Part 1 of 2
Training is the Foundation of Repeatability
Golfing, painting, composing, archery, driving even pipetting all require guidance, followed by the development of skill, to achieve excellence. Accuracy and repeatability are at the heart of this excellence.
For almost  years, I worked in and around laboratories where pipetting accuracy was critical to the objective…accurate test results. Yet, in all that time, I never received formal training on proper pipetting technique, nor was I ever formally evaluated for pipette performance competency. There were simply no programs implemented to ensure that my skills and measurements were accurate and consistent. The only assurance of pipette measurement accuracy was directed at the pipettes and was initially achieved through crude calibrations, often uncontrolled and without standards. Pipette training was still not given a second thought, as there was little data to suggest pipetting skill was a problem.
Calibration providers began to appear with a more refined approach, recognizing newly developed industry measurement standards, by ISO, ANSI, NIST and others. Calibration providers then steered their compliant services toward regulated laboratories.
Still today, the primary focus to ensure pipette accuracy remains squarely on the pipettes. With little to no regulation for monitoring user performance, or measurement proficiency, test results are the primary indicator of competence. As a result, lab costs have already been incurred and results, inconclusive. There is no pipette error prevention in the process.
From the may reports and publications written about pipetting accuracy, we know today that pipette users are responsible for about 70% of all pipetting errors. (Yes, 70%, but that report may even be low). Data we collected over the past 3 years, while providing pipette training on location at different lab locations revealed a very consistent trend. The vast majority of pipette users cannot meet the published repeatability tolerances of a brand name pipettes.
Based on my personal experience of providing 70+ bench scientists with performance training during the past 3 years, most labs are not just focused on the wrong source of pipette error, they have not even registered the fact that the pipette users are a significant source of pipette error and lab cost increases.
For laboratories looking to improve productivity, reduce cost and provide a reliable testing service, or for those research labs who hope to develop the latest technology ahead of others, an easy investment in pipette training, coupled with a laboratory-based calibration service provider, can lead you to greater accuracy, greater repeatability and greater productivity. Not only will your test results improve, your operating costs should diminish and that is a solid foundation for excellence. For those scientists who participated in our Option 3 pipette training, immediate improvement, following training was the common theme.
In part 2, I will discuss 3 simple reasons a valid pipette training program should be available to every laboratory.