Most labs practicing chromatography realize accurate sample identification is critical. Only recently have we started to see barcodes used for this purpose.
As you may know, hand writing labels is a time-consuming and frustrating process—particularly when you’re dealing with such small vials!
Whether you need to improve sample tracking for operational efficiency and quality reasons, or meet regulatory requirements, adding barcodes to your chromatography vials can simplify the identification process while ensuring more accurate tracking of your samples.
Here we’re going to cover three reasons you should stop hand writing and manually applying labels to your vials in-house and what we recommend you try instead.
When you stop labeling in house you can:
Allow your employees to spend more time on critical testing processes
While printing and applying barcodes is more efficient than handwritten identification, the process still takes valuable time away from science.
Secure the integrity of your samples
It’s very likely reliable sample tracking is one of the main reasons you’re considering upgrading to a barcode identification system—if not the sole reason.
Compared to handwritten markings, a barcode system certainly has a lower margin for error—eliminating factors of legibility and reducing opportunities for human error.
A proper sequence management system will further reduce opportunity for error by seeking out duplicate and otherwise unusable barcodes post printing. Systems like these can be a hassle to manage in house, but any trustworthy supplier of pre-printed barcodes should have some system in place to ensure the quality of the barcodes you receive.
Enhance compatibility between your vials and automated processes
As automation grows more commonplace in science related industries, so do computer readable identifiers like barcodes. While most legacy autosamplers won’t have integrated scanners, newer models are beginning to feature them and it’s always a good idea to stay ahead of the curve.
Unfortunately, a poorly placed barcode can lead to process interruptions. When your markings are applied with automated equipment they can be trusted to be placed precisely and consistently, enhancing your vial’s ability to communicate with automated testing equipment.
What’s the alternative?
Great question! If you’re planning on introducing barcodes to your chromatography process, clearly someone has to apply those barcodes—and if not you, then who?
Your supplier! While not every labware or label supplier is going to label your labware for you, there are some who can offer pre-barcoded catalog options or outsourcing services.
Pre-marked catalog options for chromatography applications are particularly limited so you’re going to have better luck finding an outsourcing partner for the time being. Working with an outsourcing partner is also recommended because they can generally offer more flexibility since your purchase will be made to order.
Placing your vial labeling in the hands of labeling experts also offers additional perks such as higher quality print options and precise automated application that you simply can’t achieve in house.
What does an outsourcing partner do?
As a label supplier who offers our own labware labeling outsourcing program called READY Labware Services, we can provide an example of what these services might look like in practice.
Your outsourcing partner should make an effort to understand your processes, needs, challenges and goals to tailor a solution specifically for your facility. Choosing a partner with past experience in your industry will make this process smoother. So, if you’re a pharmaceutical production facility, you’ll want to seek out help from a partner who’s familiar with the exposures your labels may face.
Once they understand your processes and have your specifications they’ll procure your materials—if your partner is a label supplier like us, that means they’ll procure your chromatography vials from your manufacturer.
Once all the components are in place, their team will apply your barcodes (and other markings if requested) to your vials to your specifications using your requested marking technology.
Direct mark has proven particularly suitable for chromatography applications due to it’s high resolution capabilities and precision placement being ideal for smaller surfaces. The nature of this technology eliminates the need for a media layer allowing for a minimal increase to the diameter, ensuring your vials will still fit in your equipment after marking
It’s possible your outsourcing partner may offer additional services prior to shipping such as sequence management, tare weighing, sequential ordering and kit preparation. They may also offer customized packaging options. However, if you want to keep it simple, that’s an option too.
To sum it all up, barcodes are being introduced to the chromatography process in an effort to improve the tracking and tracing of samples. While printed barcodes are much simpler to prepare than handwritten markings, we want you to be aware that eliminating label application from your facility altogether is an option that can boost efficiencies even further.
In addition to reduced effort on your part, your partner will likely be able to ensure you receive barcodes with high enough resolution to be scanned consistently despite their small size. Improved durability and precision placement can further enhance your chromatography vials’ ability to withstand harsh exposures and interact with automated equipment.
If you’re considering barcodes for your 12x32 autosampler vials or even larger headspace vials, take a moment to evaluate whether outsourcing services offer benefits that align with your needs, challenges and goals. If you have any questions about our offerings, give us a call or give this blog post a quick read.