Choosing a pipette calibration company can be as difficult as choosing a pipette. One of the issues facing a laboratory is the fact that there may a diverse selection of pipettes from many manufacturers in the same laboratory. Our studies have shown the average laboratory will have at least 4 manufacturers’ products in use at any one time. More recently many companies and institutes have decided to reduce the number of suppliers to alleviate both purchase and service administration.
Many laboratories follow a number of guidelines for choosing a pipette or pipettes:
a) Health & Safety with considerations for light weight units, low thumb pressures for aspirate, dispense and tip eject
b) Full life costing
c) Tip compatibility
The net result may still be two or three products styles from different manufacturers due to the requirements for varying types of pipette for different protocols e.g. a large volume electronic multichannel, a repeat stepper pipette and a positive displacement unit. A single company, who can calibrate, repair and service “all makes and models”, is therefore an ideal candidate.
There are several hundred companies promoting themselves as pipette repair businesses and many offer this service at varying levels, but you may need reassurance on the levels of expertise or references from satisfied customers. As pipettes have become more complex and varied however the need to select the correct company is paramount. Electronic pipettes with stepper motors, linear actuators and PCB boards together with the introduction of exotic materials means that companies need to carry more spares and keep up to date on all models. Spares are an issue for many smaller companies as the restrictive nature of some manufacturers makes timely deliveries and purchase difficult and can delay return of the pipette to a laboratory.
Regulation of all calibration and audit companies has accelerated and is ensuring better working practice and ultimately assisting a laboratory in their work. On-site and off-site pipette calibration is also a requirement for many institutes and this can be expensive depending on supplier. The larger better organised companies often have service engineers located around the country to reduce travel time, carbon footprint and provide better service. Back to workshop service with fast turn times and loan pipettes can be an alternative and attractive to both parties.
We have created a checklist for selecting a Pipette service and calibration
1. Ask for accreditation details (you may not need a certificate, but if the company is accredited then their working practices are much more likely to be professional).
2. Ask if the company can repair all makes and models, including electronic pipettes and if they carry spares for all the popular makes of pipette.
3. Ask for a reference company. If they work with “Pharma” or Govt. institutes they are more likely to have been audited.
4. Ask what their environmental policy is.
5. Ask where their service engineers are located for best response and travel times.
6. Will the company provide an inventory report of products and performance?
7. Ask if they provide despatch and return boxes and decontamination certificates.
8. Ask if they will provide swap out pipets if this is your preferred route for calibration.
9. Ask what equipment they use: Balances with evaporation traps, type of software etc.
10. Ask what training their staff has been given by the pipette manufacturers.
11. Ask if they have an environmentally controlled calibration facility with vibration free surfaces and audited equipment.
12. If your business or institute is International then you may be interested in a global pipette calibration schemes administrated centrally. One company who can provide this Pipette Doctor often recognised as the the Pipette Calibration experts.
Unusual Makes and Models
Create an internal pipette inventory and ask the prospective service companies if they are experienced on all types of pipette, or only focus on a single manufacturer or brand. 95% of all pipettes will originate from less than 10 manufacturers, but the more esoteric products can be troublesome for less experienced businesses.
With the rapid increase of use in electronic pipettes, the need to be confident in your service and calibration company is paramount. These expensive tools use advanced electronic components, mechanical interfaces and charging systems. Most owners of luxury cars would not trust their new vehicle to a small one man garage without the necessary tools and training! Why would a laboratory do the same with their important tools?