5 steps to go paperless: ELN and LIMs

Biotechnology and pharmaceutical companies, as well as academic institutions are investing more and more in digital solutions such as the electronic lab notebooks (ELNs) and laboratory management systems (LIMs) to support their R&D activities. Such labs are called paperless. These solutions can vary from sample and storage management, electronic laboratory notebooks to data analysis. By breaking down the ‘why’ and ‘how’ process for your lab to go paperless, this article will enable you to overcome the difficulties of choosing between all these different options.

  1. Why adopt a paperless laboratory?

Nowadays, most scientists still keep experimental records on paper notes, paper notebooks, and sometimes using some informatics tools like Excel, Word, Power Points files… Each one stored in different folders and computers. Still relying on the head of the lab or key staff to look where to search for that information… This unstructured way to keep your lab information leads to time consuming tasks and even loss of information across time!

This is far from being a new issue: a report published in European Pharmaceutical Review in 2015 reported that over the past 10 years, one of the biggest challenges in R&D is “to find the information when I need it”!

Decisions taken are based on lab information, hence having a reliable system to serve as your lab information repository can enable you to make better and faster decisions.

An article published in Scientific Computing in 2004 based on client cases lists the main goals of the adopters of a paperless laboratory:

Faster data manipulation of digital data
Increasing efficiency: by sharing data more easily and quickly
Speeding samples throughput: from electronic data entry in real time to automated data acquisition
Regulatory compliance
Reduced costs: doing the same work with fewer resources, or more work with the same resources



2. What are the differences between ELN and LIMS?

Confusion is often made between lab information management software (LIMS) and the electronic notebook (ELN). Scientists see the immediate value of an ELN to search and document their experiments which helps them tracking and sharing their experiments. Lab heads can manage and follow more efficiently the current projects in the lab, which are accessible online and shared among colleagues. It is when researchers start using an ELN that they see the need of a LIMS, to recall their samples, reagents, chemicals and be able to find them even after being for years. It is not only important to annotate your experiments but also to build in the lab a collaborative network of shared resources, as well as having a full traceability of your research activities.

A properly managed inventory will: increase the efficiency and effectiveness of the laboratory, because it will provide an uninterrupted flow of needed materials and ensure products are available when they are required. This is also in compliance with ISO standards. Even in pure R&D labs, new quality standards are pushing into more structured information.

To meet regulatory compliance and really benefit from a real increased efficiency an ELN cannot exist without a LIMS. To meet the best of both worlds it is important to assess a system having an ELN with built-in a LIMS/inventory.

A LIMS together with an ELN is a more stable, searchable and sharable way to manage any information in a lab. An all-in-one solution is the wat.

3. A Step by Step Implementation

Michael Elliott, chief executive officer of Atrium Research & Consulting, clearly points out important features when choosing a LIMS in an article published in Science “Clients want scalability, a user-friendly interface, and outstanding global support”, he also talks about product transparency “However, products vary in these capabilities, don’t choose based on a presentation or brand name. Think carefully about your needs now and in the future”. So, a scalable system is key as your needs can grow in the future, and changing from a system to another would be a loss of time and money. The other point is the transparency of products; a presentation of a system without a real experience can be very deceiving.

By choosing a scalable system, you can start implementing today! A customizable LIMS/ELN can be implemented quickly with higher rate of adoption than waiting years for the development of a rigid system to be ready, using a big bang approach. A step by step approach allows users to see the benefits of a LIMS/ELN and slowly integrating the LIMS in their lab daily life.

A customizable LIMS/ELN such as LabCollector offers the possibility to adapt your entry data, your inventory modules, in addition to the basic frame of the LIMS, scale up your users at any time and you can choose the supplementary modules you need. Examples of these modules are the ELN, Data Logger (sensors Tracking), WorkFlow to set up jobs from repetitive procedures in the lab (e.g. next gene sequencing protocols) to clinical trials workflows or even modules based on client services like the Lab Service Manager, or the Sequencing Service Manager for NGS labs.

4. Full Automated Workspace

Imagine a world where scientists annotate their experiments with their tablets or iPads simultaneously keeping records. Reagents, samples and instruments with unique IDs labelled with barcodes allowing you to de-stock digitally, you can find quickly the information about a sample or box without any ambiguity. Knowing exactly what is in your inventory and where. A fully automated system to simplify research by capturing experimental details in an easy and efficient manner with the automatic retrieval of results from your analytical equipment’s to the right sample record in your database? Well, this world has finally arrived…

Several labs have moved to this digital era finding the efficiency, regulation compliancy they were looking for. Laurent Boulanger, Engineer at the French Agronomic Institute (INRA) lab has implemented LabCollector since 2010 says “I just have one piece of advice to give: Don’t just think about where to store your samples, but also where to find them in the future. If you use the database and the electronic lab notebook (ELN), you will have a very effective tool to follow your experiments, the samples generated and where they are stored.”

