Using barcodes to improve accuracy and efficiency in the lab

Using barcodes to improve accuracy and efficiency in the lab

In a fast-paced environment like a laboratory, efficiency is key.

One of the most important aspects to maintaining efficiency is ensuring the accuracy of your work — and how this accuracy itself is recorded.

It’s a time consuming task to label and track a specific sample in your lab, especially if you have hundreds or even thousands to handle every day and are reliant on labelling by hand.

Using barcodes on your labware with a tight labelling process is a simple, safe and effective way to keep your research precise and your time spent productively.

In this blog, we explore the basics of applying suitable barcodes to your labware and the different ways to manage your barcoding process.

How to apply barcodes to your labware

With a barcode on each of your containers, it’s faster and safer to track the samples in your inventory and access the information and data you need with electronic records. Barcodes can be introduced in different ways for different purposes, including pressure-sensitive barcode application which adhere to a surface when pressure is applied, and direct mark barcodes for a more permanent solution.

To be as practical as possible, barcodes and labels must:

  • Securely adhere to equipment and be durable under severe conditions. Not only does the process of labelling take longer by hand, but it leaves ample room for human error if the label doesn’t fit smoothly to the labware it’s applied to. Subsequently, if the barcode is unreadable when scanned, all the time spent in applying the labels, and the materials used to make them, are wasted.
  • Be correctly applied to appropriate labware. If the container is mislabelled with the wrong barcode, this can lead to disorganisation and even more dangerously, the potential misuse of hazardous materials. Applying the correct, readable barcode to your labware ensures that your samples are easily traceable, reducing the time spent tracking labware, so it’s ready to use for your specific application.

Improving your laboratory barcode system

Adopting a barcode process in your laboratory, with correctly applied barcodes across your samples, will provide immediate benefits when it comes to accuracy of recordings and overall safety levels.

However, the process itself might still remain time consuming, distracting you and your team from more valuable tasks and reducing overall efficiency levels.

There are two additional steps you can take to combat this:

  • Introduce Barcoding Automation. There is a wide range of automation equipment that can improve the overall speed of the barcode process in the lab environment. Tube and vial lab applicators for example, offer a cost effective way to increase labelling speeds with these devices enabling you to spend time on activities that are more beneficial to your overall objectives.
  • Use a Premium Barcoding Service. To further improve efficiency, many labs chose to outsource aspects of their barcoding processes to third parties who can implement a system suitable to the individual lab’s requirements. For example, DWK Life Sciences offer a premium barcoding service which includes sequence management to create unique barcodes, multiple symbologies to choose from, such as 2D Matrix Code or QR Code and label types to fit the barcoding needs of your project. This means that your glass and plastic labware can be processed with a quality barcode, freeing your time for more productive tasks. It also removes the need for storing printing and labelling equipment in the lab environment.

Want a review of your existing laboratory barcode system? Contact us for more information.