How Sorenson Forensics saves time and money by bringing pipette calibration in-house

When your test results affect criminal and other legal proceedings, getting data you can trust is critical. See how Sorenson improved efficiency while meeting quality requirements by using the PCS.

>12 hours & $5,000 saved each year

Surprisingly, calibrating pipettes in-house with the PCS took less time than packing, shipping, and unpacking pipettes when they were calibrated off-site.

<3 years to recoup the investment into the PCS

With in-house calibration using the PCS taking even less time than they originally projected, Sorenson quickly recouped their investment in the PCS.

~2x fewer pipettes needed

With calibration keeping an individual pipette out of use for minutes instead of weeks, Sorenson no longer needed to keep a complete spare set of pipettes. A smaller pipette inventory further reduced the time and expense of calibration.

Product used: PCS® Pipette Calibration System
Application: Calibration, Volume verification

SITUATION

When your tests can impact criminal cases, data quality matters and your answers can’t be wrong. Knowing that your pipettes are performing within specifications is a critical part of ensuring data quality, but for Sorenson Forensics, managing pipette calibration was a challenge.

CHALLENGE

The team at Sorenson had been sending out their handheld pipettes for calibration, but were plagued with problems–their pipettes weren’t always returned in a timely fashion, pipettes were sometimes damaged during transit back to their labs, certificates were not immediately available and their staff spent large amounts of time prepping, shipping, and receiving pipettes that needed calibration.

SOLUTION

After examining their pipette calibration process using LEAN principles, the team at Sorenson realized they could save time, money, and labor by using the PCS and bringing pipette calibration in-house. A year after purchasing the PCS, they found that they saved even more time than originally projected because the PCS was quick and easy to use, they needed fewer pipettes because calibration took the pipettes out of use for minutes instead of weeks, and the logistics of maintaining audit trails was streamlined.

In addition, because they removed the uncertainty around the pipette’s environment in transit, they had more confidence in the performance of their calibrated pipettes.

Outsourcing pipette calibration was time-consuming

With certifications from ISO 17025, the College of American Pathologists/Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendments, American Society of Crime Lab Directors, the American Association of Blood Banks and the New York State Department of Health, Sorenson Forensics needs their handheld pipettes to be calibrated regularly using a process that is both transparent and well-documented. However, during an internal audit of their pipette calibration processes, the Sorenson team felt there were many areas where efficiency could be improved.

“The more we talked about it, the more I started picking up on things that were very wasteful,” explained Breeann Bryan, a lab manager at Sorenson. This included the time spent on the many steps involved in sending out pipettes, such as cleaning, decontamination, packing, and shipping, as well as generating all the necessary paperwork. Costs were incurred for shipping and the calibration service, as well as for maintaining a second set of pipettes to use in place of those out for calibration.

In addition, Bryan was concerned about the pipettes being jostled and subjected to varying temperatures and barometric pressures during transit. There was little doubt that the pipettes were properly calibrated and conditioned when they left the service provider. However, she just had to assume that they were still within specifications when they arrived: there was no way to know what effect the return trip may have had, as the lab was not in a position to verify the calibration.

Natalie Taylor
Lead Quality Control Technician at Sorenson Forensics

Bringing pipette calibration in-house saved surprising amounts of time and money

After getting a PCS on, the QC staff found it to be faster and easier than either outsourcing or gravimetric calibration. Before purchasing the PCS, Bryan estimated a total annual in-house calibration time for the 29 pipettes with < 2 uL nominal volume was between 63.5 and 90.5 hours. After using it for over a year, Bryan estimates that Sorenson actually only spent 33 to 38 hours to calibrate their 50 pipettes with < 30 uL nominal volume in-house. So the company is well ahead of schedule to recoup the capital investment.

Additionally, Sorenson has since sold or donated many of their pipettes because it is no longer necessary to maintain a complete spare set. With a smaller pipette inventory, calibration time requirements are even further reduced. “After all,” Bryan says, “pipettes are tools which need to be used to generate revenue. Any unused pipettes, or pipettes off-site for calibration, cannot be used for that purpose.”

Sorenson has already seen the financial benefits of bringing all pipette calibrations in-house. With the PCS on-site, the lab can test a pipette at any point in time, whenever there is reason for doubting its correct performance, e.g. after it has suffered a drop. Instead of sending pipettes out in batches for calibration, the company now have a single-piece flow of pipettes through calibration, allowing for faster turnaround times and smaller inventories. Most importantly, greater control over their lab instruments has reinforced Sorenson Forensics’ confidence in the critical test results that its laboratories produce every day.

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