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Consignment Can Maximize Returns on Pre-Owned Equipment

Consignment Can Maximize Returns on Pre-Owned Lab Equipment

A little patience pays off when it comes to selling your old laboratory instruments

Michelle Dotzert, PhD

Michelle Dotzert is the creative services manager for Lab Manager. She holds a PhD in Kinesiology (specializing in exercise biochemistry) from the University of Western Ontario. Her research examined the...

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Selling laboratory instruments and equipment that are no longer in use is a great way to create some valuable workspace and generate some return on the initial investment. There are a few different approaches to lab equipment resale to consider. A straightforward sale for a fixed, known amount of money is often a straightforward process that generates a quick return. Alternatively, a larger set of equipment, or even an entire facility can be liquidated via auction, where registered bidders compete to buy these items. Auctions can be a good option for those aiming to monetize multiple pieces of equipment or facilities relatively quickly. If there is no urgent need to monetize equipment, a lab may consider consigning items. In this case, a third party works to sell the equipment on behalf of the lab and payment is received as each individual item is sold.

Consignment may take a little longer than direct sales or auctions, but can maximize return on investment as pricing is based on the actual resale value of the item. Working with a third party provides the added benefit of sales and marketing outreach which often yields a higher return.

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“Consigning equipment typically provides the seller with the greatest return for their pre-owned equipment,” says Reid Hjalmarson, vice president of operations at BioSurplus, Inc. According to Hjalmarson, the higher return is the result of the consignee partner having more time to identify a new end user and achieve the highest selling price. “This is particularly effective when equipment is more niche or specialized,” he adds.

The Consignment Process and Some Considerations

When a lab decides to consign equipment, they are responsible for ensuring it is properly cleaned and decommissioned. In addition to cleaning the exterior, it is important to check for spills and perform a hazard determination regarding chemical, radioactive, and infectious biohazard materials. Once decontaminated, a certificate of decontamination should be completed and signed.

When working with a consignee partner, “the consignor remains the owner of the items until they are purchased by a buyer,” says Hitomi Taguchi, PhD, business development manager at BioSurplus. According to Taguchi, the items may be shipped at the consignor’s expense to the partner’s storage facility or the consignee may retain the items at their facility and when sold, ship them to a new facility at the buyer’s expense.

There are several factors to consider when deciding whether to consign equipment. According to Yvonne Oden, director of product management at BioSurplus, “lab equipment should be less than 10 years old, in good working condition, and have the required software to achieve the best possible return.”

When deciding whether to consign equipment or place it in storage, it is important to consider the likelihood that the item will be required in the future. Oden also notes that equipment placed in storage may further depreciate as many of the internal components deteriorate without frequent use. It is also not advisable to store equipment for a long period of time prior to consigning; “technology changes quickly and the longer a system is stored, the more likely it is that newer and more cost effective systems will be introduced to the market, further devaluing the item,” says Oden.

Consignment is a great option for laboratories hoping to maximize their return on used equipment, provided they are willing and able to receive payment over a longer period of time. A reliable consignee partner can help identify new end users and often generate greater returns for the consignor than can be achieved by direct sale or at auction.