Choosing the right microbial testing laboratory to meet your business needs can be a daunting task. There are myriad factors to consider while you decide which lab you should use: laboratory reputation, location of the lab relative to you, pricing, available testing… the list goes on. Every business has unique needs and may choose to prioritize these many factors slightly differently. There are, however, a handful of core qualities that are the cornerstones upon which every great lab is built.
1 – Accreditation
It is impossible to overstate the benefits of using an accredited laboratory. Accredited labs voluntarily pay for and undergo regular audits by third-party companies called accreditation bodies. These audits involve industry experts visiting the lab and doing a deep dive into the lab’s processes to ensure that specific technical, safety, and quality standards are being met by the laboratory. The “gold standard” of standards for labs to meet is ISO 17025.
ISO is the International Organization for Standardization and they develop the standards by which items are manufactured and tested. You may remember that there were many “eclipse glasses” being sold leading up to the 2017 Total Solar Eclipse, and the media recommended consumers purchase only those glasses labeled to be ISO 12312-2-compliant. The idea there was to ensure consumers were purchasing products that met specific quality standards to ensure safe eye protection. The idea for labs is exactly the same. Using a laboratory with an ISO 17025 accreditation should give you peace of mind that high quality standards are being met while your samples are tested.
2 – Agility
Routine testing of any kind is typically, well, pretty routine. 9 times out of 10 you’re requesting the same types of tests and getting the results you expect in the time-frame you expect. What happens, though, when something unexpected does happen? What about that obscure special project you have? What if you have an unexpected sampling event and need testing started on a weekend?
Those are the times when the rubber meets the road. Utilizing a laboratory capable of quickly adapting to meet your needs can be the difference between a hiccup and a catastrophe. Admittedly, agility can be a difficult quality for you to assess before committing to using a particular lab.
Here’s the test: how easy is it for you to talk to the decision maker? The easier it is for you to speak directly to the director or owner of the laboratory, the easier it is going to be for the lab to adapt to meet your needs. If you have to call a sales rep, get transferred, put on hold, get transferred to a middle-manager, and eventually hear “someone will get back to you”… that should be a red flag. Truly agile and adaptable labs have easily accessible and involved upper-management who prioritize the unique and unforeseen challenges that businesses like yours face every day.
3 – Scientific Literacy
Microbial testing laboratories are scientific businesses, and they are always directed and managed by scientists… right? Wrong. While it is true that many labs get their start with scientists at the helm, many of those labs are eventually owned and operated by non-scientists.
Microbial and analytical testing laboratories with scientifically-literate leadership will be more prepared to help you with the technical aspects of your projects. These industry experts have years of education and technical experience to draw upon when faced with a new challenge. When there is no disconnect between the scientific foundation of a laboratory and the daily functions within the lab, the overall quality of the work flourishes.
- American Astronomical Society: National Science Foundation. “How to Tell If Your Eclipse Glasses or Handheld Solar Viewers Are Safe.” Solar Eclipse Across America, 2017, https://eclipse.aas.org/eye-safety/iso-certification. Accessed 6 February 2021.