysis is also increasingly important in laboratories that have specialized data management needs. When even in 2009 genetic scientists in large- and medium-sized sequencing and core centers were voicing concerns about "a lack of adequate vendor-supported software and laboratory information management systems (LIMS)" that had the necessary analytical features, today's data management options, like Elab, readily offer data analysis tools for a diverse array of laboratory types.


Data and equipment sharing

Labvia-5.png
Aside from data storage and sample registration, a modern LIMS' major contribution to the laboratory is aiding in the sharing of test results, reports, and other data types with those who need it most. Rather than pieces of information becoming misplaced or forgotten in laboratory notebooks, the LabLynx ELab LIMS makes it easier to share sample test results and increase the efficiency of collaboration inside and outside the laboratory. Yet data are more than just sample test results; they also come in the form of charts, reports, policy and procedure documents, and other document types. Additionally, the need for controlling who has access to these and other types of data is also an important consideration. As such, this feature is at least partially tied to other features like document management and configurable security. Our exclusive LabVia interfacing system uses web services, NodeRed and custom configurations to connect and share any types of data between any instruments/devices, applications, databases, web portals, etc. in secure and reliable fashion.

Customizable fields and/or interface

As thorough as some user interface (UI) developers may be in adding relevant fields and interface options for LIMS end users, there are at times options that are either omitted or unanticipated. This has traditionally required the end user to contact the vendor and ask if the needed option(s) can be added in the next release. However, our modern LIMS was designed from the start to include flexible configuration functionality that gives end users and/or LIMS administrators more control over the user interface, including the addition and customization of user fields and inputs.

Aspects of the ELab LIMS' user interface that are customizable by the end user include:

  • system nomenclature
  • equations used in calculations
  • data and universal fields
  • hide/display/rename fields, buttons, etc. (this can be user profile-driven)
  • designate mandatory fields
  • data tables
  • appearance of the interface, each screen and/or menus
  • primary system language
  • the LIMS source code, (non-proprietary format)

Increasingly, today's vendors tend to refer to their systems as being "configurable" rather than "customizable." Vendors such as LabLynx include screen editing and other tools that administrators can use to configure the various screens, data fields, nomenclature, etc. of the LIMS. By far the greatest part of ELab setup is user-end configuration rather than costly and time-consuming development.

Query capability

Advanced query tools allow users to better complete project objectives.
As was the case before the advent of databases and electronic data management solutions, today scientists must search through sample results, experiment or project notes and other types of data to better draw conclusions about their work. Whereas this used to mean browsing through laboratory notebooks, Excel spreadsheets, or Access databases, now powerful query tools exists within data management tools like the ELab LIMS. Not only can data be searched based on name, number, or client, but ELab allows for queries of attached metadata like user ID, project number, task number, sample type, location, collection date - in fact you can determine the available data fields to use in searches for each screen. Finally, as LIMS continue to include both sample management and test and project data management functionality, queries become more powerful in general as now sample and experiment can be matched together in one database.

Query functionality includes the ability to:

  • search both transactional data and archived data tables
  • search multiple databases via an application programming interface (API) or open database connectivity (ODBC) connection
  • filter and sort data
  • create ad hoc real-time or automated queries
  • send queried data to a report or other destination

Import data

Data can originate from numerous places in the laboratory or outside. The ability to import those data into the LIMS can be beneficial, especially when an instrument can't be connected or an external client provides a data feed independent of the LIMS. The LabLynx LIMS even allows users to cross-reference laboratory nomenclature from received data sources with the recipient's. And of course our LabVia instrument interfacing allows for even more importation options. Additional data validation procedures may be applied to the imported data to guarantee information homogeneity. The LIMS also allows for the import of non-normalized legacy data tables and integration with LIMS data tables to form a single unified database.

However, potential buyers should understand that in the case of data migration - the importing of your legacy data from a previous system - requires extra vigilance. The condition of the data is crucial to effective migration. Often the ability to cleanly, completely, and reliably import your data into the new system can require a significant number of work hours to ensure clean, properly formatted data be successfully imported - and not bring over errors you would prefer not to continue to encounter.

