Why build your own?
Posted on : October 5, 2017
By Robert Benz, Sales & Marketing Director for Khemia Software
I was recently at a conference and spoke to a small municipal laboratory prospect that had suddenly gone quiet about a year ago. In speaking with the laboratory manager, she told me they had purchased a modular LIMS and were “building it to be their own!” Now, mind you, I have won and lost many prospects selling LIMS over the years and certainly do not take anything personally. I honestly like and respect the laboratory manager. We continued to speak for a while after at which point I realized that this small laboratory with very simple LIMS requirements had taken over a year and had still not gotten their new LIMS functional. Not only that, they STILL needed to add a few more modules to even truly BEGIN to have a real, functional LIMS. This “money saving” venture to “build their own” was going to cost them about two years of time and effort and, at best, they would simply end up where they would have started with a COTS (commercial/configurable, off the shelf) LIMS. The rules that laboratories in this marketplace play in are set with a how, when, why and what documentation is required. Much less, as the additional modules are purchased, the LIMS they had originally purchased would end up costing them more than any of the COTS LIMS on the market specific to their needs. Plus, the selected LIMS will not offer them the same level of technical support as that provider is not specialist in the environmental field. Admittedly, it is a good LIMS, just not here in this case.
Now I can understand why some laboratories wanted to build their own system. Across the LIMS marketplace as a whole, no one style of LIMS fits all laboratories – not even close. A LIMS designed for the pharmaceutical industry will not work for a materials testing laboratory; a LIMS designed for an environmental testing laboratory will generally not work for a quality control laboratory in an industrial setting, and so on. Even within a more specific realm, a LIMS for a blood testing laboratory will often not fit a histology laboratory. The flow of samples, number of samples, type of analyses, field information, preparation methods, requirements of the fields, etc. will vary. All laboratories have unique requirements to maintain quality work; therefore, their LIMS are designed to meet those specifications. In the environmental marketplace, those requirements are generally dictated by the EPA, TNI and the various state(s) in which a laboratory is certified to operate.
In a case such as the environmental marketplace, which includes EPA, commercial and municipal laboratories, a number of OOTB (out of the box) or COTS (commercial/configurable, off the shelf) LIMS exist and are readily available. The LIMS companies in this arena know the requirements backwards and forwards, attend the appropriate meetings to stay on top of the latest changes and have designed end-to-end LIMS to meet the required rules. We, the LIMS companies, also know how to facilitate the implementation of LIMS into these laboratories, streamlining the time and effort required by the laboratories themselves. As any LIMS vendor can tell you, the longer an implementation takes, the harder it is on the LIMS vendor and the laboratory.
Everyone wants to do something different to set themselves apart in business in order to be the go-to person/laboratory whether in the public or private sector. One can even argue that competition makes the professional world a better place, however, when set rules apply that tell you how to fry an egg and at what temperature, variations mean deficiencies. The rules are clear and there is no room for interpretation; to be special here can often mean fines and in extreme cases, possible jail time. Within some laboratory communities, this is simply the way things work. There are many ways to set yourself and your company apart other than altering the most basic principles of testing and quality control.
LIMS come in many setups and styles for different laboratory disciplines. Sometimes these “styles” are just a catchy sales spin, but more often than not, they do speak to the way a LIMS is/may be configured. Each laboratory niche has its own requirements for LIMS, often based upon the regulatory environment in which the laboratory operates. While building a LIMS from scratch can be beneficial for some, it is often less expensive and more efficient to work with one that not only already exists, but also understands the needs of the laboratory.