Caveat Emptor In The Lab | Chemical & Engineering News
Volume 89 Issue 1 | p. 5 | Letters
Issue Date: January 3, 2011

Caveat Emptor In The Lab

Department: Letters

As the president and chief operating officer of a small organic synthesis and research lab, I have found used equipment and analytical instruments to be a way of life to preserve capital and have access to the wide variety of equipment needed in an ever-changing project environment (C&EN, Nov. 22, 2010, page 11). Unfortunately, it seems that small companies, university projects, and new ventures are underserved.

Typical liquidations seem to be done in bulk bundles, and only large, used-equip­ment distributors can play that game. A small company does not need 20 HPLCs; it may need just one, perhaps bundled with a gas chromatograph and other lab instruments. Once the equipment hits the distributor, the price doubles and it is “held firm,” even though this very same small research company may be providing critical support or services to that drug company’s R&D efforts.

So, in this market, a drug or other type of company disposing of equipment loses value on its liquidated assets, receiving about 20 cents on the dollar, while the smaller vendors who need the equipment to provide better value to their customer (at a better price) must pay a premium, about 65 cents on the dollar. I have tried to get some of our large customers to liquidate equipment to us (for mutual benefit), but those ultimately responsible seem to have a small list of contacts.

It is just my perspective, but I would think the large companies disposing of equipment would be better served if their liquidators were directed to try to help or give some attention to their vendors; even at about 40 cents on the dollar, everyone wins. Perhaps if the equipment distributor markets were not protected, the price of all new and used research equipment would go down. Now how sweet would that be?

Michael F. Smith
Ewing, N.J.

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