A fully operational instrument pays back on the investment made on its procurement. On the other hand a non-functional instrument, irrespective of its sophistication and advanced capabilities, becomes a blocked investment and ceases to generate further revenue. In other words it occupies already scarce space in your laboratory. You will simply wish to avoid a situation where your superiors constantly keep blaming you for drop in productivity for no fault of yours.
The solution lies in following maintenance schedules religiously and also maintaining an inventory of essential spares and consumables for smooth and trouble-free operation of instruments and manage your laboratory.
It is possible to operate some simple instruments like a pH meter, refractometer, viscometer, water bath or a magnetic stirrer without a stock of consumables and spares but a lot of problems can be avoided by maintaining a stock of such items for sophisticated instruments.
An illustrative list of essential spares for commonly used laboratory instruments is provided
|Instrument||Essential spares and consumables|
|UV – VIS spectrometer||spare cuvettes and lamps|
|GC||columns, syringes, ferrules, septas, sample vials, liners, working standards and gas filter cartridges|
|HPLC||sample and mobile phase filters, columns, cartridges, sample vials, O-rings, seals and piston rods|
|AAS||hollow cathode lamps, tubing, graphite tubes, contact rings and burner o-rings|
Non-functional instruments more than often require a visit by the supplier’s engineer. Prompt services are promised but it becomes difficult to stick to such commitments due to busy schedules of engineers. Engineer visits are costly and annual maintenance contracts also cost a fortune. Servicing backup support of supplier cannot be totally ruled out but it certainly is possible to fix some common problems at your end
It may be argued that maintaining the stock of spares and consumables is blockage of funds but it is easily justified when you consider the loss of valuable time and revenue due to inoperative instruments.
It is advisable to decide the list of essential spares and consumables in consultation with the supplier at time of system purchase. It is always more economical to order such items along with the main system for the following reasons:
- You are procuring from reliable sources.
- Some critical items become obsolete due to introduction of new technology and models over a period of time so you would be better off in time of need if such item is readily available.
- For procurement of imported items custom clearance and related procedures could be time-consuming so for just want of one item you may have to wait for weeks together
- Getting spares as essential items for running of main instruments can get you attractive discounts on the package from the supplier.
At time of installation and commissioning of new instruments you and your technicians should understand the system and acquire sufficient training to troubleshoot commonly encountered problems depending on availability of spares. Even then for smooth running of expensive and highly sophisticated systems do enter into annual maintenance contracts.
Please do share your experiences and offer your valuable suggestions.