Buying lab instrumentation is a viable alternative for many labs and businesses to reduce costs while acquiring quality instruments needed for clinical and research applications. However, organizations that are inexperienced or unfamiliar with this process may find that they encounter unforeseen challenges that could potentially result in additional expenses or delays. These can quickly outweigh the benefits of buying used lab instrumentation.
#1) Know Your Application
Do some research online. If you don’t know your potential application as well as you should, the web is a wealth of publications and papers from scientists who are doing similar work and may give you a base of understanding when you start your search. This will also help define the level of sensitivity, resolution or technique of the LC/MS/MS you will need. First time buyers who might be inexperienced also need to consider the larger picture and to not just focus on the centerpiece instrument. The instrument is just the tip of the iceberg, and your buying experience will be much easier if you know all the other considerations. These include knowledge of the software, instruments that need to be integrated, services such as gas, power, ventilation and AC, Floor layout needs, workflow, operator experience, level of training needed, and so on…,
#2) Ensure Your Lab Space Is Suitable for the Instrument
While it may seem obvious, you must have the right environment to install and use the instrumentation you’re purchasing. LC/MS/MS is generally large, sensitive, and difficult to maneuver, meaning you need to have your lab space set up and ready to receive an instrument installation.
Imagine, for example, the feeling that occurs when you purchase a sofa and it doesn’t fit through the front door. The same thing can, and does, happen with equipment. It is therefore vital that you understand the layout of your facility and how you will get the equipment into your lab, especially if it’s not on the ground level of your building. Other things to consider are ventilation, air conditioning, power, nitrogen production, and other systems needed to operate the equipment. Finally, to accelerate the validation period, ensure you have consumables on hand when the equipment is installed so that the process isn’t delayed while you wait for them to arrive. Know your responsibilities. There are pre-installation guides for all LC/MS/MS systems
#3) Ask the Right Questions
Because they are purchasing refurbished instruments, many buyers get preoccupied with questions about the age of the instrument, how it was used, the types of materials and samples it has processed, and its service history with the previous owners. The truth is, however, that there is very little you can learn from these types of questions.
Instead, evaluate how well the equipment will be cleaned and refurbished between the previous owner and your laboratory. The best refurbishment techniques are done to return the instrument back to manufacturer specifications or better and tested to ensure accurate results before it is shipped or delivered to your lab.
When comparing quotes on refurbished instruments, be sure to take specific note of the level of service and support they provide. For example, ask if the seller has possession of the equipment or if they are just facilitating the transaction and the logistics. Find out what they did to clean, refurbish, and maintain it since they acquired it, and ask how they go about delivery, installation, and validation. Finally, determine whether there are any additional costs to using the equipment beyond the initial selling price.
Taking these extra steps to understand the complete instrument offer will save you a lot of time and money in the process.
#4) Understand Your Relationship with the Manufacturer and Avoid Hidden Costs
The price of the instrument itself is only a portion of the total costs associated with buying used lab equipment. Laboratories also need to be aware of any additional costs they may incur and the relationship they will have with the manufacture after acquiring the refurbished equipment.
Unfortunately, this is one of the most common issues companies face when buying used LC/MS/MS. Many sellers, for example, do not disclose the need for licenses, and, as a result, the buyer believes they are getting a good deal. The equipment is then installed, validated, and put into use, but when an issue occurs and the lab calls the manufacturer for support, they suddenly learn they need to purchase a software license at a large expense. Always ensure that you understand these additional costs before deciding, and that you’re comparing apples to apples when choosing between partners with significantly different prices.
Getting the Instrument You Need Without Any Unexpected Issues
For anyone who is unfamiliar with buying refurbished lab equipment, the process can be more difficult than anticipated. These are large, complex, and important purchases that impact how well your lab can do the the testing, research and analysis it needs.
To avoid these common pitfalls, make sure you have a clear understanding of your requirements before buying, and look to work with a trusted partner who takes ownership of the equipment and goes beyond just facilitating the transaction to provide the level of service, support, and expertise needed to get your equipment into the lab and up and running as smoothly and effectively as possible.
Martin Steel is Senior Vice President – Director Global Sales at McKinley Scientific. Contact us today for a no-obligation conversation about asset management processes for lab instruments