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2010 Lab Equipment Buyers' New Year's Resolutions

The beginning of a new year, let alone a new decade, is the perfect time to rethink the processes used in your lab to procure new equipment. Thanks to evolving online resources, forward-thinking print media content and new solutions offered by vendors, there is likely room in every lab buyer's procedure for improvement.

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By: John Buie

The beginning of a new year, let alone a new decade, is the perfect time to rethink the processes used in your lab to procure new equipment. Thanks to evolving online resources, forward-thinking print media content and new solutions offered by vendors, there is likely room in every lab buyer’s procedure for improvement. Below are 10 new year’s resolutions you might consider making that will propel your purchasing into the next decade, saving you time and money.

1. Get honest feedback from your peers who have experience with the instrument you are considering. This can be in the form of reviews, but also by looking at common questions others are asking, such as maintenance and support issues. A terrific web resource you can use to find this information is the social networking website focused on lab equipment www.LabWrench.com. If you cannot find the info you are looking for, just post a question and there is a very good chance you will get a timely response from someone in the community.

2. Spend less time in the short-listing of possible vendors and models and more time reviewing the actual equipment. Look for independent guides that include all the manufacturers available for your purchase, and organize their offerings into easy-to-read product groupings based on your needs. Now you can start reviewing 8 products instead of the 120 items in that category that won’t fulfill your needs. Be careful though—don’t mistake an advertising-driven directory for one that lists all brands. “Lab Manager Magazine’s Independent Purchasing Guides” included in their monthly issues are truly unbiased.

3. Calculate your TCO (total cost of ownership) before making your purchase. Consider all possible expenses such as installation, support, preventative maintenance, consumables, energy consumption and any training for the operators that must be completed. The price you see in response to your RFP may in fact be higher than what is printed when all is considered.

4. Explore your service contract options. Many purchasers will often sign up for one of the service contracts offered by the manufacturer without first exploring third-party service companies who are factory trained and possibly certified by the manufacturer as well. In some cases they can be local to you, or offer lower pricing options.

5. If you are replacing an existing instrument with a new one, strategize your asset recovery plan for the outgoing equipment. You might be surprised to see the resale value of your item on online lab equipment marketplaces such as www.LabX.com. If you do not have the resources in house to handle selling the instrument, just call a used equipment broker such as Gentech Scientific, IET Ltd., American Laboratory Trading, GMI Inc. or Analytical Instrument Recycle Inc. to name a few, and they can look after the entire process for you.

6. Check the total environmental impact of the equipment you are considering. There can be a very large delta between energy consumption, required consumables and reagent volume between two models of similar functionality.

7. With the proliferation of e-commerce now taking place in our industry, product pricing for many common types of equipment such as balances and pipettes is easily accessible online. Make sure to comparison shop online for the best pricing, but remember to give your existing vendor the opportunity to match pricing or justify why their price may be higher before sending your business elsewhere.

8. Despite all the advancements in media, tradeshows are still one of the best and sometimes only opportunities you have to interact with instruments and highly trained product managers in person, while also seeing many different vendors in one day. Pittcon is still a must-see event for many lab managers, so be sure to make your way down to Orlando on March 1st for the largest lab equipment exposition with over 800 vendors on display.

9. Take advantage of rich media on the web ranging from videos both educational or entertaining, downloadable podcasts which can be synced directly to your portable media player or desktop, and live webinars that incorporate both audio and video or live slide decks.

10. Share information with other buyers that’s worth sharing! The new opportunities you have to learn and share with other lab equipment buyers is not a one-way street—it requires community. Participate in the community as a valuable contributor, not just a consumer of others’ contents. Add your thoughts to forums, social networking websites and blogs. To start, post this article you are reading on your own blog, company website, e-newsletter or anywhere else you would like. All we ask is that you please retain all of the original links in the article.

I am certain that some of these resolutions are just a review for you, and you are already implementing many of them. Although we all know we should be exercising more regularly and eating healthy in 2010, I doubt we are all going to the gym daily and avoiding the abundant holiday sweets. Here is to a 2010 with trimmer budgets and fewer headaches when purchasing new lab equipment.