When it comes to microbiological testing, one of the most laborious, repetitive and time-consuming tasks is the preparation of large volumes of sample plates or cassettes for incubation. The incubation process consumes the most time, but sample preparation requires more manual involvement from microbiologists and other quality control personnel.
As highlighted on this blog, automated rapid methods for environmental monitoring can help streamline the process. But for companies that are still using manual methods, there are a few ways microbiologists can make sampling faster and more efficient. Whether you're prepping plates for environmental monitoring or working with large numbers of small-batch and individual samples, successful qc labs have found the following three tips help accomplish the task with less time and effort.
If your lab frequently does small-batch runs, or if you know you'll have several discreet samples to test within a small time frame, you may save time by grouping several batches together in a high-volume incubator. The documentation for these runs may become more complicated, but you'll likely still spend less overall time on testing than if you carry out multiple incubations for smaller batches.
When possible, use multiple instruments for both sample collection and incubation. High-volume active air sampling will take a great deal of time if you only use one air sampler, for instance, but multiple air samplers can drastically shorten the process and allow you to begin your incubations that much more quickly.
The same is true for multiple incubators. You may only have access to one or two, and an extra, available incubator may be a rarity most of the time. But the use of multiple devices will make your highest volume tests at least a little easier to manage.
Testing requirements are often high following a change in production or the opening of a new facility. However, they don't necessarily have to stay so high, particularly in the case of environmental monitoring. Once several months of test data indicate that little growth occurs in a given area, it may be safe to reduce that area's testing frequency. This change also allows for higher frequencies of testing in more high risk areas, which will in turn help to determine root causes and potentially allow for even less high-volume testing in the long run.