The Real Cost of Laboratory Liquid Handling

Laboratories use various types of liquid handling devises every day to measure and transfer samples and reagents. Single and multichannel pipettes, repeat dispensers, bottle-top dispensers, positive displacement pipettes, etc. have been around for 40+ years and are present in almost every biopharma, medical research and clinical lab today. So, what are the costs associated with an institutions liquid handling processes?

On the surface the answer appears to simply be the cost of the instruments, pipette tips and the annual or bi-annual calibration. But by digging deeper you’ll find the costs of pipetting errors, which may lead to testing failures can far outweigh all the other costs combined. Consider a typical laboratory assay in relation to the costs associated with that process; the reagents, laboratory consumables and the analyst time to estimate downstream costs of liquid handling errors. If you assume only a small percent of those errors lead to assay failures the costs associated are still highly significant. Use the cost calculator below to estimate the monetary costs associated with failed experiments in your lab.

TTE Error Cost Calculator

So how does a lab minimize liquid handling errors? The answer is surprisingly simple, delivers a large return on investment and can be accomplished in “Four Easy Steps”.

  • First, purchase pipettes which are highly accurate, precise, robust and appropriate for the application. Saving money on substandard equipment up front will lead to poorer performance throughout the course of its lifetime and earlier replacement.

  • Use OEM tips if possible but if cost is an issue use only validated generic pipette tips. Just because a tip fits on your pipette it doesn’t mean the accuracy and precision parameters are being met. Testing must be done to ensure generic tips are appropriate for your labs equipment.

  • Choose a high-quality calibration provider on quality over convenience. This is especially important when calibrating low volume pipettes and pipettes which are under regulatory control.

  • Train your employees on “Pipetting Best Practices”; this can’t be stated strongly enough. It has been estimated that 70-80% of all pipetting errors are user derived yet most analyst have never received training on pipette usage and care.

Giving thought upfront to an organization liquid handling processes can reap substantial benefits in terms of cost reduction, aligning laboratory operations and accelerating corporate objectives. Streamlining other areas within some organizations operations may produce greater savings, however the ROI maybe less when considering the effort required to implement the “Four Easy Steps”.