When looking for new lab equipment, it’s important to conduct thorough research to get the right tools and good return on investment. It may be tempting to get the most advanced technology but take a look a current needs as well as short- and long-term requirements. It might be more sensible to go with a smaller model and add accessories, so the equipment is more versatile. For example, is your work strictly lab based, or will you be doing pilot production too? What type of environment is it? Are hazardous chemicals involved?
Here are key factors to consider before purchasing lab equipment:
- Price/Budget: the cost of the equipment is a major factor but should not be the deciding one since it is uneconomical to replace less expensive equipment often or have a lot of downtime due to frequent repairs. But also factor in the cost of ownership – how much will it cost to maintain? Are there consumable parts that need regular replacement? Do a side-by-side comparison of different models to determine which gives you the most for your money. Try to set a budget ahead of time so that you can find an affordable supplier without compromising quality. Ask if pre-owned equipment is available and if it is possible to try a piece of demo or loaner equipment for a short time. Depending on the price of the equipment, some suppliers may be willing to do a down payment with a payment plan, so be sure to check all options.
- Parts/Service: If your equipment breaks down, you’ll need it fixed as quickly as possible so find out what the availability is on parts and service for your purchase. What is the typical turn around time? Are replacement parts new or refurbished? Do you have to send the equipment in for repair or does someone come to your site to make repairs? Is their loaner equipment available in the meantime?
- Warranty/Service Contract: determine what type of warranty is included with the equipment. Is it possible to purchase an extended warranty? Ask about typical service needs for the specific equipment? Does it cover both parts and labor? What happens after the warranty expires? What things are NOT covered under warranty? Is a yearly preventative maintenance contract available? Does the contract include loaner equipment? Read the fine print very carefully before finalizing the purchase.
- Usage: What type of environment will the equipment be used in? Will it require special accommodations? Is there currently space available? Will it be moved around from place to place? Will users need special training on operation and maintenance? Does the vendor provide such training as part of the purchase price? What is the size of the space where the equipment will be located? Are there any modifications needed to this space to facilitate operation of the equipment?
- Technical Support: what type of support is available – online chat, video chat, phone, email? What is the typical wait time for getting technical support from someone? If your facility operates 24/7, is there someone available on off hours for support (e.g. during a night shift)? Is there a charge for technical support? Will there be someone to follow up from time to time to make sure the current equipment still fits your needs and to update you with the latest technology?
- Research Manufacturers: attend trade shows to talk with different manufacturers in a short amount of time and see equipment firsthand. Contact other companies in similar industries and find out what they use and what their experience has been. Strive for high quality instruments that can meet the demand for efficiency, functionality and reproducible results. Customer reviews will indicate whether a company and its equipment are reliable.
- Product Specifications: pay careful attention to the details of the product being considered. Does it meet certain regulatory standards (ISO, ASTM, CE, etc.)? What material(s) is it made from? Can it handle high/low temperatures? Are corrosive products going to be used in the equipment?