Sample Management in the Lab: A Brief History
The quality of work that any given laboratory produces hinges on the quality of the samples used in testing. This requires a diligent and proactive attitude at each step of the sample management workflow. Prior to the late 1970s, sample handling and management was largely carried out manually. Specimens were identified using handwritten labels and data was recorded in physical logbooks, leading inevitably to human error and mismanagement.
Individual labs began developing custom in-house solutions known as laboratory information management systems (LIMS). This coincided with the computing revolution of the early 1980s. In 1982, the first single centralized minicomputer-based LIMS solution was introduced, giving users a novel sample management system with automated reporting tools.
Innovations like the first-generation LIMSs encouraged labs of all scales to begin automating their sample management systems. These early successes rapidly gained traction and—as with all electronic systems of the ‘80s—were rapidly superseded by more powerful and intuitive systems during the 1990s. The genesis of the internet and the ubiquity of personal computers enabled laboratory data to be conveniently exchanged, creating secure networks of data management systems. This meant lab technicians could effectively carry out sample management from anywhere in the world.
In addition the advent of the SBS format rack in the early 90s setting a standard of 96 wells/tubes in an 8 by 12 array allowed the introduction of machinery designed to handle large amounts of samples. Following this the introduction of tubes in an SBS format with unique 2D datamatrix barcodes on the base of them allowed for secure and accurate sample handling.
Modern Sample Management Systems
Web-enabled LIMS systems are now staple in labs around the world, but it is no longer a simple matter to define a LIMS as a lab sample management system. Many now have additional features that go beyond the basic steps in the workflow outlined above. Some include fully electronic notebooks, replacing physical transcription logbooks altogether. Others include subscription-based LIMS solutions which follow the software as a service (SaaS) delivery model.
At Ziath, we define any system that aims to streamline laboratory workflows by overseeing sample management as a LIMS. These modern solutions may require specialised software or hardware to enable data acquisition and analysis, and often involve a level of advanced automation to maximise ease-of-functionality and free-up the time of skilled technicians to reduce costs and time burdens.
Interested in learning more about modern sample management in the lab and why it is so important? Simply contact a member of the Ziath team today with any questions.