Repair, Maintenance, and Calibration, Oh My!

Just as instrument technology evolves to meet the changing needs of research, so does instrument maintenance evolve as lab managers seek the optimal balance of risk, quality, and cost. Four instrument service models are available, along with a fifth that is a blend of the first four:

• In-house Metrology Model
• Service Consolidator Model
• Independent Service Organization Model
• Original Equipment Manufacturer Service Model
• Integrated Service Delivery Model

Each of these models offers advantages and drawbacks, and a clear understanding of how they relate to a particular lab or network of labs is vital to achieving optimal results.

Every experienced lab manager knows the considerable amount of time required to select and manage contracts for repair, maintenance, calibration, and compliance service for key equipment. Instrument maintenance also ranks right up there with personnel costs as one of the biggest budget items for most labs. While commercial labs are facing increasing pressure to control these costs, service requirements must be assessed holistically— looking beyond the asset list to critical factors such as position in process and how each instrument’s downtime affects lab productivity.

Imagine this scenario: You manage a lab that has ten liquid chromatography systems, two LC-MS systems, and a full complement of ancillary equipment such as pH meters, centrifuges, and micro pipettes to support your staff of three analysts. You’re the third manager in ten years and, as the lab grew, the equipment vendor changed with each manager. In midyear it’s smooth sailing. When it’s time to renew contracts, however, your personal productivity comes to a grinding halt as budgeting and negotiating contracts for each type of equipment dominate your work life.

If this sounds familiar, you’re not alone. Most labs employ a wide variety of analytical techniques (LC, GC, LC-MS, NMR, etc.) from several vendors. Therefore, it’s not uncommon for lab managers to spend a large amount of time directly working on contracts or working with procurement teams to secure service coverage for mission-critical systems. Factors such as technology type, maturity, and the role each instrument plays in the workflow will help point you to the service model that will provide the best cost/benefit ratio.

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