The challenge of purchasing equipment for a modern laboratory requires original and innovative thinking on several fronts. In today’s fast-changing work environment within the sciences, it is crucial that the manager of a laboratory establishes answers to several important questions, such as:
- What varieties of equipment are affordable?
With over ten (10) years’ experience which cuts across various laboratory equipment markets, we believe that the important factors to consider when purchasing new instruments are;
1 Instrument related:
- Confirm application range
- Sample throughput – Cycle Time to process two or more samples
- Available Choices (types or choices) and Upgrade Path (future adaptation without repurchasing unit)
- What standard configuration is best to satisfy your needs?
- Warranty –
What is the warranty period?
What does it cover?
Does service take place at the factory or on site?
- Built-In Diagnostics – Does unit include user accessible information for trouble-shooting/maintenance?
- Operating Environment Requirements and Site Preparation Considerations
2 Data Handling – Instrument Control
- What is the storage file format and capabilities – can I easily share data or export to Excel, Word and PDF?
- File Structure –
Ease of retrieving data?
Operation and Set Up?
User interface for new users?
- Presentation or Publication of Data –
Can I use graphs?
Results in Word reports or Power Point?
Windows Compatibility? Mac Compatibility?
GLP, cGMP, CFR, etc. compliant?
- Cost of Upgrade
What is the grace period for free update?
What is the upgrade policy after the first year?
- What level of training and support is included with the instrument purchase? – Remote, Phone, Email or On-Site
- Is the instrument’s measurement system or parts traceable to a known or universally accepted standard?
- What is the manufacturer’s quality system? Documented, registered ISO, etc.
- Cost of Operation;
What is the projected first year cost of operation?
- What is the uptime record of operation of the instrument? – Service cost in year two, three, and four?
4 Manufacturer’s Creditability and Reliability
- What is the manufacturers’ installed base of users? – How big? Which countries? Who are they? etc.
- References – Peer review, industry respect
- Worldwide sales and support – Offices, distribution/distributors, etc.
- Depth of resources –
Number of support personnel?
Depth of knowledge?
- Recognized peer reviewed publications, seminars provided, technical notes available
- Service – Internal or contracted? Trained representatives? Local service or returned to factory?
- Application Support –
Free or fee based?
Accessibility and Capabilities?
- Parts Supply – Time to deliver? Depth of stock? Assistance in locating? Easy to identify?
- Local Language – Software available in multiple languages? Can supplier communicate in local language?
- Service Repair Contracts – Terms and coverage (parts and labor coverage, etc.)
- Available Service Plans – Are they customizable to your needs or only simple fee-based plans?
- On-line Resources – Level of information, interactive or static, accessibility
- Training and Site Preparation – What is included with the purchase, what is additional?
- Detailed Preventive Maintenance – Documentation and support, user access to parts
- Accessories or Complimenting Instruments – Is there instrumentation available that can extend analysis capability?
Selecting and purchasing equipment will likely take some in-depth research due to the variety of instruments available and the detailed nature of their applications. Due diligence regarding the criteria discussed above will help determine what considerations coincide with how best to serve a laboratory. It is crucial to decide wisely when making significant purchases; and just as important not to rush things. The final purchase will ultimately come down to the appropriate piece of lab equipment that meets the preponderance of your wish list needs and is the most beneficial to all involved. The ideal solution for purchasing lab equipment is out there—you just need to do the appropriate homework to find it.
Posted by: Opeyemi Aduroja; a Chemist/ Calibration Technician at Applied Analytical Systems Litd., 8, Atunwa Street, Ikeja, Lagos, Nigeria. Phone (234) 8068129603, email: [email protected]