Has your Workload Increased?
My workload has increased, but not my budget! I need a liquid handler yesterday, what are my choices in a tight economy? How do I make sure I am making the right choice?
Automated liquid handling is a key component of almost every laboratory today. With continued advances in automated liquid handling, laboratories are realizing gains in throughput, precision and overall efficiency. However, with a dwindling budget, what are your options?
With these advances and ever-growing research demands comes a growing focus on quality. As a result, most liquid handler manufacturers like Agilent, Tecan, Beckman, Perkin Elmer, and Hamilton offer services designed to test liquid handler performance so that buyers have assurance that their new instrument meets stated performance specifications. However, laboratories purchasing used and refurbished equipment from auctions or third-party vendors are often not afforded the same level of quality & technical assurance (but they should be).
We are seeing ever-decreasing capital budgets and belt tightening across all sectors of life science while research demands continue to increase to meet ever-growing demand for new drugs and life-saving therapies. The availability for a more affordable automated liquid handler (i.e., not new) with proven accuracy and quality comes into play, where in the past it was not an option to be considered and when the issue was brought up... “not in my lab” was often the response. However, these economic woes are causing a shifting in the decision makers’ attitude towards the used equipment market… mainly as a necessity. There are many used equipment brokers out there, there are a few that know what a liquid handler even looks like, and only a couple that can provide a quality product. First one needs to look at suppliers (re-seller) that have established and documented quality control & quality assurance programs in-place.
As part of the supplier’s quality system, the performance of each automated liquid handler and dispenser should be verified for accuracy and precision using a traceable testing standard such as the Multichannel Verification System (MVS®) from ARTEL (Westbrook, ME). Liquid handlers that have passed the MVS test should come with documentation showing the instrument performs to manufacturer’s specifications and each system subsequently sold as “ARTEL Certified”. With this performance data, customers will therefore receive undeniable, documented and objective assurance that the volume transfer performance of the liquid handler meets OEM specifications. By using a third-party volume transfer measurement system with results that are traceable to international standards, a supplier will have differentiated itself from brokers of liquid handling instrumentation and even some OEM’s.
Here are a few questions to ask as part of your supplier qualification process.
Does your pre-owned laboratory equipment supplier focus on microplate based products such as liquid handlers, plate dispensers, plate storage devices, plate sealers, plate washers, laboratory automation systems and their peripherals? Do they really know what they sell? Are they specialists in their field? Are their products guaranteed to meet or exceed the original manufacturer’s specifications? Do they have certified & validated tools to ensure that you are getting a quality product or are they just brokers? Do they offer an OEM like warranty? Can they provide you with after sale service contracts? Is your supplier consistently raising the bar? Do they offer solutions?
Remember that the lowest price is not necessarily the best value.