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How to Purchase Laboratory Equipment


Discovery Scientific SolutionsHow do you go about purchasing lab equipment? Are there specific procedures to follow? Is there a list of documented issues you should be aware of before buying equipment? For those of you in charge of purchasing equipment for a laboratory that have ever asked yourself questions like this, we’re going to show you how to navigate the marketplace and find the right equipment model, manufacturer, vendor and price. Whilst there is no clear cut answer as every product is different, there is a series of logical steps that you should take in order to obtain the right equipment, the correct quality of equipment and purchasing for the right price.

To start with, you must have a comprehensive list of the equipment specifications you require and an approved budget amount set. Depending on the size of your company and the purchasing guidelines that are established, the amount budgeted may or may not be out of your control. If you are in charge of equipment purchases, then you need to set realistic expectations in terms of the quality of equipment you’re after, and then budget for it accordingly. If you spend too much it means that you have equipment functionality or accessories that you don’t need or you bought the right piece of equipment but you paid too much for it. Regardless of the reason, if you spend too much of your budget for a piece of equipment it might delay the purchase of another piece of equipment or materials that you really need. Spending too much for a piece of equipment, as long as it meets you needs, is better than spending too little though. If you’ve spent too little you will be left with sub-standard equipment that will be of no use to you. This is where knowing your product is critical and if you can submit an equipment quote along with your equipment request, it makes the purchasing and approval process much easier.

When critically reviewing which type of equipment is required, there’s no ‘one size fits all’ solution. If you are looking to purchase an analytical instrument, such as a High Performance Liquid Chromatography (HPLC) machine, then the requirements will differ from other equipment such as bio-safety cabinet. For analytical instrumentation, there are many factors that you must consider, such as detection limits, sample preparation and whether or not your samples are volatile or non-volatile. You will also need to know if your samples will be solid, liquid or gas. Considerations like these that address your current needs may still not be enough to determine the best solution. To get the most from your available budget you must consider the life-cycle of each piece of equipment. Make sure that, as your laboratories research progresses, you will not outgrow an expensive piece of equipment a year or two down the road because of something you should have considered when you purchased it.

Another example, as mentioned, is a bio-safety cabinet. Again, many probing questions need to be asked before you even start looking around. Questions such as, what level of protection do you require? Are you working with hazardous, mutagenic or carcinogenic substances? Do you need easy access to the cabinet, or will a glove box be required? What kind of airflow are you looking for (vertical, horizontal, laminar etc)? Is space an issue? Many cabinets have specific uses for certain samples, conditions or experiments. You need to find out what it is that you need out of such an apparatus. Obviously these are just examples from two of the many different types of equipment that are available, but the principles can be applied to any equipment that you wish to purchase.

Once you have your budget and you’ve determined what you want from your piece of equipment, you can now start to explore the online market. Even if it takes time, a thorough job is better than a quick job. As such, don’t fall for market trickery by purchasing something that seems too good to be true, because the chances are, it probably is. Like anything, you pay for what you get (unless there is a sale because old models are being sold off). Many sellers show most of their products features online, but for some you need to download a product manual or brochure, which will contain all of the finer details (e.g. detection limits, column stationary phases etc.) that could make the difference between purchasing or not. Whilst some of this may sound obvious to those of you with a science background, some purchasers come from a business setting and therefore don’t have a plethora of scientific knowledge at their disposal. If this sounds like you, once you find a piece of equipment that matches the comprehensive description you were given, you should still get a second and even a third opinion from a scientist, as there may be something that has been overlooked.

When you’ve found equipment that appears to be in your budget and meets your essential criteria, then it’s time to obtain a formal quote. Some websites display prices and others don’t. Similarly, the level of customer service interaction can be a key variable at this stage. You don’t want someone from a company whose only goal is selling you on the highest priced equipment, as they are only looking out for their commission check, and not you, the customer. Try to find a company that will guide you through the process and inform you of all your different options, even if means their profit margins won’t be as high. Finding a company like this, that will sell you what you need and instead of what they can make the most money off of is a company that’s in it for the long term. Companies of this calibre understand the benefits of building relationships and finding a company like this is more like finding a partner to manage your equipment inventory. They believe in service after the sale and will help with setup and troubleshooting as well as training to help forge a long-term relationship that is mutually beneficial to everyone. Instead of a typical salesperson, they are more of a personal consultant that works for you free of charge. Sure, they make their commissions, but when they do everything with your best interest in mind, you will end up not only saving money on your equipment, you will also save some of the money you are currently spending internally on wages to manage equipment and the purchase process, not to mention the aggravation. Consultants who offer this level of service are trained by the manufacturers, have an in-depth knowledge of the equipment and usually have many years of experience because that is what qualifies them to offer this level of service.

If you are in the market for a scientific instrument and would like to discuss your available options and find out more about the consultative approach please contact Discovery Scientific Solutions if you are located in California, Arizona, Nevada or Hawaii.

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