Meeting Increased Workloads with Automation

Automating Workflows

Clinical Lab ManagerAutomated Liquid Handler Considerations

Automating Workflows

We recently interviewed two industry leaders, Dr. Nathaniel Hentz, Vice President, Artel, and John Derent, Account Manager, Artel, to talk about how automated liquid handlers can conserve time and staff resources to improve productivity. Artel and Clinical Lab Manager collaborated on this recent article, as published on Clinical Lab Manager.

Q: Why are more and more clinical labs choosing to adopt automated liquid handlers (ALHs)?

JD: Automated liquid handlers (ALHs) allow for standardized and reliable liquid handling, reducing variability and improving assay precision. Additionally, ALHs provide better traceability since automation steps are recorded and can be reviewed later. By shifting routine, manual procedures to an ALH, lab personnel can conserve their time and cognitive resources for complex tasks, improving job satisfaction and increasing productivity.

Q: What changes in precision do labs experience with an ALH?

JD: Many labs see improvements in results when they transfer from manual to automated platforms because of the reduction in operator variability that occurs with manual pipette operation. With ALHs, labs may notice an immediate improvement in precision, especially when transferring small volumes and for high-throughput tasks. ALHs neither tire from working long hours nor experience fluctuations during shift changes, which otherwise add variability to assay results.

Q: What should a lab consider when selecting an ALH for their lab?

NH: We have worked with many labs to ensure that the ALH they choose meets their immediate and longer-term needs, from small benchtops to large fully integrated units with multiple accessories, based on the following considerations:

  1. Budget: Given the cost of ALHs ranges from less than $10,000 to more than $250,000, in addition to maintenance and technical support, what can your lab afford?
  2. Lab environment: What are your lab’s space constraints? Where will the instrument be located? How well-controlled is the environment (temperature, humidity, etc.)?
  3. Lab personnel: Do you have an expert dedicated to automation, or will there be multiple occasional users of your ALH?
  4. Servicing and maintenance: Will you service the ALH in house, or will you outsource yearly tune-up and preventive maintenance?
  5. Use of liquid handler: What assays do you work with? Do you need the ALH to perform one repetitive task, or should it be able to multitask and be flexible?

JD: In addition, automated systems require their own quality program tailored to the equipment and the lab processes, including optimization procedures, routine testing, preventative maintenance, and a plan for ad-hoc verifications.

Q: What does “optimized liquid handling” mean and how can labs assess it?

NH: Optimized liquid handling refers to how accurate and precise the dispense volume is for a liquid transfer. It depends on several liquid class parameters, such as aspirate and dispense speed, tip immersion depth, tip withdrawal speed, etc. When automating an assay, optimization is critical. While there are different ways of measuring volume during optimization, the ratiometric absorbance technique developed by Artel is the only method that can measure both accuracy and precision.


Artel Digest Hero

Artel Liquid Handling Service

Our on-site service is customizable – we can quickly measure volume transfers using your liquid handling methods, tips and reservoirs – and depending on the testing parameters, liquid types can be Aqueous, DMSO, PCRMix, SerumSub and more.

 


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About the Authors

John DerentJohn Derent
John Derent is a Global Account Manager with Artel. His focus is on assisting customers and laboratories with optimizing their liquid handling operations and meeting their productivity goals. Prior to Artel, John was a Senior Scientist at Janssen (J&J). For 20 years he spent his time automating previously manual processes and developing sample preparation and assay methods utilizing a variety of liquid handlers and automated platforms. He has worked in small and large molecule environments in both the research and GLP areas. John has used Artel technology for more than fifteen years, and with his deep understanding of automation and laboratory operations he is well positioned to help customers get the best possible performance out of their instrumentation and assays.

Dr. Nat HentzDr. Nathaniel Hentz
Dr. Nathaniel Hentz, Vice President, Artel, worked for more than 10 years at the BTEC Analytical Lab at NC State University, teaching graduates topics that focused on biopharmaceutical assay development and validation. Before his tenure at NC State, Dr. Hentz worked at Bristol-Myers Squibb for two years supporting automation screening systems within the Lead Discovery group and seven years developing screens at the RPT Laboratories for Eli Lilly.