By Prasanna Venkatesh,
LIMS Consultant, Satyam Computer Services Ltd.
“Small is beautiful” is a popular quote. But did you know that being small in business is double jeopardy? Of course, most of us know. Being small in the laboratory business is no different. There is always threat from the large competing labs. The larger labs constantly push their smaller rivals with velocities sufficient enough to drive them out from the realms of profitability and eventually, even beyond the threshold of existence.
In this article, we will focus on:
- The advantages and challenges in running a small lab, and
How a smart implementation of Laboratory Information Management System (LIMS) can help them stay in track and prepare them to achieve their business aspirations.
About Small Labs:
At the outset, let’s get a glimpse of the credentials that make the small labs stand out in the trade. Some points that appear blatant are:
- Ability to spot a niche market where they can prevail and shine.
- Relentless urge to seek out for new instrumentation and procedures to rave up operations.
- Agility in business – an aptitude to promptly sense changing trends in testing services.
The small labs compete and as well as compliment the large labs to meet the market’s demand for testing. They are diverse in their settings and operations. Typically they may function as contract research labs for bigger labs or operate autonomously.
Given the widespread use of the word “lab”, many types of small labs exist. A few of them are listed below.
Advantages of a Small Lab:
Beating the big labs in their own game is enough challenge. However, the key to excel against the big players is to do things that they don't do. The small size labs have their own advantages which they need to use to outsmart and out service the big boys every time and win the game!
Challenges of a Small Lab:
There are as many challenges as advantages in running a small lab business. Some of the archetypal bottlenecks that a small lab encounters are:
The challenges are present only to be conquered. Let’s now see how a smart choice of LIMS can help, if not rescue.
How LIMS can help small labs?:
It is now common knowledge that LIMS is an effective tool to improve laboratory performance. LIMS can keep laboratory data in an order that allows for easy retrieval. It allows for analysts to know which samples are required for the different analyses. It allows data to be accessible to others while not allowing them to alter the results. LIMS also allows for easy reporting of results. The benefits are evident. However, it comes at a cost, a significant piece in the IT expense pie.
Large and small labs are required to implement different LIMS based on their respective sample throughput. It may not be prudent for the small labs to implement a LIMS designed for its larger adversaries due to the sheer complexity of the application. The strength of the support staff required to run the big LIMS show is also a potential hindrance.
However contrasting their reserve strengths be, it is interesting to observe that the large and small labs have the same needs. Both need to deliver the best value to their customers. They are obligated to provide accurate results with the shortest turn around time at a competitive price. The good news is, LIMS is integral to this process and hence LIMS can help.
The technology in the IT space is both maturing and transforming fast, paving way to innovative and more affordable software applications. LIMS can leverage these advancements ubiquitous in the knowledge era. One possible solution is having a sleek, dependable and a scalable LIMS at prices befriending the IT expense budget. Let’s call it the ‘Diet LIMS’ for small labs.
Diet LIMS is the LIMS prescription for small labs. The recommendation is to procure just the right ‘volume’ of LIMS, without compromising on quality. The LIMS of choice may have just the right amount of features with an option to extend them.
Furthermore, Commercial Off-the-Shelf (COTS) LIMS are expensive and are not every time affordable to the small testing facilities. The small labs must not run out of ammunition to combat the larger players due to lack of an affordable LIMS solution.
Using ‘diet LIMS’ is an effort to help the small labs ward off this disparity and put them at equal advantage as that of the big league labs.
Embracing the open source application movement is a boon for the undersized testing labs. In effect, ‘diet LIMS’ is a recommendation to espouse an open source LIMS format, atleast until the small labs emerge big.
Open Source LIMS:
An Open-source LIMS is one whose source code is available under a license that permits the users to study, change, and improve the application. Open source LIMS offers a radically different and exponentially better development and usage of the LIMS application.
In addition to the enormous potential to lower IT costs, the open source LIMS offers undeniable control over the application. You control your own code. You control your destiny!
Advantages of Open Source LIMS:
Some of the advantages that the small labs must consider in adopting the open source LIMS are:
This approach may poke out a few disadvantages during implementation and streamlining of the LIMS setup, nevertheless they are surmountable within a reasonable time frame.
Open source LIMS can play a vital role for labs which tend to remain intrinsically small by virtue of their business propositions and for those who aspire to break into the big league. Endorsing LIMS which uses the right mélange of problem solving and technology will help the small labs not only reach their destiny but also provide the mileage to surpass them as well.
About the author:
Prasanna Venkatesh is an Associate Consultant in the Supply Chain Management practice, a division in the Consulting and Enterprise Solutions arm of Satyam Computer Services Ltd. His primary focus is on LIMS consulting and other LIMS related activities. For any queries on this article or for any LIMS related discussion, he can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.