Internal file or data linking

This feature allows LIMS users to link together reports, protocols, sample results, and more, providing greater contextual clarity to projects. Examples include:

  • linking a sample batch to a test or sample preparation methodology
  • linking a test process to a particular customer
  • linking a report to a sample batch
  • linking a group of test results to a raw data file
  • linking an image to a work order
  • linking all lab results with the correct reporting test method
  • linking data forms created offline (remote data collection) to the submitted data in the system

External file or data linking

This feature allows LIMS users to link together data and files in the LIMS with data, files, and customers outside the domain of the LIMS. Examples include:

  • linking external file attachments—such as images and documents—to a LIMS record
  • linking data files from chromatography equipment to synthesis data
  • linking external standard operating procedure documents with an internal test specification

ELN support or integration

As a software replacement for more traditional paper laboratory notebooks, the electronic laboratory notebook (ELN) has been important to laboratory functions. Yet the lines between ELN and LIMS began to blur in the 2000s, with both types of software incorporating features from the other. More than a decade later, the ELN has become more distinct in purpose and functionality and is typically sold as a stand-alone solution. Despite this, some vendors have integrated ELN functionality into their LIMS in order to provide greater flexibility especially to researchers. Other vendors choose to keep the ELN as a separately managed solution but one that can easily integrate with a LIMS solution.

The LabLynx ELab LIMS has full ELN functionality available as part of your complete LIMS solution, or we can integrate another ELN of your choice if you prefer.

Export to MS Excel

While Microsoft Excel had long been used within the laboratory setting, a slow shift towards relational databases and LIMS occurred in the late 1990s and early 2000s. Additional concerns with the difficulties of Excel's validation and compliance with FDA 21 CFR Part 11 and other regulations ultimately led many labs to turn to data management solutions that are easier to validate. Several decades later, some laboratories continue to use Excel in some fashion, and thus having a LIMS capable of handling Excel data remains useful. The LabLynx ELab LIMS helps you make the upgrade to real LIMS functionality, while remaining friendly to spreadsheets like Excel. In particular, selecting and exporting the ELab LIMS' data (from test results to quality control charts) into a format such as Excel may further data visualization, insights, and dissemination for some users. Users can do this for any list screen in real time, using multiple criteria to call up the set of data, or have it automated according to a schedule or event.

Raw data management

ELab also manages raw data. While not described as a feature on most LIMS vendor websites, a few indicate that their LIMS is capable of managing (import, export, editing, etc.) data in their raw format for future analysis. These raw data are typically implied to be originating from instruments that interface with the LIMS, which in itself is not unusual. Those raw data may remain housed in instruments, getting transformed into reportable data in the LIMS, but presumably most LIMS are also capable of housing the raw instrument data as well. Labs may also turn to scientific data management systems to better manage their raw data sources.

Data warehouse

The LabLynx ELab LIMS' data warehouse serves the important function of storing, extracting, and managing the data that laboratories produce for the purposes or analysis, reporting, and process management, typically separate from the primary storage database. Our data warehouse also offers the benefit of speeding up queries, making queries and data mining more user-friendly, and smoothing out data gaps.

Deadline control

Deadline control is functionality within the ELab LIMS that allows users to manage and be notified of events that occur within the laboratory. With this functionality users can also be notified of upcoming deadlines on anything from sample analysis or inventory item expiration to license renewal.

Note that this functionality may also feasibly fall under the task and event scheduling or alarms features. As deadline control seems to be advertised as a notable feature by only a few vendors, it seems even more likely that this functionality is practically considered part of scheduling or alarms.

Production control

There are many types of businesses that produce goods, and in most cases there is a research and development (R&D) and QC laboratory involved at some point in the process. This is especially true in the pharmaceutical and chemical industries, where production measurements such as yield, volume, activity, and impurity are vital. As LIMS have already recorded such information during tests and analysis, the addition of production control functionality seems natural. Our ELab LIMS takes a very active approach to this. Other LIMS may have less pronounced production functionality, while still offering the ability to track the production process in and out of the lab. And yet other LIMS offer robust production-based functionality but as a module or add-on to the base LIMS software.

The types of ELab functionality that may fall under this feature include:

  • recipe management
  • consumable tracking
  • batch traceability
  • production planning
  • enterprise resource planning

Finally, in production environments the LIMS is often referenced in conjunction with a manufacturing execution system (MES). The MES is used for tracking and documenting how raw materials are transformed into finished products, as well as optimizing the various workflows in the production processes. If required, ELab readily interfaces with your MES for quality testing, management, and statistical analysis.

