Purchasing sample containers already labelled is an often overlooked and little known option for label application. We want to tell you more about it in case it might be a good solution to your specific challenges.
What is Pre-barcoding?
Pre-barcoded labware arrives at your facility with barcode labels already applied, meaning you can eliminate tube and vial labelling from your facility completely.
There are two ways you can purchase your labware pre-labelled:
1. Directly from your labware supplier
2. Through an outsourcing partner
When you purchase directly from your labware supplier they will typically add a generic label to your tubes and vials at some point during the manufacturing process. Customisation is often limited with this option, but serves very useful when a generic barcode will get the job done.
If you choose to purchase from an outsourcing partner (like Computype!) they can source your labware for you, apply your labels and send it off to you or your end users. Most of the time when you’re working with an outsourcing partner there are more opportunities for customisation, but it varies from partner to partner.
Either way, when you purchase your tubes and vials with barcodes and/or labels already applied, you take the task of labelling out of your own hands, which does mean you’ll need to ensure your partner is familiar with labelling for cryogenic conditions, and luckily in the labware and labelling industries, many are.
What Can an Outsourcing Partner Do that You Can’t in Your Lab?
Just as with automation, there are a number of benefits to pre-barcoding compared to hand-labelling in-house. From the precision of placement to specialised marking technologies, depending on who you decide to work with there are many options that might not be practical to achieve in the lab. Here are a few benefits that might be available to you with pre-barcoding:
Your outsourcing partner is likely using automation to apply labels or markings to your tubes and vials, but they may still utilise a manual strategy. Either way, they should have a team dedicated to ensuring the quality of their output.
With pre-barcoded labware two orders become one and an entire step can be removed from your processes when your labware arrives already labelled at your door.
Pre-barcoded labware provides a new level of convenience to labs who don’t have the time, space or workforce to spend on mundane tasks.
Some pre-barcoding partners are able to offer customers unique marking technologies that require specialised equipment that just isn’t practical to implement in house. One example is the direct mark option we offer at Computype. Direct mark is an especially great option for cryogenic labelling on plastic containers as it offers increased durability in addition to colour options.
In addition to specialised marking technology options, some outsourcing partners will go beyond labelling and perform additional lab tasks. Some services we offer in our program include tare weighing, nase-free preparation, sorting, custom kitting and packaging.
No Capital Investment
Unlike automation equipment, investing in a pre-barcoded labware program doesn’t require you to budget out a one-time capital investment. If your lab isn’t prepared to invest in equipment or volumes aren’t consistent enough to accurately estimate a return, a pre-barcoding strategy might be a better fit for you.
Which Labs Should Consider Pre-barcoded Tubes & Vials?
In almost any laboratory situation pre-barcoded labware is a reasonable alternative to manual labelling with one exception: if your lab requires variable information that isn’t known ahead of time.
Pre-barcoded labware requires your partner be aware of what needs to be printed at the time of ordering. This means, if your samples always require time sensitive or patient specific information, pre-barcoding is likely not a suitable option.
If your lab doesn’t require time sensitive variable information, pre-barcoded labware is still a valuable option. Whether you’re looking for a specific print technology, specialised services or just want to save some space in the lab, pre-barcoding can be a great option for labs of any size, throughput volume and budget.
Who Can I Partner With to Get Pre-barcoded Tubes & Vials?
As we already mentioned, there are two ways your facility can receive pre-barcoded tubes and vials—directly from the manufacturer or through an outsourcing partner. There are several manufacturers who offer generic pre-barcoded labware and outsourcing partners capable of more customised options.
Since cryo labels require special engineering to withstand extremely cold temperatures it’s very important you work with a supplier who is familiar with labels and marking technologies for cryogenic storage. Do your research to ensure you choose a supplier whose knowledge, offerings and experience align with your needs.
What about Computype?
As an outsourcing partner ourselves, we want to provide an example of what a custom pre-barcoding service can look like. Let’s take a look at our program, READY Labware Services. Through READY Labware Services we offer pre-barcoded labware including microwell plates, tubes, vials and more.
Our program also features two marking technology options suitable for the pre-barcoding of tubes and vials intended for cryogenic storage:
- Pressure Sensitive: We offer all of our standard label options to our READY Labware Services customers including our Cryo-hold freezer and liquid nitrogen labels!
- Direct Mark: At Computype we offer ink based direct mark print technology that uses specially cured inks to print directly onto the surface of your container. The cured inks are extremely durable and can be exposed to a wide range of chemicals and temperatures without damage.
Direct mark is a great match for cryogenic conditions as it can withstand a very wide range of temperature and chemical exposures.
Another appeal of direct mark is the ability to add colourful designs. Whether you’re looking for a colour coding solution or want to add a brand logo to your containers, both are possible with direct mark.
Additional Services Offered via READY Labware Services:
- Nase-Free Environment: If needed, your plates can be prepared and labelled in a nase-free environment to ensure usability in DNA testing.
- Tare weighing: We can accurately tare weigh each of your tubes and vials for you prior to shipping and provide you with a report of the results so you can remove one more step from your lab processes.
- Custom Kitting, Sorting & Packaging: You decide how you want your containers to arrive. If you want pre-prepared kits ready for your technicians to use, we can send you that. If you want your plates sorted and stacked numerically, we can do that for you. Want them packaged in a specific way? Let us know and we’ll try to accommodate your needs.
How Much Do Pre-barcoded Tubes & Vials Cost?
The cost of your pre-barcoded tubes and vials will vary depending on several factors, namely: your source, quantity, marking method and any additional services you choose. Generally, pre-barcoded tubes and vials will cost more than those without labels already applied. However, when you consider the cost of equipment, consumables and labour required to get the job done in house, you may find it’s equally, if not more cost efficient, to go with a pre-barcoding strategy depending on your practices.
Your Source: depending on where you go to get your pre-barcoded labware, the customisation of your barcodes, marking technology and amount of services offered will vary along with the cost.
Suppliers and partners who offer more customisation options and services will typically have a broader price range with more variables that affect the cost than those who offer less. Because of this, if you expect more custom options you will likely end up paying more than if you choose a supplier who can only offer a generic barcode strategy.
Quantity: as quantity increases, so will the overall cost of your order, it really is as simple as that.
Marking Technology: The differences between a pressure sensitive cryogenic-resistant barcode label and a colourful direct mark print with your brand logo will be reflected in the price. This is because things like extended durability and branding are valuable to some customers, but not to others.
If samples have a short lifespan before disposal, why should you pay more for a durable custom label? While on the other hand, if your samples will spend years in cryo-storage and a colour coding strategy will help identify samples at a glance for simplified downstream processes a more durable custom option will prove valuable to your facility.
Additional Services: When you work with a partner who offers additional services, like tare-weighing or custom kitting, you can expect to pay more for those services if you choose to opt in. Since these services might normally be performed in your own lab, you receive value in the convenience of receiving your tubes and vials with these tasks already completed.
Hopefully this part of our series was able to give you a better idea of what pre-barcoding is, where you can find pre-barcoded tubes and vials, and whether or not sourcing pre-barcoded labware is right for you.
In part 4, we want to help you through the process of choosing the best labelling strategy for your facility by listing out the steps in the decision making process, and what each entails.
Our goal in this series is to cover everything you need to know about labelling for cryogenic storage, from what it is to your options when it comes to getting it done. We hope we were able to answer your questions, but if you have more please leave them in the comments below!