Coordinating maintenance and repairs with multiple original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) is time consuming and inefficient for busy labs. Multi-vendor service providers employ highly trained technicians and engineers that can perform preventive maintenance and repair instruments from a wide range of manufacturers. Labs can select a level of coverage best suited to their needs and budget.
If cost savings are the key factor driving your search for a multi-vendor service provider, don’t be dissuaded if the total cost of a program is similar to, or even slightly more than, current maintenance costs. Significant savings are the result of having a single point of contact for all service-related events, which eliminates time spent communicating and coordinating with multiple OEMs. “There is a lot of uncaptured cost in that internal coordination that does not show up when you just tally up individual contract costs or service events,” explains Kevin Keras, general manager and chief operating officer of the LabSquad division of Biodirect USA.
The best fit for your lab
Rather than a one-size-fits-all approach to multivendor services, some providers offer different levels of service depending on the size and needs of an individual lab or company.
When an instrument’s factory warranty expires, often after 12 months, users have the option to extend this warranty as an annual service contract. “This tends to be the most expensive approach, as it generally covers all parts, labor, and even travel if an instrument fails,” says Keras. If budget is a concern, labs may consider a preventive maintenance schedule, which can reveal warning signs and enable repairs before an instrument suddenly fails.
“Inspect and Replace” preventive maintenance is purely labor-based. According to Keras, “any parts that are identified as problematic can be replaced at an added cost, but only as needed.” Alternatively, an “OEM-style” plan offers users the option of replacing worn items, regardless of their current condition. Keras adds that while this approach is more expensive, it is still less costly than a full OEM service contract.
Multi-vendor service plans are also ideal for labs working with used or refurbished equipment that no longer has an OEM warranty. “After its initial warranty is expired, every instrument is a used instrument,” notes Keras.
Expectations vs reality
Certainly, the OEM knows the most about a particular instrument. “That is why the OEM is always an option for multi-vendor service providers, but because of their higher costs, they become an option of last resort,” explains Keras. Many multi-vendor service providers have a network of specialized independent service providers to provide basic services at lower costs than the OEM. According to Keras, this enables service providers to offer complete coverage “while also cost-accounting for their overhead and still making a modest profit.” As such, when considering the benefits of a multi-vendor service model, it is important to look beyond cost.
Looking ahead, Keras sees possibilities for the Internet of Things (IoT). Instruments reporting usage to a central monitoring hub would be “the holy grail of a balanced multi-vendor service approach,” says Keras. “Likewise, those same instruments reporting errors as they happen could create near real-time responses to failures,” he adds. For now, labs should keep in mind there are many options for multi-vendor service plans that can save valuable time and keep operations running smoothly.