ARTICLE

Identifying the Perfect Maintenance Model for Your Food Testing Laboratory

Introduction

Selecting a staffing and service maintenance model for your food testing laboratory lab is no easy task. With a myriad of different lab characteristics and goals, one size never fits all. How do you determine which model is the right fit for your lab?

Selecting a staffing and service maintenance model for your food testing laboratory lab is no easy task. With a myriad of different lab characteristics and goals, one size never fits all. How do you determine which model is the right fit for your lab?

In a standard, hardworking food lab, there may be hundreds of individual instruments that require managing, and subsequently, each with their own support contract and service vendor. As a result, lab managers are confronted with having to decide amongst multiple maintenance models to effectively maintain their armada of instruments.

Consider the criteria

  • Regulations Services Only: For ISO accredited labs, some service plans - by design - will provide regulation services only. Many labs require a specific level of service due to precise accreditation requirements.
  • Lab Size: The size of your lab is a factor in determining the maintenance model you require. Large labs face inventory issues with a heightened likelihood of unaligned and disparate resources - the left hand does not know what the right hand is analyzing. Transversely, while smaller labs don’t generally have inventory issues, they do struggle with limited resources.
  • Number Sites to Service: Are there multiple labs needing service? Ensuring all your labs experience a unified and consistent level of service so that you can anticipate instrument downtime is critical to maintaining your lab operations.
  • Preventative v. Reactive Maintenance Costs: Well engineered and manufactured instruments should not “break,” but at high throughput labs, they can wear to the point of decreased efficacy. Adding preventive service support when an instrument is purchased is a wise calculation against workflow downtime.
  • Service Provider Contracts: Needless to say, it is imperative to ensure your service providers are trained and certified on each instrument they are performing service on. Some maintenance models work through an assortment of service providers, with subcontractors that may have varying approaches and levels of expertise. This mosaic may result in complicated coordination and scheduling service calls – taking more time and increasing downtime.
  • Lab Management Analytics: Tracking a large inventory of assets, along with instrument issues and service events, in real-time can help you understand if service levels are being met, determine what costs are being incurred, and provide continuous improvement recommendations, among other critical data.
  • On-Site Support with Remote Diagnostics: Placing engineers and administrative support directly in your lab can provide the strong combination of response time, data analytics, and efficiency – across a mosaic of instrument manufacturers.

Maintenance Model Options

There are five main types of maintenance models that can be considered, each with different options and levels of service.

  • Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEM): This approach typically sees labs purchase annual service contracts with each OEM, ensuring that the service provider has the proper certifications to service your instrument. Managing multiple OEM service contracts can quickly become both cumbersome and costly for your lab.
  • Third-Party Equipment Maintenance Management Provider -EMMP: EMMPs develop a plan by subcontracting multiple alternate sources and OEMs. Service of this type can be lower cost, single-event, pay-as-you-go service for repairs and preventative maintenance. The challenge is that these subcontractors may have different approaches to service and documentation with no stipulated conditions for service such as response or downtime, and they may not be properly trained and certified on your instruments.
  • Multivendor with Single Contract: This model replaces the disparate service approach by consolidating all OEM instruments’ maintenance responsibilities under one service partner that will support a mosaic of different brands and applications. With only one contract and one point of service contact, the paperwork burden and time burn of managing hundreds of vendor contracts, service requests, and payments and invoices is significantly reduced.
  • In-house: An in-house service model is a lower cost option that utilizes lab personnel to conduct the lionshare of the service. Most labs don’t possess the in-house expertise in both lab instrumentation and information technology needed to keep the lab running optimally. This places an enormous burden on both instrument and application training.
  • On-Site Comprehensive Asset Management: This is an all-instrument approach to equipment maintenance. A dedicated and OEM certified on-site team of engineers and administrative staff provides multivendor preventive and corrective maintenance across the labs’ instruments - including calibration and qualification where required.
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Summary

Every food testing laboratory is unique, with its own sets of goals and challenges. While not every lab is going to benefit from the same maintenance model, it’s important to choose the right fit for your lab, making sure that whatever program you choose helps you obtain higher levels of efficiency.