Is there a right or wrong way to pour pills through a Kirby Lester tablet counter?

Is there a right or wrong way to pour pills through a Kirby Lester tablet counter?

Is there a right and a wrong way to pour medications through a Kirby Lester tablet counter? That question receives some strong opinions. Over the years, we have had product trainers who have been drill sergeant-serious about the one and only way to pour. And we have had relaxed account managers who abide by a live-and-let-live policy, or in this case, pour-and-let-pour. As long as you hit your correct count, it’s all good! So if you ever wondered, “How do I pour pills through a Kirby Lester counter?”, then read on.

Talking with Capsa’s product managers for our Kirby Lester pharmacy automation, there is no “absolute” method to pour the perfect order through a Kirby Lester. However, there are definite trends and no-no’s, they counsel. Nuances, and – dare we say – artistry is deployed. Some even have names, they have noticed.

Since the Kirby Lester tablet counter was invented in 1971 by John Kirby and Rod Lester, it’s possible that millions of pharmacists and pharmacy technicians have used our famed tablet counting devices (KL15e, KL1, KL1Plus). And with it has come individuality in methods. Here are some popular methods. Your pharmacy may even have a few that we hadn’t thought of (or named). Please tell our marketing manager at He’ll even give you credit in a follow-up blog post.

We happily endorse these methods, because they lead to a perfect pour:

1. The Over-The-Top, where you pour pills past, or over, the funnel hole. Use the far side of the funnel as a backboard so pills can cascade to the left and right sides on their own as they trickle downward. This is the method most frequently recommended by our service team. The main point: Don’t aim for the funnel hole, aim past or over it.

2. The Back-n-Forth, also called Tail-Wag, where you shake the bottle left to right like a dog wagging its tail.

3. The Tap-Dance, where you tap the bottle on the rim of the funnel to shake out a few at a time.

4. The Swirl, where you shake pills while moving the stock bottle in a small circle above the funnel.

5. The Salt Shaker, where you shake carefully, like not wanting to over-salt your food.

6. The Get A Stick method, which is most helpful with physically large pills. As you pour, use a clean spatula or plastic stirrer to gently stir the pills, loosen them, and help their plunge down the funnel. This prevents “bridging” where pills back up atop the funnel.

7. The Cap method, which is combined with any of the above methods. As you get close to your target count, pour the last few pills into the cap to get it perfect. For instance, on a 30-count, use normal pouring speed to get to 27 or 28. Stop, tap out the last 2 or 3 into the cap, and dump the final numbers down the funnel. Voila!

On the flipside, we do not endorse the methods below. The magic behind the patented Kirby Lester counting technology is its ability to see multiple pills at once. The maximum recommended speed is no more than 15 parts per second. Any faster, and your device will tell you it doesn’t approve with an “O-S” or overspeed error. Make your Kirby Lester counter happy, and avoid these methods:

1. The Touchy-Feely, where you pour pills into your hand or use fingers to regulate how many are coming out of the bottle. (We’ve see customers cringe when coworkers do this for obvious sanitary reasons.)

2. The Dump, where you send way too many pills at a time down the funnel. Don’t blame us for those O-S (overspeed) errors!

3. The Jerk is similar to The Dump, just more stop-and-start. The result is frequently the same: too many pills down the funnel to be efficient.

4. The Straight-Down-The-Drain where pills don’t cascade at all, you just flow them straight through the hole. The device wants pills to disperse, to cascade, to be randomized.

5. The Little Old Lady, where you tip…out…one…pill…at…a…time. This will make your coworkers crazy, and it underutilizes the capacity of the counting technology. Remember, a Kirby Lester device can handle up to 15 parts per second. While you don’t want to let ‘er rip, you don’t want to cause a traffic jam in your pharmacy, either. Find your happy medium.

Watch our video about preferred techniques for perfect pouring.

Read more about our Kirby Lester counting devices, the KL1 and KL1Plus.