Sample Management – Key to Success of Laboratory Operations

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Commercial Testing Laboratory

Advance analysis planning based on test requirements,sample characteristics and priorities is the key to success of laboratory operations.

This article provides some useful tips on sample management throughout the analysis cycle.

Sample receipt

Sample receiving is a skilled activity which should be entrusted to technically qualified and trained manpower who should observe the sample and record their observations before receipt.

  • Sample nature – whether sample is solid, liquid, semisolid, sample homogeneity and sample storage conditions, if any
  • Container – damaged or leaking containers with illegible labels should not be accepted for testing. Packaging should be in conformity with the stability requirements.
  • Quantity – sample quantity should be sufficient for conducting all the required tests.
  • Test requirements – sample should be accompanied with a request clearly specifying the required tests In case of a special test the customer should confirm whether the method prescribed is a validated method and if required availability of required standards should be confirmed in advance
  • Sample coding – assigning codes to each sample will prevent analyst from knowing the sample origin and avoid personal bias

Sample storage

Proper storage as per the prescribed conditions ensures consistency of results.

  • Sample stability – samples should be received and stored in special containers and under prescribed conditions to preserve sample integrity over the storage period prior to analysis.
  • Sample should be identified for analysis requirements and kept in separate bins meant for different laboratory sections
  • Make doubly sure that there are no leaks of spills so as to avoid cross contamination.
  • Unstable samples should be stored under specified conditions such as dark vials, dry ice or refrigeration

Sample recording

Mistakes or oversight in recording of samples before testing is gross negligence and should be avoided at all costs

  • Sample data should be carefully recorded to avoid errors even before actual analysis is undertaken
  • Pre-printed analysis master reports should accompany the sample to various analysis sections. The sheet should mention that test requirements along with the acceptance levels for each test parameter.

Sample tracking

  • Each section should make a record of sample receipt, sample details and the next section to which the sample would be transferred for further testing
  • Enter results directly into the master data sheet or into laboratory information management systems (LIMS) if available. Entry into LIMS will provide on – line access of results to laboratory management and the sample provider
  • Retain a portion of sample under prescribed conditions for retesting if found necessary

Sample disposal

Sample disposal can be planned to preserve precious laboratory space.

  • Follow the plan laid out in the standard operating procedures for different categories of samples
  • Maintain sample disposal records
  • Maintain records of sample disposal by specialized agencies wherever applicable

In addition to the steps involved in sample management advance planning is helpful in planning analysis of samples requiring common parameter testing .You can save precious time in keeping ready the required items such as reagents, standards, buffers and mobile phases, etc.

Adoption of sample management measures will go a long way in improvement of your laboratory operations and profitability .Please feel free to offer your comments and suggestions.

About Dr. Deepak Bhanot

Dr Deepak Bhanot is a seasoned professional having nearly 30 years expertise beginning from sales and product support of analytical instruments. After completing his graduation and post graduation from Delhi University and IIT Delhi he went on to Loughborough University of Technology, UK for doctorate research in analytical chemistry. His mission is to develop training programs on analytical techniques and share his experiences with broad spectrum of users ranging from professionals engaged in analytical development and research as well as young enthusiasts fresh from academics who wish to embark upon a career in analytical industry.

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