Project and/or task management

Project and task management typically involves the scheduling of tasks to workers and organizing associated tasks into a more cohesive unit for better tracking and management. While the functionality of task and event scheduling can also be found in project and task management, the ELab LIMS includes functionality beyond scheduling that meets project and/or task management needs. This functionality includes:

  • job allocation and rescheduling
  • instrument workload tracking
  • time tracking
  • pending workload verification
  • priority setting
  • project-based workflow management
  • sample, batch, and document linking
  • work list sharing
  • recurring event management

Inventory management

ELab's Inventory Management feature can help laboratories keep track of your stocks, standards and reagents, and even streamline reordering of them.
Laboratories use a wide array of inventory and equipment, from reagents and radiopharmaceuticals to glassware and laboratory baths. With that comes the need to know how much/many and the frequency of use. For this, our LIMS includes comprehensive inventory management functionality, including:
  • register origin, demographics of incoming materials
  • track used and in-use items via barcodes or RFID
  • track inventory reduction based on usage and shipping out of the lab
  • create alerts for when items reach a certain stock level
  • calculate inventory cost and fluctuation
  • manage transportation and routing
  • manual incrementing/decrementing of item counts
  • track location and usage of laboratory equipment
  • assign storage locations
  • track forensic evidence

Document creation and management

Standard operating procedures (SOPs), specifications, safety manuals and protocols, regulatory files, certificates, reports, graphs, images, and receipts are all collected and used in the average laboratory. The Elab LIMS already being designed to manage and store sample and experiment data, it made sense to include functionality to create, import, export, and manage other sorts of data files. As sample and experimental data can be indexed, queried, and linked, so too can documents. ELab document management functionality includes the ability to:

  • upload and index documents of most any file type and size
  • enforce version control
  • provide full text search
  • convert and/or export to PDF or other relevant formats
  • add documents as attachments to other analyses, files, projects, etc. in the system

Case management

The laboratory information system (LIS) has played an important role in the clinical case management tasks of patient-centric and clinical laboratories. However, LIMS begun taking on clinical functionality such as case management around the late 2000s, which began to effectively blur the lines between an LIS and a LIMS. Since then, many more self-proclaimed LIMS products have emerged in the clinical, public health, and veterinary industries, areas that have historically been served by LIS software. This has resulted in numerous LIMS options that offer clinical functionality such as case management. When also taking into consideration the fields of law enforcement and forensic science, case management plays an important role in some LIMS. Functionality seen in the ELab case management feature includes:

  • case accessioning and assignment
  • disease tracking
  • trend analysis
  • clinical history follow-up
  • outreach services
  • out-of-range result alerts
  • document and result association
  • evidence control
  • study management

Workflow management

Capturing workflow in the lab is becoming more commonplace for the LIMS.
Workflow management is common in the laboratory, acting as a graphical representation of planned sequential steps to either fully or partially automate a process within the lab. Separate standards-based workflow management systems (in the form of a software component) have traditionally performed this task. However, in the late 2000s LIMS vendors began incorporating workflow management functionality into their LIMS software, reducing the headaches that customization of a LIMS often brought.

Today's LabLynx ELab LIMS solution features workflow management functionality, including:

  • attribute definition of activities
  • definition of inputs and outputs of activities
  • assignment of documentation to activities
  • setting of quality control limits
  • dynamically modify workflow in case of future changes
  • receive notification of changes to the workflow
  • sending user-defined messages during the process


Specification management

Specification (spec) management is vital to not only the manufacturing and research industries but also to a host of other laboratories requiring precise measurements and infallible test methods. Just as ASTM offers standards and specs for LIMS, so too do LIMS users have standards and specs for their laboratory. With spec management in place within the ELab LIMS, laboratories can then:

  • enforce standard operating procedures and business rules
  • create specs down to a project or sample level
  • validate recipes and procedures
  • accept or reject sample batches
  • document internal and external spec history

Note that some of the functionality of spec management may cross over into the realm of quality control and data validation.

Customer and supplier management

Unless a laboratory is conducting internalized independent research, in most cases it will do business with external entities such as contract labs, sample providers, equipment providers, and reagent suppliers - as well as clients. In some cases, even internal employees may be considered a customer, necessitating documentation of who is using the system and in what ways. For a veterinary lab, the customer may be the animal and handler. For a forensic lab the customer may be more complex: internal staff, university staff, police departments, and maintainers of nationwide crime databases may all at some point act as customers. In these cases, documenting these various points of contact and linking them to samples, equipment, and tests becomes vital. Managing demographics, complaints, correspondence, and history are all features of ELab's customer management functionality. This process is made simpler through the use of a more context-neutral entity creation system, which allows for more flexible management of contacts.

