There are many things to take into consideration when you think about purchasing automation. In working with a variety of customers for more than a decade, we’ve come to understand the challenges and difficulties when making this decision. To make your search for the right automation less overwhelming, we put together this comprehensive list of questions to consider, as well as resources for your research.
1. Calculate the manual cost, and remember it’s an investment.
This might seem like the most obvious consideration, because usually the first question asked before making a purchase is “”What is the price?”. You need to know how much something costs in order to know if you can afford it. Sticker shock is a real reaction when looking at laboratory equipment. However, don’t be turned off by the price before weighing the benefits against the cost. When purchasing automation for your lab, it’s important to remember this is an investment. You might be surprised how much money you might actually save by purchasing automation for your lab. For instance, if you have a team of 4 or 5 people manually labeling tubes which takes up to 8 hours per week, an automated solution could save you the cost of the manual labor. The return on the investment over a period of time, like 3 years, is an important part of making the decision around automation.
2. Attend trade shows. They are invaluable.
Attending trade shows might be one of the best ways to learn about new products for your lab. This is where most vendors get a majority of their business, which means this is a great place to find potential suppliers! Trade shows are the perfect place to network with peers as well as see live demos of vendors equipment.
This is a cost-effective way for you to do some research as it offers a one-stop-shop to gain a wide variety of information:
- See a live demo of how the equipment works. This is a chance to experience the automation and how it could fit in your lab.
- Explore various solutions for your lab and compare options. Not all automation is equal, so it is important to look at the features and functionality of different solutions.
- Experience the vendors and gain insight into how they will interact with you. Most trade shows are staffed by the actual sales and service teams, allowing you to begin to form an idea of what a partnership with them will feel like.
- Network with other professionals in the industry. In our experience, forming these relationships is invaluable and the knowledge shared between individuals is crucial for expanding your skillset.
- Attend keynote speakers, discussions, and a variety of educational tracks based on your specific area of discipline.
- Attending trade shows also gives colleagues a break from the workspace and can provide a strong bonding experience. It’s a great balance of education and fun!
Listed below are some automation focused trade shows you might consider attending:
- Society for Laboratory Automation and Screening (SLAS)
- Laboratory Research & Innovation Group (LRIG)
- Society for Laboratory Automation Screening Sample Prep
3. Company values matter.
It’s extremely important to get to know the company with which you will be working. Be sure to get a good idea of the company values and how they operate. Find out about mission statements, company philosophy, and post-sale support. You are purchasing more than the automation when you make this investment. Ensuring you’ve found the best partner is also critical. Most suppliers will have information like this on their website, and all sales staff should be able to speak to this if asked. Gain a thorough understanding of their policies around customer service, and how they will handle issues if they should arise.
Here are some great questions to address:
- Do they offer preventive maintenance and service agreements?
- If something happens with my machine during the warranty period, will they come to my site to fix it?
- Do they offer free phone support?
- Who is my point of contact if I have technical questions?
- What kind of daily, weekly, monthly care and cleaning is required for the equipment and can I do it myself?
As we stated before, lab automation is an investment, and it’s crucial to make sure you are going to be taken care of in the long-run.
4. Social Media is a great research method.
Ah, social media! Some people love it; others, not so much. No matter which side you take, it’s no secret that social media has become the go-to news source these days. It’s a quick way to learn about the latest breaking news and major events around the globe. Almost every news channel has their own Facebook, Twitter and/or Instagram page with a large following. But what about the Life Science Industry? You betcha. Large pharmaceutical companies, to agricultural science companies, to companies selling laboratory instrumentation, have all jumped on the social media bandwagon. Social media has become a great platform for these companies to reach their target audience and educate customers about what’s going on with their company, including their latest and greatest innovations.
We strongly recommend following companies on Twitter and LinkedIn in which you are interested. You might be surprised how much you can learn about them through these avenues. LinkedIn has become one of the most popular social media sites for networking. You can connect with other professionals in the industry and it’s a fantastic space for learning more and meeting new people. There are many interest groups and forums that allow you to have meaningful discussions with others who share the same interests.
5. Use scientific websites for expert and peer review.
Don’t be afraid to get out there and ask other scientists/peers for their thoughts on the product you’re considering for your lab. This may be the best research you can do before purchasing automation. There are many sufficient scientific websites out there that could be key in your search.
The first credible website we recommend is SelectScience. SelectScience is a company that focuses on the Life Science Industry and are dedicated to helping scientists and companies in the industry. Their website contains a plethora of news articles, videos, case studies, white papers, and more. The site also has a wide range of product listings from customers who are selling instrumentation to those working in labs. These listings are unique because they allow customers who use these products to leave honest reviews and feedback. This can be very valuable in your own search, especially if you are weighing options.
Another website we recommend is LabManager. LabManager is another credible website that includes great articles on various topics like: Lab News, Management Tips, Safety Tips, and New Product Spotlights. It’s a great way for scientists to stay up to date on what’s going on in the industry!
We hope this article provided you with some valuable information while you are considering automation in your lab. If you have any questions, please contact us!
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