What is sample management?

An entire workflow made up of the selection, collection, storage and retrieval of samples and their relevant data is known as sample management. In the laboratory, it is crucial to achieve optimal process and quality control (QC) and there can be costly ramifications if any step in the sample management chain is overlooked.

Sample management in the lab: A brief history

The quality of the samples employed in testing determine the quality of work that any given laboratory produces. At each step of the sample management workflow a diligent and proactive attitude is required.

Sample handling and management was mainly performed manually before the late 1970s. Data was recorded in physical logbooks and specimens were identified by utilizing handwritten labels, inevitably resulting in human error and mismanagement.

Individual labs began developing custom in-house solutions known as laboratory information management systems (LIMS) which coincided with the computing revolution of the early 1980s.

The first single centralized minicomputer-based LIMS solution was introduced in 1982, providing users with a novel sample management system with automated reporting tools.

Innovations such as the first-generation LIMSs encouraged labs of all scales to begin automating their sample management systems. These early successes quickly gained traction and - as with all electronic systems of the ‘80s - were rapidly superseded by more powerful and intuitive systems during the 1990s.

The ubiquity of personal computers and the genesis of the internet allowed laboratory data to be exchanged conveniently, creating secure networks of data management systems. This meant lab technicians could perform sample management effectively from anywhere.

Additionally, the advent of the SBS format rack in the early 90s setting a standard of 96 wells/tubes in an 8 by 12 array permitted 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 their base enabled accurate and secure sample handling.

Modern sample management systems

For labs around the globe, web-enabled LIMS systems are now commonplace, but defining a LIMS as a lab sample management system is no longer a simple matter. A number of these now have additional features which go beyond the basic steps of the workflow outlined above.

Some of them replace physical transcription logbooks altogether by including fully electronic notebooks. Others include subscription-based LIMS solutions which follow the software as a service (SaaS) delivery model.

Ziath defines LIMS as any system which aims to streamline laboratory workflows by overseeing sample management. These modern solutions may need specialized hardware or software to permit data acquisition and analysis and usually involve a level of advanced automation to maximize ease-of-functionality and free up skilled technicians to decrease time burdens and costs.

About Ziath LtdZiath Logo

Ziath specializes in instrumentation control and information management in both the academic and the pharmaceutical/biotech industry sectors with a focus on the application of laboratory automation. In particular, we focus on managing large sample libraries (compound management, biobanking and sample management) using 2D datamatrix tubes.

Founded in 2005 by scientists and engineers; Ziath is over a decade old and is proud to server customers across the world. Ziath develops innovative new products designed to simplify processes in life science organizations. In addition Ziath offers consulting and contracting work to clients.

Ziath has a range of products split into four main categories of 2D barcode scanners, devices for handling tubes, 2D barcoded tubes and sample management software.


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Last updated: Jun 17, 2021 at 6:58 AM

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