How many times have you looked at a quote for a service visit and rolled your eyes at travel charges? "Yikes, that's as much as the service labor itself!" Often, you will see "Zone Charges" which reflect the manufacturers placement of service engineers in key geographic locations. If an engineer is in your 'zone', your costs are lower. Need an engineer to travel a distance, perhaps by air, and the costs will increase.
When working with third party service organizations, clients are generally looking to reduce costs, as most such firms offer lower prices than instrument manufacturers. But, because these businesses are generally smaller or constrained to one or two physical locations, their travel costs can often make them as expensive as the manufacturer. Or, so it might seem...
Here is something to consider; When calling the manufacturer of an instrument, you are paying for a very narrow service on just that instrument. Makes sense, right? However, that FSE is likely only going to be able to work on just that instrument. The Beckman Coulter engineer can't work on a Tecan liquid handler and vice-versa. When you look at the wide variety on instruments in your lab, the accumulation of service travel charges (and multiple varying labor rates for that matter) can bust even the most generous support budget.
Independent Service Organization (ISO) can help reduce costs. However, when working with an ISO it is important to understand what other products they can work on. The same engineer who works on a Beckman robot, may also work on a Tecan...or a Hamilton...or an Agilent. Having one FSE who can service multiple instruments from numerous manufacturers means you can amortize your travel charges across several instruments from different vendors. That is something the individual instrument manufacturer cannot do, which ultimately makes their seemingly 'lower travel rate' much more expensive.
This is especially important for multi-vendor service (MVS) providers like Agilent CrossLab, Perkin Elmer OneSource, Unity Lab Services...etc. These large organizations are able to offer their clients single point-of-contact for all their instrument service needs. They typically have a large network of smaller ISO's who can help reduce labor costs and often, move with greater agility than instrument manufacturers. When Site Manager and Vendor Relations Managers at MVS companies take the time to understand and maximize ISO capabilities they can reign in travel costs and provide faster service while managing a smaller number of providers.