March 2015

March 18, 2015

Previously Loved Equipment

"It slices, it dices, it will even make Julian Fries (whatever they are)."   How many times have you heard a pitch that just sounded too good to be true, and then upon looking into the details...your intution was right?    It's a common story of over-promise/under-deliver.   It turns most people off, but I guess that it works enough that the hucksters keep trying it.   Still, if you have something of value and can get more people to take a look by telling it like it is, the rewards would be much greater.   You would think purveyors of such approaches would learn, but it's hard to teach an old dog new tricks.

Over the last 15 years of working with researchars I have heard countless tales of people who got burned by someone whose pitch was great but whose product...not so much.   This is especially true of refurbished lab equipment.  I have worked in several other industries such as electronic assembly and industrial automation, mostly invoving customized robotic solutiions.  After a market matures, resellers of "previously used" equipment start appearing in numbers.   It's just the way it is and we certainly have our share in the life sciences.  Some good, some...not so good.  There are lots of reasons but at the end of the day, the only thing that matters is customer satisfaction.  Someone who buys a used lab instrument is almost always looking for two things: a) cost savings  and b) reliability.    It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that over-selling and under-delivering to these folks is not going to work.  

So, what separates the good resellers from the bad?   In my experience, it comes down to honesty.  Does the reseller really understand what they have and are they sufficiently experienced or resoured to provide products that will result in a happy customer?   You can usuially determine this by the warranty they provide.   Resellers that have confidence in the quality of what they are offering provide longer warranties.  It's a simple yardstick but a good one.   If you buy from auction sites, be aware that what you see in photos may not be what you get.  Same thing for eBay or sites that provide 30 day money back guarantees.   That last one should set off road flares.   Essentially, these folks are saying "hey, you go ahead and try it out because we have no idea whether the thing works or not.  If it fails, then send it back and thanks for the free triage."

For the "value shoppers" out there (you know who you are), try to remember that price isn't everything.  While saving money may endear you to the Finance Deparment, trying to get your money back for an "AS IS" purchase will not get you invited to the Legal Department's holiday party (lawyers like to party in their 'briefs').  Finally, ask about post-sales support.   This is really important for larger instruments (like liquid handling robots) that are costly to transport.   The best criteria for a used lab instrument will rarely, if ever, be the least expensive one...

Side Note - We work on a variety of instruments from many resellers and have first hand experience on the good and the...not so good.  The LabSquad's parent company, Biodirect Inc has been a leading provider of refurbished lab instumernt for nearly 15 years. 

March 2, 2015

What Spock could teach Scotty..

You probably heard that acclaimed actor Leonard Nimoy passed away last week.  While it would be wholly unfair to ignore the breadth of his many professional achievements, it is hard not to focus on the iconic role of Star Trek's Mr. Spock.


Growing up in the 60's you would be hard pressed to find a kid who was not riveted to the TV every Friday night (season 1 was Thursday nights) on NBC.   We orginal Trekkers knew the show inside and out and could get visibly agitated when a grown-up would confuse 'Mr. Spock" with 'Dr. Spock.'  Who knows, maybe that confusion is why so many baby boomers are such a mess now...

Thinking back on the character of Mr. Spock (Chief Science Office), it got me thinking about how engineers, particularly field service engineers,  interact with scientists in our industry.   Scientists and engineers have vary different mindsets and sometimes have a little difficulty in communicating.  Not to get overly analytical but, scientists by nature are experimenters.  They solve problems by hypothesizing, experimenting and observing.   Engineers on the other hand, generally take a systems approach to problem solving, using 'knowns' and working their way backward to determine faults.    Good engineers, by virtue of their training take a 'first do no harm' approach to resolving problems and therefore ask lots of questions before they start taking things apart.    Two different approaches that can be hard to reconcile.   Channeling Dr. McCoy "Damnit Jim, I'm a doctor not an... (insert engineer or scientist here).