Part 2 of 2
The Key to Pipetting Error Prevention, Cost Control and Productivity
1. Variability in Pipetting Technique and Skill Level = Variability in Results
In Part 1 of our Why Pipette Training Is Critical to the Bottom Line series, we showed how pipette users are responsible for about 70% of all pipetting errors. Part 2 continues with 3 keys to pipetting error prevention, cost control and productivity. I mentioned that in my 30 years of laboratory experience, I have never had formal pipette training. If your story is similar, I’m sure you’ll agree at pipetting skills vary greatly from one lab tech to another. What is not often realized is the significance this variability can have on measurement accuracy, cost and test results. For example, consider the following:
• pipette tip installation forces,
• prewetting of tip,
• pipette aspiration angle,
• pipette dispensing technique,
• use of the blow-out and
• thermal transfer (transfer of heat from your hand to your pipette).
Collectively, failure to control these pipetting variables will lead to both individual and staff-wide measurement deviations that can exceed 20, 30, even 50% or more. This level of variability will translate directly to your test results and lead to costly rework, waste, cost increases and test delays. Let’s explore this more.
2. Pipetting Errors are Costly
Pipetting errors not only create poor results, they create the need for additional testing, which in turn raises costs and impedes productivity. Identifying and preventing the primary causes of pipette errors and incorporating a prevention program is simply prudent and cost effective, yet many lab managers focus only on the pipette service provider to ensure their pipette accuracy. This can be a costly oversight.
Having provided over 100 bench scientists with 1-on-1 pipette training during the past two years, our team has identified two common findings. First, the high majority of pipette users are unable to meet pipette measurement repeatability tolerances (acceptable accuracy over a series of successive measurements). Secondly, most pipette users see an immediate measurement performance improvement when adopting the instruction, coaching and techniques provided them during training (in a comparison of before and after measurement data provided).
3. Increasing Pipette Performance Across the Lab Increases Productivity
If the cost alone has not increased your heart rate, consider that laboratory test results rely significantly on accurate measurement performance. In the development stages, lab tests are optimized scientifically (through repeatability) and rely on the skills of the pipette user to measure predetermined volumes of liquid ingredients to achieve this optimal volume ratio. This is not dissimilar to baking a cake. If you change the ingredients amounts, the cake will turn out differently than expected. In the lab, these different outcomes appear as poor or indeterminate test results. Ultimately, poor pipetting accuracy by the lab tech leads to rework, waste and higher cost.
Ensuring the pipette performance of each lab tech is critical to testing accuracy and productivity. Regular performance training and testing of the staff is the only way to ensure competency. Considering the stakes, the smart manager will see the big picture and ensure measurement accuracy and consistency is the means to maximize test accuracy and productivity. Those that rely solely on the integrity of a positive or negative control result find high variability, indeterminate results and repeating more tests than necessary.