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Maintaining Equipment Longevity

Keeping instrumentation in tip-top shape is incentive enough to purchase a service contract

by Ryan Ackerman
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Every piece of equipment and instrumentation in the laboratory will require some form of maintenance during its life. In some cases, the maintenance is straightforward and can be performed in-house—such as filter changes on fume hoods, or cleaning and calibrating pipettes. However, as the instrumentation becomes more advanced, so too will the maintenance requirements. Removing and cleaning the rods from a triple quadrupole mass spectrometer can yield much more disastrous—and costly—results, as opposed to taking apart and performing routine maintenance on a pipette.

In light of this, many manufacturers offer comprehensive service contracts to ensure the longevity of their products. These services, which typically include on-site installation, training, repair, and routine preventive maintenance, are performed by highly trained service engineers. While the upfront cost of these contracts may seem high, keeping valuable instrumentation running in tip-top shape with little downtime is more than enough incentive to purchase a service agreement.

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While these contracts are a “no brainer” when buying new instrumentation, they should also be carefully considered when purchasing used and refurbished lab equipment. Many pre-owned equipment vendors offer a variety of warranties and service agreements for the instrumentation they sell. “For all of our general equipment, we refurbish to manufacturer’s specifications, then give a six-month parts and labor warranty. For our higher-end equipment—such as HPLCs, mass spectrometers, spectrophotometers, LC/MS, and GC/MS—we will give service contracts and extended warranties,” explains Bryan Hoffman of Cambridge Scientific Products (Watertown, MA). “We do a service contract very similar to what the original equipment manufacturer does— this includes parts and labor, travel time, a preventive maintenance after six months, and a guaranteed two-day response time in North America.”

Having a comprehensive warranty and service contract can ensure a longer operating life for pre-owned equipment. Just as important is having the proper training by qualified staff to operate and perform routine maintenance on the instrumentation. When purchasing from a preowned equipment vendor performing on-site installations, instrument training can also be a part of the purchase. “For training, our standard is for a period of two days, training up to three people,” says Hoffman. By having this training, laboratories can get off to a running start in operating the equipment, reduce the amount of service calls needed, and greatly extend the longevity of their purchases.

In terms of cost, third-party vendors will typically offer more economical solutions for those seeking service contracts. That being said, the age and condition of the instrument, and the availability of parts will also play a role in how much these service contracts cost. Many pre-owned equipment vendors, such as GenTech Scientific (Arcade, NY), offer a variety of solutions, including discounts for service contracts involving multiple instruments.

All laboratories hope that their equipment—whether new or pre-owned—will have a long and problem-free operating life. Researching and utilizing the proper service contracts and warranties provided by pre-owned equipment vendors can ensure that purchasing used lab equipment will be a worthwhile investment.