Most laboratories invest a huge amount of money in procuring laboratory equipment. Therefore, laboratory managers should take necessary measures to effectively manage such an investment.
However, laboratories around the globe face the critical issue of improper equipment calibration and maintenance. It does not mean that laboratory staff neglect equipment or put them in their backpacks. It indicates that maintaining equipment records and ensuring proper calibration and maintenance of equipment with vigilance is challenging.
What are the consequences of improper lab management? There are several. Some of them are as follows:
- Fast wear and tear of equipment
- Inaccurate test results
- Wastage of an enormous amount of time and money
Is there any solution to seamlessly manage laboratory equipment?
The answer is yes, it is a Laboratory Information Management System (LIMS). It maintains the efficiency of your lab’s instruments. With a LIMS in place, there is an assurance among lab staff that equipment will:
- Receive timely maintenance
- Get proper monitoring of performance over time
- Save their time with automation
- Generate accurate and valid results
Thankfully, there are several ways through which a LIMS helps efficiently manage laboratory instruments. Some of them are as follows:
A. Integrate with Instruments
Today, automation rules the world and no laboratory across the globe can ignore it. A LIMS can be integrated with laboratory instruments via an Application Programming Interface (API) or by mapping instrument-generated CSV/XLS files with the correct fields in a LIMS. This facilitates bi-directional data transfer between instruments and a LIMS, saving time and maintaining data integrity.
B. Manage Lab Equipment Schedule
It isn’t convenient for workers to arrange lab equipment for multiple tasks. With hectic schedules, keeping equipment free for sample processing or testing becomes challenging. A LIMS offers proper equipment scheduling by permitting only authorized personnel to reserve the equipment and access them when needed. A LIMS facilitates:
- Easy tracking of the equipment schedule i.e. when equipment is in use and when it is not
- Tracking equipment maintenance before or after use
- Monitoring whether an instrument is in service or not
C. Ensure Effective Equipment Upkeep
Some complex equipment requires daily or weekly maintenance for smooth functioning. Laboratory managers prefer receiving timely email reminders for proper upkeep of lab equipment daily or weekly or as per the predetermined schedule. In such a scenario, a LIMS provides daily updates for general cleaning and equipment upkeep by:
- Creating a log file after the completion of the maintenance work
- Recording equipment cleaning work performed by staff members with a date and time stamp and an electronic signature
- Storing maintenance-related documents for future reference
D. Identify Equipment Errors
It is possible that lab equipment sometimes malfunctions or does not work as expected. So, it becomes crucial for lab staff to maintain a deviation (or event) log. If they fail to record such events, it may lead to disastrous consequences and audit failures. A LIMS offers a system for the staff to enter key details that comprise vital data about equipment malfunctions and helps them to:
- Spot faults quickly and prevent future malfunctions
- Provide reliable information to the manufacturer and limit user error
E. Strengthen Data Security
With the advancement in online operations, the risk of data breaches and cyberattacks has increased manifold. It has become a daunting task to safeguard data and permit access to the data in a controlled way. A cloud-based LIMS software safeguards sensitive user data in several ways. Some of the ways in which a LIMS enhances data security are as follows:
- Authenticating users through a two-factor authentication mechanism.
- Restricting access to the system through log-in by either integrating it with Lightweight Directory Access Protocol (LDAP) for user authentication or providing access from an “identity server”.
- Implementing data security filters to thwart online hackers from searching and exporting data, thereby restricting access to confidential information.
Furthermore, several other new measures ensure high-level data security. The first is a yearly risk assessment that helps determine likely risk factors and take risk mitigation actions. Secondly, staff must be given periodic training to apprise them of the latest incidents of cyberattacks and measures to prevent them.
The equipment must be in good working order to carry out daily lab operations efficiently. The staff and managers must ensure that lab equipment is checked regularly. Furthermore, the implementation of a LIMS system improves laboratory control and transparency while increasing efficiency through process automation and better equipment management. A LIMS helps centrally manage all crucial information related to lab equipment and enables staff to schedule equipment calibration and manage maintenance data.