Critical decisions concerning quality of manufactured goods and publication of research findings are often based on results of laboratory analysis. Laboratory instruments are designed to provide analysis results of high reliability. You must have wondered what all factors contribute to your confidence on the results generated by an analytical instrument. Let us first list out some of the common factors that are believed to contribute to high degree of reliability of laboratory data.
- Cost of equipment
- Reputation of manufacturer
- Sophistication of the instrument
- Expertise and experience of operator
- Reputation of the laboratory
Cost of Equipment
The cost of the instrument goes up with the advanced features and degree of automation that it can offer. However, cost of equipment by itself does not add to the confidence on accuracy of data that it can deliver
Reputation of Manufacturer
The reputation that a manufacturer enjoys at national or global level is believed to add to the confidence that can be placed on the accuracy of results. However, there exists no direct correlation between the reputation of the supplier and reliability of data generated by the instrument.
Sophistication of the Instrument
Sophistication of the instrument only adds to its operational features and benefits such as automated operation,need for manual calculation of results, user-friendly application software, inbuilt safety features, etc. Such levels of sophistication make life easy for the operator and reduce the extent of personal bias and human errors but still do not guarantee a high degree of reliability of results
Expertise and Experience of the Operator
Expertise and exposure to instrument handling are a definite advantage. An experienced operator will make fewer mistakes but even then it cannot be guaranteed that the results will be above doubt.
Reputation of the Laboratory
All commercial test houses and laboratories strive to improve their services and build client confidence through regular up gradation of facilities and through certifications, registrations and accreditations of both industry boards as well as national and international regulatory bodies. Such laboratories evolve their own quality policies and adopt good laboratory practices which are in conformity with the norms laid down by regulatory bodies. However, despite all the certifications and accreditations even such laboratories need to validate their results through inter-laboratory testing in other accredited laboratories.
Now the question arises as to which critical factor ensures a high degree of reliability that can be placed on the laboratory results. The answer lies in calibration and re-calibration of instruments and measurement appliances such as volumetric glassware, analytical balances, weights, temperature recording thermometers, etc. ‘Significance of instrument calibration on quality of results ‘ discusses the essentials of calibration of laboratory instruments. A review of another article ‘How to decide calibration frequency of laboratory instruments would also be beneficial at this stage.
Calibration does not imply simply following a defined timeline for calibration of instruments. It is more important to maintain calibration records of all laboratory instruments that are covered under the calibration schedule and in case if any calibration parameter falls outside the specification limits the manufacturers technical support should be consulted. In no case should an out of calibration or out of order instrument be used for purpose of analysis and communication of results.