This feature may also be referred to as contact management, an address book module, or a customer service module.

Billing management

While the finances of a laboratory are important, they've typically been handled separately as a business process. ELab includes an Invoicing module, which can also be expanded to include additional functionality to make handling financial transactions and documentation of all sorts possible within the LIMS. However, most clients choose to have us interface with a billing service or application already in place. Such billing features may include:

  • payment processing
  • expense reporting
  • price quotes
  • revenue cycle management
  • workload tracking of billable hours
  • bill of materials
  • grant management

 

Quality, security, and compliance

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Regulatory compliance

The topic of whether or not a LIMS meets regulatory compliance is often a complex one. While Title 21 CFR Part 11 has arguably had the largest influence on an electronic data management system's compliance, other influential standards have shaped the way LIMS and other systems handle and store data. Compliance-based codes, standards, and regulations supported by the LabLynx ELab LIMS include:

  • ASTM standards
  • ASCLD/LAB crime lab accreditation
  • Freedom of Information Act
  • GALP and GAMP
  • HIPAA
  • ICD
  • IEC 17025
  • ISO 9000/9001
  • ISO/TS 16949
  • ODBC
  • TNI and NELAP environmental lab accreditation
  • Title 40 CFR Part 3

QA/QC functions

The quality management functions of the ELab LIMS allow users to maintain a level of necessary quality across many of the activities in a laboratory. From running quality assurance tests to ensuring employed researchers are proficient at certain tasks, the QA/QC functionality is largely responsible for the output of consistent data and manufactured products in and out of the lab.

Functionality includes:

  • single or batch QA/QC tests
  • quality control charts and reports
  • proficiency testing
  • document management
  • instrument maintenance
  • data acceptance/rejection
  • certificates of analysis (COA)
  • data types defined by QC analysis

Performance evaluation

As prevalent as document management has become in LIMS, it makes sense that the ELab LIMS also provides functionality to collate and store all the documentation associated with employee training and certification. Changes to laboratory techniques, scientific understanding, and business practices force researchers to learn, reevaluate, and demonstrate competency in order to maintain quality levels in the laboratory. Evaluations can frequently extend beyond staff members, however. Clinics, visit types, vendors, or test species can also be tracked and evaluated based on custom criteria. The performance evaluation functionality of ELab makes this possible. The Training Tracking function in ELab also allows you to define the required and optional training items, their frequency and completions, and generate alerts when a given training is due.

That functionality typically includes the ability to maintain training records and history, and also to link that training to a technique or piece of equipment. Afterwards, the staff member, vendor, etc. can be marked as competent or certified in the equipment, knowledge, or process. Periodical assessment of the training and its practical effectiveness can later be performed. Productivity of an entity or process can also be gauged over a certain date range based on tracked time, pre-determined milestones, or some other criteria.

Audit trail

Whether validating sample data or an entire LIMS, maintaining an audit trail is an important part of 21 CFR Part 11 compliance. As laws and regulations like Title 21 CFR Part 11 mandate "computer systems (including hardware and software), controls, and attendant documentation" utilize electronic signatures and audit trails, LIMS developers must put serious thought into how their software handles audit trail functionality. The audit trail — documentation of the sequence of activities that have affected an action — are thoroughly and seamlessly integrated into the ELab LIMS, and it has become a mandatory feature for labs operating in regulated environments.

Information recorded in the ELab audit trail includes:

  • user name
  • date/time stamp
  • location
  • case number
  • transaction type
  • value prior to change
  • new value
  • user notes (e.g., reason for change)
  • in some cases, data in temporary memory


Chain of custody

The chain of custody (COC) of an item is of varying importance, depending on the type of laboratory. A highly regulated laboratory that works under Code of Federal Regulation or other guidelines makes tracking COC a vital part of its operations. This is especially true in forensic labs, which depend on continuous accountability of their evidence collection, retention, and disposal procedures. As with an audit trail, a laboratory depends on recorded information like user ID, time stamp, and location ID to maintain a robust and accurate COC. Barcodes, inventory management, and configurable security roles all play an important part in maintaining chain of custody. ELab's COC feature allows for full tracking, and generating of a COC form at any time.

