by Ashley Carter


A Laboratory Information Management System (LIMS) can be a valuable tool for any laboratory, improving efficiency, visibility, communication, and workflow. When researching LIMS solutions, one can be inundated with features, modules, and decisions. Each of those options may be helpful for some scenarios and perhaps larger laboratories. However, for the small laboratory, too much “fluff” can make it either too feature-rich such that the benefits of the LIMS itself start to be overshadowed by the extras, or the system becomes prohibitively expensive. Finding a LIMS for a small laboratory requires evaluating providers with a different light than one would for larger laboratories.

Continue reading to learn about some helpful topics to keep in mind when evaluating LIMS solutions for a small laboratory.

Benefits of LIMS for Small Laboratories

Before we discuss some key points to look for in a LIMS provider, let’s evaluate some of the benefits a small laboratory may see with a LIMS.

Improved Efficiency

An efficient laboratory means samples are logged-in, tested, and results reported effectively and in a timely manner. The majority of laboratories, of any size, aim to improve their efficiency. However, small laboratories typically operate over fewer hours and can afford less waste in the process. A LIMS for small laboratories can streamline the entire testing process, from sample login, data capture and analysis, and reporting.

Improved Data Management

A LIMS for small laboratories can improve how the data is handled within the system. Many laboratories that do not have a proper LIMS utilize internal systems or use spreadsheets. These processes tend to make finding or reviewing the data against other samples difficult and cumbersome. A LIMS provides traceability and navigation to quickly review data in the system. Many LIMS providers also allow configuration to export the data via a predefined method to allow further analysis.

Audit and Accreditation Compliance

Accreditations open up new opportunities for testing and revenue for a laboratory; however, they can be a daunting endeavor. A LIMS for small laboratories can provide the tools to achieve the accreditation, and maintain processes moving forward. Some of these tools are: traceability, instrument and calibration tracking, signatory security, and user roles. These and others help to ensure the laboratory and its data is accurate and secure, major points for any accreditation.

Features of LIMS for Small Laboratories

Now that we know some of the basics of why it might be beneficial to incorporate a LIMS, let’s look at a few key features that might be particularly helpful for a small laboratory.

System Interfacing

The ability to interface the LIMS with other systems can be a helpful tool for streamlining various stages of the laboratory processes. Below are two examples of interface points that a LIMS for small laboratories may find most beneficial:

  • ERP interfacing to automatically create orders/samples/tests in LIMS. This eliminates the need for duplicate object creation and provides forward visibility of what work is coming to the lab, allowing for improved planning ability.
  • Instrument interfacing to automatically populate data from an instrument directly into LIMS. This is an extremely valuable tool as it not only makes data available in the system as soon as the test is done (speeding up the process), but also eliminates the risk of bad data being entered via typos and human errors.

Workflow Management

Image representing the management of laboratory workflow.

Since small laboratories oftentimes have users that wear multiple “hats”, and a dedicated LIMS manager is not likely available, the system must operate with little system management. Therefore, a LIMS for small laboratories must provide  automation to track the workflow of orders/samples/tests and send notifications, such as automated emails, to notify individuals as work passes through key steps in the process. The LIMS should be a straightforward, helpful tool that facilitates a smooth and intuitive workflow.

Specification Management

Another portion of a typical laboratory workflow that tends to be manual and somewhat inefficient without a LIMS is the review of test data against specification requirements. Choosing to incorporate specifications into the LIMS can automatically assign those specifications to the desired testing, thus allowing the system to do the review, immediately indicating conformance or failure.

Choosing the Right LIMS for Your Small Laboratory

Understanding the benefits of a LIMS and some of the features that it may offer your laboratory is just the start. The next step is finding the right LIMS provider for your business overall. This step in the process is highly dependent on each laboratory’s needs and priorities so we’re going to focus on just a few of the key topics to consider.

Requirements vs Budget

Most LIMS providers have developed a wide range of features to meet the needs a various-sized customers. There will always be a balance between incorporating features into the LIMS vs the budget available. When evaluating LIMS providers, keep in mind that some do not allow a “pick and choose” approach. This may lead to your LIMS including a lot of unnecessary functionality and being restrictively expensive.

For laboratories that are looking to a LIMS that serves their small laboratory needs without the fluff, we recommend looking for providers that have the flexibility in their LIMS to configure only the features you need.

Additionally, some LIMS providers offer smaller editions of their LIMS that provide different capabilities. The smaller editions may have more restrictions to the extra features, but for a small laboratory looking for a LIMS with basic capabilities, these could be a perfect balance between those features and cost.

Image representing the selection of LIMS providersReview the Provider

Understanding what features the LIMS provider offers and groups into their offering is important, but finding a good fit also requires reviewing the provider itself. Afterall, the purchase of a software solution is setting up a long term relationship with that LIMS provider. As with all things, there are many topics to consider for this step, and most specific to each laboratory’s business needs. Below are just a few points to think about:

  • What is the LIMS Provider’s primary industry served? As a small laboratory, the requirements of your industry may require specific features and partnering with a LIMS provider that is already familiar with those needs can reduce the need for customization and a lengthy (and likely costly) implementation.
  • How many laboratories has the LIMS Provider served of similar size? A LIMS for small laboratories has different needs from a LIMS for larger laboratories, and navigating those needs for someone new to the LIMS market can be difficult. If the LIMS provider has experience working with similarly-sized laboratories, this can help your implementation stay on track.
  • How are the LIMS features offered? As mentioned earlier in the article, a LIMS for small laboratories typically won’t need as many or as complex features as a larger laboratory. A LIMS provider that allows purchase of features in a more “ala carte” fashion can be a better fit than one that requires purchasing of groups of features that your laboratory may not need.
  • How does the LIMS provider offer support? It’s important to keep the software up to date, so upgrades are a must. In addition, there may be bugs or general questions that one might need the software’s support to address. Understanding how the LIMS provider’s support is handled and how issues are addressed is important to choosing a LIMS provider.


A LIMS for small laboratories must meet different requirements than one for larger laboratories. Finding a LIMS solution that not only meets those requirements, but also understands the challenges a small lab faces, and can address those challenges in a cost effective manner is key. That LIMS provider can better serve the small lab, which can mean all the difference between a mediocre LIMS that gets the lab by and an outstanding LIMS that truly supports the needs and growth of the laboratory.

Schedule a demo with Wavefront Software today to find out how they can help your small laboratory succeed.

About the Author: Ashley Carter

Ashley Carter is the technical sales engineer at Wavefront Software. She has been with Wavefront for several years in both the sales and project management capacity. Prior to joining Wavefront Software, she implemented Wavefront LIMS at the advanced materials laboratory where she worked as a technical quality engineer. In addition to her PMP certification, Ashley has two master's degrees in Metallurgical and Mineral Process Engineering and Engineering Management.


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