Increasing work load, cost pressure or lack of qualified personnel makes process optimization and automation an important topic for many microbiological food testing laboratories.
Sample heterogeneity, many different test parameters and testing itself are a challenge for a full automation solution which includes the following process steps: to weigh the food sample in a stomacher bag, to fill up to ten times the weight with the diluent, to homogenize, to perform a dilution series, to inoculate for pour plates or surface plates, to incubate and to perform plate counts.
Complex high-tech workstations exist which can execute this sequence of very diverse tasks. Accordingly, such costly machines need very high sample throughputs for profitable operation. Risks of such a singular solution are technical problems and system failures during operation. If there is no redundancy or no alternative sample processing in the lab, the entire sample throughput can suddenly come to a standstill, with serious consequences for the lab and its customers.
Partial automation, as an alternative to full automation, supports technicians by the elimination of repetitive, manually complex work steps. Mostly those where the speed of execution and the reliability of the results depend on the individual work technique of the technicians. This strategy increases the quantity and quality of the output as well as relieves employees of repetitive work for improved well-being and job satisfaction. Thereby the established analytical process usually remains unchanged and there are no high investment costs as well as especially skilled personal needed. If several workplaces are equipped with partial automation solutions, the necessary redundancy is ensured in the event of problems at one workplace.
The Inlabtec Serial Diluter is a partial automation solution which increases productivity and supports technicians by offering the following advantages:
– Automated and standardized serial sample dilution in shortest time for consistently reliable results
– Simplified laboratory logistics and work preparation by eliminating the procurement or preparation of test tubes
– Reduced risk of errors by process simplifications: no handling of test tubes and caps and no manual mixing needed
– Easy integration into existing work processes as the Serial Diluter doesn’t require any special knowledge and can be used by everyone
– Facilitates quality assurance and normalizes quality level in the event of staff fluctuations, differences in working methods
– Low running and maintenance costs due to inexpensive consumables, no service contract or regular maintenance required, no special skilled technical staff required
– Minimal risk of a complete laboratory failure if several workstations are in operation
Partial automation is a veritable alternative to full automation where the sample heterogeneity is high, a high level of flexibility is demanded and the sample throughput has not yet reached a constantly high level which justifies huge investments. Partial automation is an important step to full automation. It lays the basic conditions to be a competitive lab which will be also capable to implement demanding projects like full automation.