January 25, 2013 by Kevin Keras
How Do I Support Thee, Let Me Count The Ways…
Ever walk through a research lab and wonder ‘how do they keep all this stuff running?’ Well, I do and I make it a point to ask. From the many labs I have spoken with, the definitive answer is…’depends.’ Not to be too snarky but the answers vary widely depending upon the type and size of the organization, however there appear to be three main approaches;
- Internal (users/tinkerers or more organized support groups),
- Equipment manufacturers (OEM) (service contracts or break/fix)
- Third Party Providers or ISO’s (Independent Service Organization)
Usually, the smaller the entity, the more more likely they are to self maintain. Service contracts from OEMs are expensive and everyone’s budgets are limited these days. Because of this, many end-users also double as the resident experts on the instruments in their lab. Although it is getting rarer, many larger biotech and pharmas have the luxury of dedicated internal support teams that provide support.
Mid size and large biotech and pharma have also relied heavily upon large multi-vendor service (MVS) organizations to provide coverage of all their assets. Well known names such as Thermo Fisher Scientific, Perkin Elmer, Agilent, Johnson Controls and GE Healthcare all provide whole site support for hundreds, if not thousands of instruments.
Each of the aforementioned have their pros and cons. Just bear in mind that no one will ever know as much about an instrument as the company that made it. They will have the design knowledge, replacement parts, procedures and tools to remedy just about anything that can go wrong. But (you knew there would be a but), it isn’t cheap. Typical service contracts are priced out at 10-15% of the purchase price of an instrument. If you have to self maintain don’t despair. Often the best approach is to try to keep up with the basic PM schedule that the manufacturer recommends. Kinda like changing the oil and filters in your car. This is the approach many of the MVS companies use and for good reason. Basic PM’s are the most affordable and least invasive procedures to keep instruments ‘research-ready.’ In fact, the first thing most OEMs do when they begin a service contract is to perform a PM as they know it can often head off major repairs that can erode profit margins. Finally, ‘Break/Fix’ is more prevalent than you would think but be forewarned…the cost of repairs can be astronomical,
Truth be told, there is no perfect solution.
So what is the right strategy for your lab? Well, that depends…
Tell us how your keep your lab up and running.