Sample management sets the precedent for the entire workflow of a laboratory. The validity and reliability of research is dependent on the integrity of the samples involved. Without precise and careful sample collection, recording, and storage, confidence in the data can be compromised. Handwritten labels and physically logging sample information can lead to loss of irreplaceable samples, samples becoming mixed up, or data from samples being untraceable.
The key benefit of a LIMS is that it reduces human error and lessens the chance of samples being compromised. Barcode labels and scanners reduce the time taken to input sample IDs and increase the accuracy of information entry. The data recorded within a LIMS can also be backed up in a database and the sample information accessible in several locations eliminating the possibility of losing an entire sample database.
A sample management system or LIMS can also ensure that your samples are stored in the correct environment. Integrating hardware (such as a -80°C freezer) into a LIMS and monitoring its operation means that samples can be constantly maintained at the ideal conditions; this reduces the risk of damage to samples and helps to increase the quality of the recorded data.
With the complexities of a modern laboratory, multiple researchers may handle samples before, during, and after analysis. This leads to several opportunities for samples to be mishandled or misplaced. Without a functioning LIMS in place, tracking the location and status of a sample is particularly difficult. By utilising a LIMS, it’s possible to locate a sample and know if it has been tampered with, avoiding costly repeat experiments and improving workflow efficiency.
The tracking and tracing of samples can also be improved by integrating single tube and rack scanners to record movements of samples and tubes throughout the laboratory process. This reduces the accidental loss of samples when transferred from rack to rack; a common cause of errors even in modern sample management systems.
In the next section of this eBook, we show how just a single error in the laboratory can quickly escalate without having a sample management system in place to counteract it.
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