5. Changing minds

Trying to change an old lab management system can be tough and facing installed routine and conservative minds is challenging. The best way to make a change is to just try! Use the free version of LabCollector and try it in your lab (in parallel with your existing system). The results might be enough to convince all your team!

Time invested today will help gain quality results, professional and personal satisfaction, and peer recognition.

Everyone in the laboratory is responsible for quality performance:

– Laboratory leaders and managers must commit to meeting quality needs.

– Laboratory personnel must follow all quality assurance procedures and adhere to requirements and standards.

The time of digital labs has come. Electronic notebooks and online data are the new rule for efficient work on the bench.

LabCollector, first developed for Life Science applications, is an extensive solution to manage any R&D lab activities. LabCollector is an all-in-one solution with all the features needed in a modern laboratory, adapting to a simple usage to complexes workflows with equipment integration. It is also fully suitable to any type of lab, from research to analytical and diagnostic labs. LabCollector has 650 clients worldwide, being able to support and scale up organizations needs from start-ups to medium and large organizations.

For those who want to try LabCollector, you can download the FREE VERSION here. Perfect opportunity to try it and ultimately keep using it!

5 steps to Transform your Lab into an Automated Workspace!

Today’s laboratories work with a range of information sources – from samples, results, tests, storage, budget, client’s requests and so on. In this way, information finds itself at the heart of a lab, and is crucial for efficient research. Automation and digitalization of the workspace can therefore help labs to manage this large amount of information. Labiotech, in collaboration with AgileBio, brings you a quick 5-step guide to know the basics of Lab Automation!

Step 1: Choose a LIMS

You may have heard of LIMS, or Laboratory Information Management System. In a few words, a LIMS is a software that helps you manage all information related to your laboratory. Think about how labs manage information today. It can be in different formats: reports, spreadsheets, presentations, images from microscopy etc.

Now, imagine how they usually store this information: in different files, folders, paper notebooks, on different computers or perhaps on a server.

This unstructured way to manage information leads to time consuming tasks and can ultimately lead to the loss of data. A report done by Atrium Research between 2005 and 2014 showed that the most important challenge of R&D has not changed for almost 10 years – and that is finding the information when needed!

LIMS are increasingly adopted by Labs, growing by 30% per year.

The major advantages of using a LIMS is to provide a centralized and structured platform to share scientific data between staff or collaborators, making dynamic inventories and giving a full traceability of your research activities that a lab needs.

Using a LIMS also makes it easier to comply with good laboratory practice! In a few words: a LIMS  software allows you to gain a lot of time in terms of management!






Step 2: Customize your System

Each laboratory has its specificities and needs. If you choose the LIMS, you will be able to adapt it to your need and get the best out of it. For example, the LIMS called LabCollector offers you the possibility to create ‘bricks’ (modules) that you need to enter all the information of your lab, in addition to the basic frame of the LIMS. So you can choose what you need!

For example, a digital lab notebook is a must-have in any modern lab.

The time of the paper notebook is definitely behind us, and has been proven to be time-wasting and unsustainable (imagine the space you need for archives and the danger of losing data). However, keeping a record of how and why decisions and results were obtained during the experiments and observations is essential.

And since experiments are repeated over and over, this repository of research data over time can be lost in paper notebooks…

An electronic lab notebook (ELN) can instead store all your experimental data. The easy search tool provided by an ELN offers researchers the ability to gather information, learn from others and make faster decisions.

An ELN also gives you more flexibility than a paper notebook. You can annotate your experiments and organize them in folders with an easy workflow, avoiding the classic order of a paper version, which needs to be chronological.

An ELN can then be simply shared with your colleagues, grouped by project and have multiple collaborators. When choosing an ELN, you have to find the balance between flexibility and regulatory compliance.






Step 3: Implement your system to gain efficiency

Organizing your lab, boxes and fridges is the first step to put an efficient system in place. Any data in the LIMS, from your samples to your unit of storage, is identified by a unique code, optimizing the traceability in your lab. These unique identification codes can be printed as barcodes.

For that, you will probably need adapted supplies to make your lab a truly automated workspace. You can start with a labelling device and a simple barcode reader. Each of your samples can be easily labeled and stored, so information can be easily retrieved. This way, you no longer have the trouble of unreadable information on tubes, or annotations which fade over time.

Imagine a single unique form to easily annotate your tubes – and long-term lasting labels resistant to extreme conditions (e.g. high and low temperatures).

