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Priorclave advises on Autoclave replacement

04 August 2009

Most laboratory autoclaves spend their lives hidden away in the corner of lab and are only noticed if they stop working.

It can often be the case that for instance a food manufacturing plant can be brought to a halt if the lab autoclave is not working for a few days.  At minimum, work may have to be expensively out-sourced while the autoclave is waiting to be repaired.

When it is time to replace or upgrade your autoclave however, you should take time to consider your options. The working life of an autoclave is upwards of 5 years and with the capital expenditure involved you may not be able to replace what you have chosen for some time to come. The following are a few suggested steps to take to ensure that your next autoclave is as forgettable as possible.

Step 1: Look at what you have already.
Is it big enough for what you do now and what you might do in the future? Would a front loading model be more convenient than a top loader and if so, have you got room for one? How many cycles do you need to get through in a day? Does it do what it needs to do? A large range of options and accessories are available including vacuum systems and flashy control displays. Do you need these and will your staff be able to operate them? Remember that the more complex something is the more things there are to go wrong with it.

Step 2: Discuss it with the people who will use the autoclave and find out what they want.
An operator who feels left out of the specifying process can often be the cause of many unnecessary service visits and ‘faults’. Also discuss with the Finance Department how big the budget will be. Some manufacturers’ options and accessories are easily fitted to the autoclave at a later date, so if there is not quite enough budget for all that you want, you can still upgrade inexpensively at a later date.

Step 3: Put together a written specification. This will help suppliers to offer the right equipment and help you to check that they have supplied you with what you want. You should ask suppliers to tell you how their autoclave meets your specification or otherwise.

Step 4: Get prices from manufacturers or their distributors. When comparing prices take time to look at what is included in the price so that you can be sure you are making a valid comparison and that you don’t end up buying the cheapest offer and finding it does not do what you thought it would do. Make sure that the supplier is offering what you want and not what they think you want. Any reputable supplier will be able to provide assistance, advice and information on these questions and often you will be able to arrange a site survey to make sure that everything is going to fit.

Step 4: What happens after the autoclave is delivered? On-going maintenance and service should be considered as part of the purchasing process, after all, you would not buy a new car and expect it to run forever without servicing.  Make sure that you do not save a few pounds on the initial purchase only to end up with inconvenient ‘down time’ afterwards. Find out whether preventative maintenance is available and what is covered by different suppliers’ preventative maintenance packages and warranties. Also determine how well they perform in terms of call out times and ability to fix the equipment when they arrive.

Step 5: Place your order. In the end it is your choice. Of course price is an important factor but sound research and reliable backup to ensure trouble-free installation and operation may very soon turn out to be a wise investment too.

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