eLabBlog

The Sample Barcoding Boom in Biotech

By Chris Austin 3 min read 28 Feb 2024

Barcoding biological samples and integrating this information with laboratory sample management software offers a more efficient means for tracking a wide range of biospecimens. The blog below discusses sample barcoding and its advantages over traditional sample tracking methods.

What is Sample Barcoding?

Biological sample barcoding assigns a unique identifier to an individual biospecimen, analogous to barcodes used on consumer products. Barcodes provide a reliable means of cataloguing and tracking the location and application of samples used in a laboratory, particularly when integrated with sample management software. 

Before Barcoding: Relying on Manual Methods for Sample Management

Before barcoding was applied in laboratories, researchers employed various traditional methods to track biological samples, often relying on manual and time-consuming processes. One method still used by many labs is documentation in a lab notebook, where detailed records, handwritten notes, and labels are meticulously maintained. This method, however, is prone to human error and could lead to misinterpretation or loss of crucial information. Even when spreadsheets are used to manage and track sample inventories, there is still room for human error and mistakes. 

Physical tagging systems, such as numbered or colour-coded labels, are often implemented to distinguish samples. While these methods are better than relying solely on written records, they still have limitations, especially when dealing with large-scale studies or when long-term storage is required. The absence of a standardized and universally applicable system makes data sharing and collaboration challenging. 

The Benefits of Barcoding

Sample barcoding helps provide solutions for these challenges. While not all scientists transitioned from paper records or disjointed software solutions, there are some key reasons for the growing interest in sample barcoding and its integration with comprehensive lab information software.

Sample Identification and Tracking

Barcoding provides a unique identifier for each biological sample, reducing the chances of errors in sample identification. Integration with laboratory sample management software enables real-time tracking of sample locations, movements, and usage history. This metadata provides a more comprehensive view of a sample collection compared to manual sample management methods.

Efficient Data Management

Combining barcodes with sample management software allows for efficient and accurate data entry. Researchers can quickly scan barcodes instead of manually entering sample information, reducing the risk of transcription errors. It streamlines data management by providing a centralized platform for storing and retrieving sample-related information.

Automation and High Throughput

Barcoding facilitates automation in sample-handling processes. Automated systems can scan and process samples more quickly and accurately than manual methods. This is particularly important in high-throughput laboratories where large numbers of samples need to be processed efficiently.

Sample Integrity and Reproducibility

Barcoding helps maintain the integrity of samples by reducing the likelihood of mix-ups or contamination. By integrating with sample management software, researchers can ensure the reproducibility of experiments by accurately documenting and tracking sample conditions and parameters.

Compliance and Quality Control

Barcoding and software integration helps laboratories adhere to regulatory and quality control standards. They also enhance traceability and auditability, which is crucial for compliance with various industry and research regulations.

Time and Cost Savings

Streamlining sample management processes through barcoding and software integration can save time and reduce operational costs. Automation and efficient data handling contribute to overall workflow optimization, allowing researchers to focus more on the scientific aspects of their work.

Data Integration and Analysis

Integration with sample management software enables seamless integration with other laboratory systems, facilitating comprehensive data analysis. Researchers can correlate sample information with experimental results, helping them draw meaningful conclusions from their data.

Collaboration and Data Sharing

Barcoding and sample management software facilitate collaboration by providing a standardized and easily shareable format for sample information. Researchers from different labs or institutions can more effectively share data, fostering collaborative efforts and accelerating scientific progress.

Conclusion

Combining barcoding and laboratory sample management software improves the efficiency, accuracy, and overall management of biological samples in research lab settings. 

If you’re considering the eLabNext platform or are a current eLabNext customer who hasn’t taken advantage of sample barcoding yet, explore the Biobanking section of the eLabMarketplace or check the ZPL Printer add-on or FLUICS PRINT add-on. eLabNext can also provide a list of printers and scanners supporting sample barcoding. If you are a ZPL, Brady, or FLUICS customer looking to make your next steps on your digital journey and want to be the with the ‘Easiest to Use’ and ‘Best Value’ ELN provider, then request a demo or jump straight to your free 30-day trial of eLabNext.

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