Configurable roles and security

ELab contains full role-based security, and allows you to assign configurable access profiles to LIMS users. Many roles exist within the laboratory setting, each with its own set of responsibilities. And just as the role an individual plays within the laboratory may change, so may the responsibilities associated with each role. This sort of change necessitates a flexible and configurable security system, one that allows for the placement of individual LIMS users into defined security roles which provide role-specific access to certain LIMS functionality. Additionally, as responsibilities change within roles, that same flexible configuration is necessary for assigning or restricting access to certain LIMS functionality for each existing or newly created role.

Of course, roles aren't always assigned on an individual level. Often large groups of individuals may need to be assigned to roles, necessitating group assignments for security purposes. For example, a group of laboratory trainees may only be given read-only access to the sample login and sample tracking functionality of the system through a custom "Trainees" group role, while the head researcher of the lab may be given the "Administrator" role, which allows that individual to access most if not all of the LIMS' functionality. ELab allows for a very granular level of access allocation.

Data normalization

For the purposes of describing LIMS functionality, "data normalization" specifically refers to the process of ensuring data that moves into the LIMS is formatted in a standardized way, matching the format of existing LIMS data.

Here's an example to better explain this issue. When a LIMS is initially configured, in most if not all cases a clear standard can be set for how logged samples and their associated measurements pre- and post-analysis are recorded in the system. Perhaps all temperatures will be recorded in Celsius to two decimal places. If temperature data imported from a spreadsheet or a lab instrument is not in this format, the ELab LIMS can normalize the incoming data to match the standard already set for existing LIMS temperature data. This ensures consistency within the LIMS database and typically leads to better data validation efforts later on.

Note: Some LIMS developers may include data normalization functionality within what they may refer to as "data validation" functionality. The line between these two may be blurred or not exist at all.

Data validation

For the purposes of describing LIMS functionality, "data validation" specifically refers to the process of ensuring existing data in the LIMS — either pre-analysis or post-analysis — sufficiently meets any number of standards or thresholds set for sample login, sample analysis, or any other data management process in the LIMS. This validation process may be completely automatic and system-based, or it may also include additional steps on the part of the user base utilizing additional LIMS functionality, including verification of standard operating procedures (SOPs), QC samples, and QA approval. ELab validates data according to set criteria by default or according to your specific requirements.

Note: This functionality shouldn't be confused with the process of validating the LIMS itself, which is an entirely different process partially falling under regulatory compliance and involves the process of ensuring "the software is performing in a manner for which it was designed."

Data encryption

The existence of this functionality in LIMS software generally indicates the LIMS has the ability to protect the integrity and authenticity of its housed data through the use of a variety of technologies which makes data unreadable except to those users or systems possessing a key/right/etc. to unlock/read the data. This functionality has been important for the web-enabled LIMS, which transfers information over the internet in a quasi-client-server relationship, and it has become an increasingly vital part of cloud-based software offerings managing data in transit and at rest. As a wide variety of encryption technologies exist, it's generally a good idea to consult with the developers of a LIMS to determine the strengths and weaknesses of their employed encryption methods. LabLynx encrypts your data both at rest and in transit, helping ensure full security and compliance.

Version control

Version control is a form of safeguard which helps preserve data integrity. This is done at LabLynx by creating a modifiable new version of a piece of information rather than allowing the original to be modified. Such versioning is applied to a wide variety of digital information housed in the LIMS, including test methods, training certifications, instrument logs, specifications, and process and procedure (P&P) documentation. In LIMS like ELab, reference data can also be versioned while also retaining the original relationship between samples and test results, including the version of reference data current at the time lab testing is performed. Information tracked with such revisions includes attributes like user name, time the edit was made, and what exactly was edited. This also benefits those managing audit trails and chains of custody.

The temperature of an open cryopreservation container may be monitored on a computer via a connection to a LIMS with environmental monitoring functionality.
Some LIMS vendors may choose to employ a different form of version control called file locking, which simply puts the affected information into a read-only mode for users while someone else is busy editing it. Another popular strategy is to, rather than locking the file, allow multiple people edit to a piece of information, later merging the various edits.