The barcode will allow you to retrieve and update relevant data on the sample with one click (e.g. the origin, the type of experiment, when it has been used for the last time etc.). Your LIMS will then store all this data. Once retrieved and the barcode read, another lab member can quickly understand the importance of this sample, even years later!

Your equipments can be easily upgraded with data monitors, centralizing all monitoring and automatization of results inside the LIMS.

You can have a look at this online shop to find all relevant equipment to implement in your automatized lab:



Step 4: Change the Mindset

Trying to change an old lab management system can be tough, and facing the conservative mindset of users is certainly challenging. The best way to make a change is to therefore try it first!

Use the free version of LabCollector for a trial period (e.g. 1 month) and try it in your lab (in parallel with your existing system). These results might be enough to convince everybody!

And if they give you the age-old argument of ‘cost’, then show them the benefits of this investment:

1.     Having a collaborative environment in your lab

2.     Finding any information (samples or reagents storage, protocols, etc..) in seconds

3.     Organizing your inventory and keeping track of reagents orders with automatic alerts

4.     Following-up your expenses and budget

5.     Easily complying with Laboratory Best Practices.







Step 5: Save time and money!

The implementation of a LIMS requires a starting investment. But this investment can be rapidly covered by the gain your lab will make in term of time (‘time is money!‘).

A report published in Scientific Computing & Instrumentation revealed that organizations that have implemented ELN for their R&D have gained efficiencies in terms of research, quality of data and a searchable repository of knowledge. These organizations have also enhanced their ability to protect intellectual property.

Wockhardt, a CMO operating worldwide with a production facility of 16,000 m² and based in the UK, tried to implement a LIMS in its process. Over a three-year period, the team estimated that the automation of the laboratory would save between 5 and 10 minutes per sample. The team assumed this time would allow a 5% increase in the number of samples received per annum.

The anticipated volume increases equated with cost savings of around €200,000 over a three year period! That’s enough to implement any fully-automated system!

Once again, the time of digitalization has come to our lab workspaces. Digital notebooks and online data are the new rule for efficient work on the bench. We hope this post would be useful for you and your colleagues and thanks again to AgileBio for their support to make this post.

For those who want to try LabCollector, you can download the FREE VERSION HERE. A perfect opportunity to try it 😉

About LabCollector LIMS: first developed for Life Science applications, LabCollector is an extensive solution to manage any R&D lab activities. LabCollector is an all-in-one solution with all the features needed in a modern laboratory, adapting to a simple usage to complexes workflows with equipment integration. It is also fully suitable to any type of lab, from research to analytical and diagnostic labs. See the video below for more details.

How the LCSB monitors temperatures and other sensors

Nicolas BonjeanNicolas Bonjean is the Lab Coordinator of  the LCSB                      (Luxembourg Centre for Systems Biomedicine), affiliated to the University of Luxembourg.
The LCSB is accelerating biomedical research by closing the link between systems biology and medical research.
Collaboration between biologists, medical doctors, computer scientists, physicists and mathematicians is offering new
insights in complex systems like cells, organs, and organisms.
These insights are essential for understanding principal
mechanisms of disease pathogenesis and for developing new tools in diagnostics and therapy.
The LCSB has put in place a support group to enable the researchers to focus on their research.
All the logistics of about 250 researchers is organized by the Support biotech team using the Labcollector software.
A reagent to buy, an equipment to book, … everything runs smoothly in a few clicks.

Their research activities require to track all kind of sensors  such as temperature, humidity, pressure, gas, and light.
Monitoring all ULT freezers (-80°C) is essential for the biobanking activity of all research teams working at the LCSB. Nicolas Bonjean also decided to expand this monitoring to all bench freezers and special rooms.
The LCSB supply in CO2 is maintained by redundant bottles linked to an alarm switch.
All these sensors are totally integrated in LabCollector add-on: logger. The add-on receives all data from different hardware suppliers.

AgileBio provides an all-in-one solution with an easy plug-and-play AgileBio data logger and digital temperature sensors (-55°C/+125°C)A complete range of sensors are available. In complement to AgileBio hardware, the LCSB also has in place several wireless ULT sensors and switches from Rmoni.

Sensors monitoring

Sensors monitoring

Nicolas Bonjean and his team rely on our LabCollector add-on: Temperature logger for real time tracking and monitoring their freezers, rooms, storage, gas bottles… Water production is next!

Sensors monitoring

Sensors monitoring would not make sense without a real time alerting system. LabCollector provides this with a GSM box configured and fine-tuned to escalate alerts to several contacts depending on precise schedules.

LabCollector data/sensors logging has proved to be reliable and monitoring for the LCSB a variety of more than 200 sensors.