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Buying and Selling Refurbished Equipment

By Scott Gardner
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If you pick up a newspaper or turn on the nightly news, there are two issues that you will find are on everyone’s mind, the economy and the environment. Every day another company shuts down, people are laid off, and the government scrambles to find a solution.We in the animal research industry are not immune to this; we are not insulated from these hard economic times. Every one of us knows several friends who have lost a job or had to relocate when their facility closed. This concerns us on a personal level but I believe there is a higher cause that is being affected as well. We work in an industry that is underappreciated and somewhat in the shadows, but vitally important to the health of people all around the world. If research slows down and facilities close, it affects people. There are millions of people suffering illness in this world, new diseases pop up every day, and we need to continue striving to find the medicines to treat them. In this time, our field should be expanding, not constricting. What we do is important. We must do all we can to ensure that this important research continues to flourish. The government has increased the budget for NIH grants but what can we do ourselves to contain costs that will help to keep medical research moving forward?

One of the options to consider is purchasing refurbished equipment. Capital expenditures take up a large part of any company’s budget, and with savings of 50- 70%, the impact on your bottom line can be substantial whether you are a large CRO, a university, or a small startup biotech company.

Buying and Selling
There are many reasons to consider buying used equipment. In the age of global warming, we must all consider the impact our habits make on the environment. Buying used equipment is the ultimate act of recycling. It means less steel and petroleum is pulled out of the earth, less garbage goes into landfills, and the world is a cleaner place for us and for the generations to come.

You also need to consider refurbished equipment when turn around time is an issue.What happens if you have a study come up that starts in three weeks, animals are due to arrive, and you don’t have enough caging? What do you do? You probably call around to your friends at other facilities and see if they have anything you can borrow. Sometimes you get lucky and someone right down the road will have what you need, but if that is not successful, you can also contact used equipment suppliers. With the growth in the market, there is a good chance you will find what you need and the turnaround time is much shorter.Most companies will go out of their way to help you meet your deadlines. The other positive thing about going to a used equipment vendor is that they are networked all across the country and, if they don’t have what you are looking for, they can proactively go out and find it for you. You may have five or ten friends at other facilities you can call, but a vendor will have several hundred customers they can reach out to. Moreover, you don’t have time to spend a day searching around for a piece of equipment, whereas these businesses do. They make the process simple and streamlined for you, even taking care of all shipping arrangements. That way you can spend your day taking care of the ten other problems that have been piling up on your desk!

In addition, the savings don’t only come when you are purchasing equipment, you can also increase your budget by selling all your unused equipment. All that equipment sitting in the hallway, jammed into that little empty room, or taking up all that space in the offsite warehouse all has value. Not only will you receive money from the sale that you can pump back into your budget, you will also be saving the cost of warehouse and storage space. By reducing clutter and the headache of dealing with idle machinery, you will also be freeing that equipment up for another facility that needs it but cannot afford to buy new. You will be helping keep the wheels of research turning.


In the past, buying used equipment could be a risky business. The most important thing when buying used equipment is to work with a vendor you trust. You need to know that when you purchase a piece of equipment it will show up when it is supposed to, that it will be what it is supposed to be, and that it will be in proper working condition. You do not want to be in the position of having a vital piece of equipment show up the day before the AAALAC inspector arrives and have it not be what it is supposed to be.

So how do you find a trustworthy source?
There are several things to keep in mind when evaluating a potential vendor and several questions you can ask that will save you a lot of heartache down the road.

  • How long have they been in business?
  • What is their reputation within the industry? This is a small world we work in and a few phone calls or posts to relevant listservs will let you know fairly quickly the quality of the company you are evaluating. Your peers are your most valuable resource.
  • Ask for references. Any reputable company will be happy to provide you with several references. Contact these references and ask detailed questions.What did you purchase? Did it show up on time and was it working properly? If there was a problem, did the vendor take care of it, and how quickly? How long have you done business with the vendor?
  • Ask about warranties.Make sure that your potential vendor has a clearly defined warranty policy, and that they stand behind their products.
  • Ask about refurbishing and service. Ask questions about how they refurbish the equipment. If it is a cage rack with automatic watering, has it been hooked up to make sure it does not leak?

It may take a little bit of legwork to find the vendor that you want to work with, but once you have established that relationship the legwork will pay off tenfold. One quick call or email to that vendor can save you days of hunting around.

These are tough times for the global economy and we are all examining our habits to find ways of becoming leaner and more efficient. Purchasing refurbished equipment and selling your surplus should be part of that process. The market has matured to the point where you can buy with confidence, improve your bottom line, help the environment, and most importantly, keep the wheels of medical research turning. Because what we do is important.


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