Automatic data backup

The functionality of automatic data backup in a LIMS usually means information contained in one or more associated databases or data warehouses can be automatically preserved in an additional backup file. The save location for that file as well as the scheduled backup time is configurable, typically through the administrative module of the LIMS. As cloud-based LIMS have taken hold, scheduled cloud-to-cloud data backups of software data are becoming more practical. LabLynx cloud-hosted data are backed up hourly and stored in geographically separate data centers. Your data belong to you, and you can request a copy of your back-up at any time.

Environmental monitoring

Our ELab LIMS allows users to monitor the environmental conditions of not only sample storage containers but also the entire laboratory itself. Attributes like humidity, air quality, and temperature may be monitored to ensure sample storage units and experiments maintain desired conditions. Alarms may be able to be configured to notify staff if a storage container's environmental attributes go beyond a certain threshold. Manufacturers may also be able to employ more advanced environmental tracking features in the plant to guarantee a more consistent, higher quality product is created.

 

Reporting, barcoding, and printing

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Custom reporting

Reporting is a vital part of the ELab LIMS, as it allows users to gain a clearer picture of collected data and potential trends. A number of pre-configured report templates come standard with our LIMS. It also includes a dedicated report designer tool, offering the ability to create and customize reports in numerous ways. The most popular attributes of custom reporting include custom headers, custom information placement (such as branding), charts, pivot tables, and multiple output formats.

Note: Some LIMS vendors will offer custom reporting as an option as an added cost, depending on both the base reporting functionality of the LIMS and the level of customization required.

Report printing

Today's LIMS software almost universally offers the ability to print reports and other materials, so this feature may seem a bit redundant to list. ELab will print to any printers you have on your wifi, LAN or directly connected.

Label support

The label—typically affixed to a sample or evidence container—is a vital part of ELab's sample tracking process. Identifying information such as sample number, batch number, and barcodes are printed on such labels to ensure optimized sample management and more precise sample data. As such, ELab allows users to design and print labels directly from the software.

The word "Wikipedia" encoded in Code 128 and Code 39

Barcode support

Barcodes offer many advantages to laboratory techs handling samples, including more accurate data input, tighter sample/instrument associations, tighter sample/study associations, and more room for human-readable information on a label. As such, LabLynx's LIMS developers have integrated barcode support into our ELab laboratory information management systems, including support for symbologies like Code 128, Code 39, and Interleaved 2 of 5. Aside from printing options, Elab offers support for a variety of barcode readers.

Radio-frequency identification (RFID) technology has also made inroads into the laboratory. Like barcode labels, RFID tags can be placed on samples and get read when exposed to active RFID scanning devices. This technology has some advantages over barcodes in that direct line of sight isn't required, the scanning and tracking process is more automated, and more data can be encoded. With these apparent advantages, LabLynx has also added support for RFID-fed sample information.

Barcode/RFID support and label support are typically found together in LIMS software, but not always, thus their separation into two features of a LIMS.

Export to PDF

ELab is able to collect and save/send information into a Portable Document Format (PDF), and also store such files in its database for retrieval.

Export to MS Word

ELab is able to collect and save/send information into a Microsoft Office Word format, and also store such files in its database for retrieval.

Export to HTML or XML

ELab is able to collect and save/send information into a HyperText Markup Language (HTML) and/or Extensible Markup Language (XML) format, and also store such files in the database.

Fax integration

ELab is able to connect with a fax machine and send information to it via manual input, automatically, and/or at scheduled intervals. However, with the declining popularity of the fax machine, this feature is starting to be in less demand.

Email integration

ELab is able to integrate with and use the electronic mail information exchange method to send reports, alerts, and more via manual input, automatically, and/or at scheduled intervals.

 

Base functionality

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Administrator management

The administrator management tools of the ELab LIMS allow lab technicians to set up the LIMS most optimally for the laboratory. Through the administrator management interface, other features may be accessed like setting up user roles and scheduling automatic data backups.

Modular

This feature indicates that a LIMS has an intentional modular design, which separates some functionality into manageable components of the overall system. Generally speaking, a modular design allows for 1. the structured addition of new functionality to a LIMS and 2. the limiting of overall effects on the system design as new functionality is added. ELab functionality is comprehensive, and simply requires the setup of a given feature (configuration). However, it is actually a platform application, allowing the development and use of plug-ins/add-ons in modular fashion as well - providing unmatched extensibility.

