In the diagnostics and drug discovery industries it’s crucial that samples are processed accurately and in a timely manner, but when it comes to manual processes, speed and accuracy don’t always go hand in hand. As the industry grows, solutions to the challenge of meeting both time savings and sample integrity goals are being formed and perfected. Automation is becoming more popular for this reason, but even with automated solutions, maintaining in-house labelling might not be the most effective route for your lab. Another, less talked about option to reduce time spent on lab preparation and perfect sample integrity is pre-identified labware.
So what happens when your lab decides to investigate a pre-identified labware program? With our experience offering our own Ready Labware Services program, we’ve observed that many labs save time and reduce numbers of wasted samples. Let’s get into the details on how they achieve that!
How pre-labelled labware saves time
Efficiency is critical in the lab. When your team and processes work efficiently you reduce the amount of time wasted on non-value added tasks and spend more of it fulfilling the needs of your customers.
Think about whether or not the task of applying labels adds value to your organisation. Obviously, your samples need to be marked otherwise they can’t be differentiated from one another and lose all value, so identification is incredibly valuable to your processes. However, time spent applying labels, whether by hand or with automation equipment might not add all that much value to your final product or service. Think about how much time your employees spend labelling tubes and vials each day and imagine if that time were spent instead on tasks that are closer to the core focus of your organisation.
When you eliminate lower value tasks and instead spend the time saved focusing on what brings your lab the most value you get the chance to increase revenue and boost the overall productivity of your organisation.
When your labels peel or fade during cryo storage or testing processes, you lose critical information about your samples, often leading to the loss of the sample. When samples are thrown away because they can’t be scanned, your employees have to start the testing process all over again, all because the label couldn’t stay intact.
Most pre-identified labelling programs can be adapted to withstand your storage conditions and testing processes. In some cases, marking options that weren’t previously available to your lab become available to you and might be better fit to endure your storage and chemical exposure routines. When your labels stay intact you can ensure the valuable time of your employees won’t be spent re-preparing and testing samples that were lost due to loss of identity.
One unique factor of our program, Ready Labware Services, is that tare weighing can be completed prior to your order arriving at your facility.
Tare weighing is a critical step in the processing of samples in the research and discovery industry. Researchers must tare weigh their containers several times throughout processing to ensure accuracy of results. This task must be performed with precision and takes time. When one round of tare weighing has been completed before the arrival of your labware both the accuracy and speed of your processing increase.
Pre-identified labware is inspected and sorted before shipment guaranteeing you receive just the right amount of high quality labware to meet your needs. A common problem that occurs when multiple suppliers are trusted with your labware is that you receive differing amounts of labware and labels or you receive them at different times, with pre-marked labware this issue is eliminated. When you consolidate your labware and label orders into one, you can always be sure your labels will arrive in the right quantity, at the same time and accurately marked.
How pre-labelled labware increases sample integrity
Lab research must be both accurate and precise. When samples aren’t identified accurately or their labels lose integrity they often end up in the trash. Samples range in value from lab to lab, but each loss adds up. In situations where labels were placed poorly on the labware they may be salvageable, however they may interfere with downstream automation processes and take extra time to process. When your labware is pre-identified it is prepared to your specifications with the right marking solutions to withstand your processes, sample integrity is increased and unnecessary waste is avoided.
Labelling is important to your processes, which is why time is spent training employees how to properly apply labels, but it’s not usually a priority in the lab. Even when labelling is prioritised, lab employees will always be most trained in and focused on performing research and labelling will be viewed as a duty that prepares them to do so.
As a result of labelling being viewed as a preparatory chore rather than a task on its own, mistakes occasionally occur, and without dedicated quality control they can be overlooked. Poorly applied labels can interfere with downstream automation and reduce overall efficiency, but mislabelling can lead to dangerous situations and is avoided at all costs.
With a labware pre-identification program your employees can focus on research and your labware partner can take care of the rest. Time no longer needs to be spent training employees how to apply labels and mistakes can be avoided.
You might be wondering how mistakes will be minimised with pre-identification—what do suppliers do to prevent mistakes? To start, your supplier should have a team of employees dedicated to label application, preparation and quality control. When you outsource your labelling it becomes your supplier’s full time job to ensure specifications and quality standards are met. When precise and accurate application is the only priority, mistakes are going to be minimised, and any that do occur can be addressed prior to shipping.
Keep Your Labels Intact Through Automation & Processing
If your samples are expected to withstand (and most are) harsh chemicals, cryogenic storage, robotics or other automated processes, you probably already know that sample integrity can still be lost after barcode application. Though this is true, the solution to identity loss during processing often lies in proper application.
When working with an outsourcing partner make sure to tell them about your processes so they can match the right labels or marking technology to your needs. When you discuss your processes with your supplier they can find a marking solution that’s engineered to withstand your practices, they might even have options that wouldn’t be available to you outside of a pre-marking program!
For example, with Ready Labware Services you can utilise direct mark or ceramic labware identification technology. Both of these labware marking technologies are affixed directly to the labware without the use of adhesives or facestock making them extremely durable. These marking technologies aren’t practical for application in the lab because the equipment is large and the processes very technical, but they may be your best option if you’re struggling with sample identity loss during processing. There is also the added benefit that barcodes & images are properly and consistently oriented on the containers, allowing for easy automated scanning downstream.
Your time and samples are valuable, so it’s best they don’t go to waste. If your lab is struggling to improve efficiency or sample accuracy, and you don’t require time sensitive variable information, a pre-identified labware service might be the solution to your challenges. If you think a pre-marking labware solution sounds like a good match for you, give us a call and ask about our Ready Labware Services program.