Avoid these four potential errors in the QC lab with automation

Published: 16-Apr-2015

The traditional test for microbial colony enumeration is a proven method, but has several opportunities for errors, which can create costly investigations and user retraining

The traditional test for microbial colony enumeration is a proven method, but has several opportunities for errors, which can create costly investigations and user retraining. With the increased adoption of rapid microbiological methods, labs are addressing these potential risks.

One of these methods is automated, growth-based RMM (rapid microbiological method). This system automates the compendial method with robotics and imaging systems that reduce resource requirements to perform testing, and eliminate many of the manual steps that can create errors. Following are four potential errors microbiologists can address through automated, growth-based RMM in their quality control labs.

1. Incubation transfers

When a test requires serial incubation, samples could be transferred from one to the other at the wrong times. With an automated system, serial incubation transfers are performed automatically. Once samples are loaded into the system, internal robotics transfer from one incubator to the next at pre-programmed intervals.

2. Enumeration

In most micro labs, technicians who rely on their naked eye perform colony counting. Experience can play a significant role in the determination of the colony counts, and less experienced staff may over- or under-count growing colonies. To overcome this, some companies use multiple technicians to perform the counting, increasing the needed resources.

In contrast, automated technologies such as the Growth Direct System can detect microcolonies of as few as around 100 cells. Colony enumeration is performed earlier and more efficiently.

3. Data transcription

Once the microbiologist has completed colony counting, the CFU results are generally entered into a laboratory information management system (LIMS). This creates an opportunity for error. While the counts may be correct, the data may be keyed incorrectly into LIMS, leading to an exception or investigation.

Integration of an automated method to LIMS can eliminate these potential errors. When interfaced, an automated RMM system will upload the CFU counts to the LIMS system, eliminating the need for data entry.

4. Handling

In large campus environments, technicians must travel to the manufacturing area, gown into the clean rooms, perform sampling, and then return to the lab.  The transport offers a potential chance of misplacing samples or contaminating them, leading to investigations.

Some automated technologies offer the ability to place the system closer to the manufacturing area, reducing the travel time and potential for handling errors.

To learn more about reducing errors and boosting the efficiency of your QC lab, download our free guide to improving microbial testing with automated, growth-based RMM.

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