Instrument interfacing and management

An entire room of gas chromatography instruments could potentially be connected to the ELab LIMS via LabVia instrument interfacing.
Laboratories depend on instruments, and with those instruments comes scientific measurements which produce data. It's therefor natural a lab technician would want to connect those instruments to a laboratory information management system, which is already organizing and storing laboratory data. This sort of interfacing is typically handled with instrument-to-LIMS interfaces, which started out as merely a data-transfer mechanism. By the 2000s, that interface mechanism became much more robust as a data management tool, though often at great expense with heavy involvement from third parties. This eventually meant that "many LIMS vendors [could] act as single source providers of the entire instrument interfacing solution,", providing a cheaper and smoother solution to LIMS customers. Today, instrument interfacing is integral to LIMS and is considerably easier to do than prior decades.

LabLynx has developed our exclusive LabVia interfacing solution, which creates and saves any kinds of interfaces required, using NodeRed drag-and-drop software in conjunction with web services and our API in a hardware/software product.

The ability to calibrate and schedule maintenance for interfaced instruments may also be included in this category.

Mobile device integration

Some LIMS vendors tout support for mobile devices using their laboratory information management system. This feature has been added to our ELab cloud-based LIMS. This has given users the ability to collect data in the field, approve results remotely, and manage analytical workflow on the fly.

Alarms and/or alerts

Alarms and alerts are an integral part of a modern lab, and default capabilities of the LabLynx ELab LIMS. They can be automatic or scheduled, and they can come in the form of an e-mail, a pop-up message, or a mobile text message. When the results for a sample analysis go out out of range, an automatic warning message can appear on the screen of the technician responsible for the analysis. A scheduled alert can be e-mailed to a lab technician every month indicating a piece of laboratory equipment needs routine maintenance. If the lab does environmental monitoring, an alert can be sent in the form of an SMS text message to a given person or department if the temperature inside a freezer unexpectedly rises. All of these scenarios represent a tiny fraction of the possible implementation of alarms and alerts in ELab, highlighting how powerful (yet easy to take for granted) this feature is.

Work-related time tracking

This feature specifically refers to ELab's ability to track the amount of time an employee spends at work in general (for payroll purposes) or on more specific projects and tasks (as part of an employee work evaluation program).

Voice recognition system

ELab can be set up to allow some functions of the LIMS (for example, accessing sample analysis results) to be accessed via voice commands, and/or dictate comments, etc. either directly to the LIMS or, more commonly, to a 3rd-party application like Dragon that is linked to ELab.

External monitoring

This feature allows clients outside the laboratory to monitor the status of sample batches, test results, and more via our online web portal or, less commonly, as activity alerts sent via e-mail, fax, or SMS.

Messaging

Instant messaging clients built into a LIMS often make it easier to collaborate.
The messaging feature of our LIMS may refer to one (or both) of two things:
  • a built-in instant messaging system that allows users to converse with each other through text messages real-time, or
  • SMS text messaging integration that allows users or the LIMS itself to send messages or alerts to a user's mobile or smart phone.

Multilingual

The ELab LIMS interface can be configured to display more than one language depending on the preference a user or administrator chooses. Where required, LabLynx integrates Google Translate to work in conjunction with configurable screens and data field labels.

Network-capable

This feature is perhaps archaic and/or obvious, but it is mentioned nonetheless. It's generally applied to a non-web-based (on-premises) LIMS installed over a local or wide-area computer network, essentially indicating the LIMS is not an isolated application, but rather one that can interface with other instances of the LIMS or other networked instruments. The LabLynx ELab LIMS is of course web browser-based, and accessed by users through the internet (or LAN) via standard web browser.

Web client or portal

LabLynx offers a client, physician or patient web portal, allowing external access via the internet for sample/test request submissions, monitoring order status and/or viewing results.

Online or integrated help

The ELab LIMS has help infrastructure integrated into the software, and online support documentation, along with a 24/7 online Help Desk.

Software as a service delivery model

LabLynx software can be licensed and utilized via the software as a service (SaaS) delivery model, in a cloud-based offering.

Usage-based cost

While rare, some LIMS vendors allow potential clients to license and utilize the vendor's software under a usage-based cost model, which has a cost directly related to the amount of samples processed each month. You may also see this sort of usage-based cost on some cloud-based LIMS. LabLynx does not charge according to usage or throughput.

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