Different types of laboratory equipment require different technical expertise, response times, parts requirements and preventative maintenance, says Northeast Technical Services.
Saving money is an ever increasing partner in lab management, no less important than proper staffing and quality control.
There are several choices when it comes to maintaining equipment: in-house facility maintenance people; asset-management companies; third-party service agencies; and OEM manufacturers.
Each option comes with its values and benefits but each also comes with its obstacles and costs.
In-house facility maintenance people ensure the fastest response time.
For this reason, they are useful for quick diagnosis, simple repairs and associating with manufacturer's technical assistance departments.
They can be trained in many types of equipment, becoming a generalist on all aspects of facility and lab maintenance and repair.
The downside is that, as with any generalists, they have a little knowledge about a lot of things but may not ever be experts in much.
However, their quick response time and ability to diagnose and repair minor faults can save thousands of pounds and countless unnecessary hours of downtime.
Labs with high numbers of specific brands or machines should consider training courses for a few facility-maintenance engineers so that each specialise in one area or another, depending on the size of the organisation.
Asset-management companies offer the benefit of providing a fixed maintenance cost, for which they will cover everything in a building.
Companies are generally free to include or exclude different types of equipment that obviously will affect the price of the contract.
Typically, the company will employ onsite technicians, providing the benefit of having in-house facility maintenance technicians, but will frequently use third-party contractors or manufacturers for more difficult lines of equipment.
Like any insurance policy, the rates and premiums will be evaluated year after year, based on usage of the policy.
Third-party service agencies are present in every area that there are laboratories, pharmaceutical companies and biotech firms.
They range from small one-man operations to large complex organisations that have the ability to repair most everything in a laboratory.
The benefit of using a third-party service agency is that the company is only paying for service when needed.
Diligent maintenance of equipment will aid in preventing breakdowns.
Compared to an in-house technician, the third-party agency should take care of all training and tooling necessary.
The downside is that the company has less control over response time, which can be anywhere from less than an hour to possibly weeks.
A good service agency will be able to offer a facility or lab manager some preliminary technical support via telephone to see if it is a minor issue that can be addressed quickly and easily.
And you should expect to speak to a representative sooner rather than later.
As far as expected response time goes, no longer than three to five working days is acceptable.
It also helps to have the same technician dispatched to the lab as they are the person familiar with previous repairs and maintenance.
OEM manufacturers are likely to have the access to parts and literature that may or may not be harder to come by for the previous three options.
They will, however, be limited in the scope of repairs they can handle, thus creating an environment in which a much larger number of contacts and relationships must be managed.
Manufacturers tend to charge a premium for their labour and parts costs are inevitably higher.
It's not easy picking the right option for an organisation.
Equipment and maintenance must be managed, just as employees are.
Not all employees are alike and different resources and techniques may be required in managing and motivating them.
Lab equipment may also require different resources in geographical location of your service agency or manufacturer; skill level of the in-house service technician; and dependability of the equipment and its role in the lab's production output.