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Transporting Sensitive Pre-Owned Laboratory Equipment

Once the decision to purchase pre-owned equipment has been made, one important consideration remains: How will it get to the laboratory?

by Ryan Ackerman
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Know How Your Sensitive Laboratory Equipment will be Handled in Transit

When planning to acquire pre-owned laboratory equipment, some purchasing details are more obvious than others—a comprehensive extended warranty, aftermarket support for setup and repair, on-site training for staff, if available, and most important, an attractive price point. These factors lend insight into why many laboratories look to pre-owned vendors when outfitting their spaces. Once the decision to purchase pre-owned equipment has been made, one important consideration remains: How will it get to the laboratory?

The range of laboratory equipment is diverse—from rudimentary pieces like the Pasteur pipette to complex analytical instruments such as mass spectrometers. However, laboratory instruments all share one thing in common—they require great care and a gentle hand to perform properly. Accordingly, using proper shipment methods will ensure that your new purchase is handled properly and arrives in good working order.

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Related Article: Buying a Pre-Owned Mass Spectrometer

Some equipment and analytical instruments—such as high-performance liquid chromatography, spectrometers, and ultra-low temperature freezers (ULTs)—require great care during transport. Reputable companies will take extra measures to ensure these units are kept safe when they are being shipped, such as utilizing moisture barriers to prevent contamination from liquids or dust, ensuring loads are properly balanced, and using a transport method with minimal vibration (such as air-ride-equipped trucks). These options can ensure the instruments are delivered without concern.

For instruments that require a significant amount of time to reach operating temperature—such as ULTs—some shippers offer specialized solutions. As Shea Blackerby Russell of VIP Transport, Inc. (Corona, CA), explains, “We do climate control, which is useful for shipping items [that] need to [be] kept at a certain temperature. We also have another type of truck on the road—a generator truck—[that] can offer power in transit. There is no downtime.”

Geographic location is another important factor when shipping lab equipment, as equipment may need to travel over one or more borders to reach its destination. Communicating this information with the vendor and shipping company can prevent any delays and possible fines associated with running afoul of shipping regulations. “The restrictions are more or less on the paperwork for international shipping. Any small mess-ups on paperwork can be costly and time consuming with the associated delays,” explains Randy Troyer of GenTech Scientific (Arcade, NY). “For packaging when shipping overseas, typically we will vacuum seal the instrument in Mylar bags. These are sealed with desiccant, as well, so they won’t be damaged.”

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Insurance on the equipment being shipped is another consideration that should not be overlooked. Having a comprehensive insurance policy on the instrument, and knowing what factors it covers, is a responsible purchasing decision. While the situation is rare, purchasing an expensive and critical piece of equipment only to have it arrive damaged or broken with no coverage would be detrimental. “Our claims ratio is about 1 percent,” Blackerby Russell says, “however, if you are shipping a one-of-a-kind or expensive machine, I think it’s beneficial to have that extra valuation.”

The research required in deciding to purchase preowned lab equipment is an immense undertaking in and of itself. Through the use of proper methods to transport newly purchased pre-owned equipment, one can be assured that all the time and effort put into acquiring the equipment will not go to waste.