Blog - Accuracy Matters

The Remarkable Cost of Pipette Errors

Pipette: The Primary Laboratory Measurement Tool

Laboratory scientists use piston-operated volumetric apparatus – otherwise referred to as pipettes – to develop drugs and therapies, or to provide critical diagnostic test results. The objective is clear: to improve the lives of many through good science. Pipettes are the laboratory tools that provide scientists with an ability to measure very small volumes of liquid with a very high degree of accuracy and precision. When pipetting performance is high, science can advance effectively. But when pipetting performance is low, test results are affected and can often lead to costly rework.


Poor Pipette Performance = Pipette Errors

Assay rework is a common occurrence in the lab. Since science is about reproducibility, test results are often repeated for confirmation. However, when rework is caused by poor or inconsistent measurement performance, results can be difficult to confirm, and testing costs can rise significantly.


Four Sources of Pipette Error

Improper Type of Pipette: Poor pipette performance has several primary sources. Pipettes that are used to measure liquids they were not designed to measure often lead to pipette errors. For example, air displacement pipettes are great for aqueous liquids, whereas positive displacement models are ideal for viscous and corrosive liquids.

Pipette Tip is Not Validated: Unless you use the same brand of pipette tip as the pipette or an expert conducts a test to validate your universal pipette tips, measurement performance cannot be assured. While universal tips can successfully be used with a variety of pipettes, users should not proceed unless having verified the pipette tip with the pipette through data collection or an experiment. Having your universal-fit pipette tips performance-tested by an ISO 8655 compliant calibration provider is the best way to ensure your pipette tips are right for your pipette and will not cause unexpected pipetting errors. Our knowledgeable team can conduct a test in our lab to verify the performance and fit of your universal pipette tips – ensuring accuracy and reducing costly pipette errors.

Compromising with Your Calibration Service: How pipette calibration services are performed is often perceived as similar. However, there are some significant distinctions between on-site pipette services and in-lab pipette services, as an on-site pipette service provides a vastly different measurement service than the standard-based calibrations service of a laboratory-based pipette calibration provider. When calibration services are performed on-site, the availability of sufficient tools, parts, test equipment, and environment controls may provide the calibration with higher measurement uncertainty. While an on-site pipette calibration service delivers flexibility and convenience, the lack of test equipment and environment controls could leave room for error. To achieve the highest measurement assurance throughout the calibration lifecycle, a detailed preventative maintenance service from a laboratory calibration provider is the ideal solution.

Incorrect Use in the Lab: Finally, the largest source of pipetting error in the lab is caused by the pipette users. Poor or inconsistent user technique translates very easily to poor and inconsistent test results. Even a high-end pipette brand, used with performance-tested pipette tips and calibrated by an ISO 17025 accredited provider to ISO 8655 performance standards, cannot counter the inaccuracies and substandard reproducibility of a poor pipette user.



The Remarkable Cost of Pipette Error

In the following laboratory scenario, cost estimates are assigned to reflect the impact of a single pipette error on a lab budget, then expanding those costs throughout the laboratory staff. Actual costs may vary, but the impacts are clear. For diagnostic labs, sample loss from pipette errors could be detrimental to the testing process and the patient.


Preventing Pipette Errors in the Lab

The simple solution is for labs to first realize these costs and invest in pipette error prevention. By reducing pipette errors, you thereby reduce test and development costs.

Estimates of Yearly Cost per Pipette Error

Test Data Analysis / Impact Study: $200 - $500
Reagant / Labware Waste: $100 - $500
Sample Loss – Potentially Game Over: $0 - $100
Additional Payroll / Work Time: $100 - $200
Total Estimated Cost per Error: $400 - $1,000
Average: 2 Errors per Year: $800 - $2000
10 Lab Technicians: $8000 - $20,000 per Year
5-Year Risk: $40,000 - $100,000

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