Error Handling and Remote Monitoring
With a growing reliance on automated liquid handling and high-throughput techniques, the cost of a failed or aborted processing run is increasing almost exponentially. In addition to the loss of productivity, the loss of expensive reagents or compounds can represent a significant cost to laboratories. Error-handling protocols not only safe-guard against system errors but are also an important mechanism for dealing with complex liquid-handling requirements and avoiding unnecessary loss through operator errors.
The exact mechanisms of error handling vary widely between systems, however they all work on the basic premise of allowing the user to individually tailor the instruments response to any given error situation depending on the precise requirements of the application. By allowing the user to configure the platform for each error that may be encountered, the impact of the error can be minimized, maintaining productivity and reducing waste of samples and reagents.
For some applications, it is important that the user is able to take corrective action at the earliest opportunity. Remote-monitoring systems allow the operator to safe-guard such processes without having to physically supervise operation of the automated platform, offering increased walkaway time.
A variety of strategies for remote monitoring are now available. Tecan’s (www.tecan.com) CNS provides remote monitoring via an Intranet or Internet connection as well as utilizing push notification technologies using portable devices such as the iPhone®. These systems provide the operator with real-time monitoring of automated laboratory processes from multiple systems, allowing them to perform other tasks from remote locations during processing (Figure 3).