Proper due diligence is required before making any major equipment purchasing decisions.
Whether you are in the market to replace outdated lab equipment or are looking to purchase the latest and greatest in new technology, it’s important to choose the right equipment for the right working environment, which encompasses the organization, the clinical diagnosticians and the patients. Do the benefits gained from utilizing the most up to date technology provide a high return on investment? For example, does it make economic sense to have a portable X-ray machine? Does the lab have space for a floor model centrifuge or is a tabletop model needed, fixed or variable speed, and does the centrifuge need a refrigerator with or without Freon? Proper due diligence is required before making any major equipment purchasing decisions. The perfect solution for your organization is out there, you just need to do your homework to find it.
Below are seven tips to consider before buying new lab equipment:
1 Price – When purchasing new (or refurbished) lab equipment, price is always a major concern. Not only should the purchase price be taken into consideration, but how much will it cost to properly maintain the equipment over its lifetime? How much are replacement parts or consumables? How does the purchase price compare to other similar makes and models on the market? A side-by-side comparison of the different makes and models may simplify the decision-making process.
2 Service Contract – First and foremost, find out the duration of the manufacturer warranty because it varies from manufacturer to manufacturer. After that warranty period expires, consider what service contract terms and conditions are available and at what cost. Is the service contract long or short-term? Is there an auto-renewal clause? What are the cancellation fees? Is there a guaranteed response time? Are parts and travel included in the contract cost? Before entering into any contract with the original equipment manufacturer (OEM) or third-party vendor, it is vital to understand exactly what you are signing. Don’t make the mistake of assuming the contract has favorable terms and conditions. The consumer should always consult an expert before signing a contract, regardless of any sales tactics deployed at the initial purchase of the lab equipment. There are ways to negotiate favorable contract terms and conditions. Furthermore, the organization’s negotiating leverage is completely lost after the service contract has been signed. Alternatives to the traditional service contracts are available – time and materials, preventative maintenance only, loaner or depot service, or utilizing an equipment maintenance management program (EMMP).
3 Availability of Parts & Consumables – The pros and cons of OEM certified parts and new consumables versus refurbished parts and consumables need to be considered. Do the new or refurbished parts and consumable prices fall within your equipment maintenance budget? It’s important to review the language concerning parts and consumables in the service contract or interview possible time and material service vendors who can perform the required maintenance on the lab equipment being considered.
4 Technical Support & System Updates – Technical support and system updates are often bundled in the terms and conditions with the purchase of an expensive service contract. Since organizations have alternatives to the traditional service contract, it would be advantageous to negotiate technical support and system updates at the initial purchase of costly equipment. Technical support should be easily accessed via a toll-free number and system updates should be provided at no cost since their goal is to eliminate a manufacturer malfunction or enhance the overall performance of the lab equipment.
5 End-Users – The skill levels of the clinical diagnosticians using the lab equipment should be given some serious thought before making a significant purchase. Will the end-users require additional training on how to properly operate the equipment or how to optimize results and is training provided online or offline and at what cost? Will the end-users have unlimited access to online usage, maintenance and vendor performance reports and will those reports be provided at no cost?
6 Usage – Another determining factor when considering the purchase of new (or refurbished) lab equipment is usage. How often and in what environment will the equipment be used? The questions posed in the opening paragraph are great examples of details to consider; the circumstances in which the equipment will be utilized will help determine the list of product features necessary to get the job done well and in a timely manner.
7 Environmentally Friendly – If being environmentally friendly is important, the selection of green lab equipment is limited and the product features available may or may not meet your wish list needs. The initial purchase might be more than anticipated; however, the maintenance costs over its lifetime are usually significantly reduced.
In the end, your due diligence regarding the above criteria will help determine what make, model and product features coincide with how to best serve the organization, the clinical diagnosticians and the patients. It’s important to choose wisely when making such a significant purchase; do not rush the process. The final purchase will ultimately come down to the right piece of lab equipment that meets the majority of your wish list needs and is the most beneficial to everyone involved.
Share your buying experience with us. As a clinical diagnostician, what changes would you make to the buying process in the future?