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How it Works: Optimized Lab Equipment Maintenance

The pharmaceutical and biopharmaceutical industries are experiencing watershed changes that are directly driving the need to increase research efficiency while minimizing costs.

by Labwell
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Problem: The pharmaceutical and biopharmaceutical industries are experiencing watershed changes that are directly driving the need to increase research efficiency while minimizing costs. This “perfect storm” includes pressure to reduce the cost of healthcare, blockbuster drugs reaching their patent end of life, biosimilar proliferation and weak pipelines—to name a few issues.

Solution: For individual laboratories, these complex factors are resulting in ambitious cost savings requirements. One place to look for those savings is in an analysis of equipment and instrument maintenance and repair. Three approaches: Run-to-Fail (RTF), Preventive Maintenance Only (PM Only) and Full-Service Contract (FSC) are the classic equipment management options. All are valid, but you can achieve significant cost savings when you look at whether a given piece of equipment has been assigned the contract appropriate for its cost, criticality to the research at hand, age and nature of use.

Run-to-Fail (RTF) is generally the most efficient approach for equipment and instruments for which replacement may be more cost-efficient than repair. Technically, this approach does not require any maintenance contract at all, but it should be a conscious and structured choice nonetheless. To determine which pieces of equipment fall into this category, try setting a replacement cost ceiling. If the replacement cost for a particular piece of equipment is below the ceiling cost, use RTF as your approach because it will be more cost-efficient to replace the item than to repair it. Other equipment that may be a good fit for RTF include those items that are well past their full depreciation point (age), frequently break down, or are infrequently used, unless they serve a critical function when needed.

Preventive maintenance on an item is almost always recommended by the original equipment manufacturer. This type of contract covers preventive maintenance but does not cover labor or repairs when the equipment fails. PM Only is generally well-suited for items with moving parts, liquid or gas flow, filters, or optical systems, yet not critical to day-today operations. Since your researchers will invariably tell you that everything is critical, you can determine whether a piece of equipment is truly critical by looking at availability of an alternate piece of equipment, ability to generate data in another way, utilization and the cost of parts.

For example, a PM Only contract for a fairly typical mass spectrometer (triple quad or better) can carry a yearly cost of $20,000. Under this type of contact, you will likely be entitled to two preventive maintenance calls, and all ondemand repairs (parts and labor) with a maximum 24-hour response time. If you elected to secure a PM Only contract, your yearly costs would be reduced by 30 to 50 percent. However, on-demand repair costs will be time- and materials-based and you will likely be relegated to a 48- to 72-hour response time.

A Full-Service Contract typically covers preventive maintenance as well as all on-demand repairs, including parts and labor. Sometimes chosen as an “insurance policy,” it can be a viable option both for highly critical equipment—and for less critical equipment that has one or two very expensive parts that, if they failed, would be burdensome to replace. For example, an imaging system may not necessarily be highly critical to your operation, but the camera on the instrument can be very costly to replace, so investing in a FSC may be warranted.

The pressures in the pharmaceutical and biopharmaceutical industries will continue to motivate research organizations to pursue research in the most efficient and cost-effective manner possible. One way that this can be accomplished is to decrease the cost of R&D operations, including the maintenance of laboratory equipment and instruments. Properly categorizing the laboratory equipment support category as RTF, PM Only or Full Service can greatly reduce an organization’s operating costs.

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