Instrument maintenance and downtime top challenge for lab managers

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Sample preparation challenges and unplanned and unexpected instrument downtime remain a major problem for lab employees, according to an Agilent survey.

Respondents also highlighted the increasing complexity of testing requirements and sustainability goals impacting their organizations.

Agilent Technologies commissioned the survey to help the company focus on the needs of customers.

Market research firm Frost & Sullivan did the work on Agilent’s behalf.

Instrument maintenance and downtime headache

The primary objective of the survey, which included 700 laboratory employees in four countries, was to understand key customer concerns and identify any unmet needs, as well as the differences and similarities of the challenges lab managers face.

Respondents were from Germany (n=175), UK (175), China (150) and the US (200).

Lab managers were asked to rank their top five challenges which included instrument maintenance and downtime (73%), the growing complexities of instrument testing requirements (63%) and time consuming sample preparation (60%).

Keeping up-to-date with changing regulations (52%) and the need for better data management (50%) also ranked in the top five.

A total of 40% of respondents revealed a need to optimize their workflow, indicating the main changes that could help would be improved productivity and throughput (51%), followed by streamlined processes to manage growing workloads (26%).

It found 45% of lab managers said they face significant pressure to process more samples per week. 

Some respondents said they are managing this by outsourcing but worry about compromised quality of results.

Lab space impacting results

Victoria Wadsworth-Hansen, global director, public relations for Agilent, said the survey was done for the first time between February and May this year.

“The survey underlined and supported our current thinking in many ways – understanding how challenges were ranked in importance was illuminating and also that one of the main personal goals of lab managers were concerned with providing a positive working environment was nice to see," she said.

“Perhaps more surprising was the challenges associated with lab space, we knew this was an issue but the fact that one in five lab managers said that it impacted their ability to achieve their results was unexpected, also the number of labs which had to meet sustainability goals.

“As a company we plan to employ different methods to continue to listen to our customers, learn from them and work together to support their success.”

Survey respondents from Asia, Europe and US included experienced lab managers, performing a range of functions in laboratories large and small across the market segments Agilent serves. 

The survey centered on productivity, workflow optimization, lab size and operational goals.

Wadsworth-Hansen said the Ultivo LC/triple quad mass spec system announced at ASMS demonstrates how it is responding to customer concerns.

“The results underline some of our thinking - an example of this is that one of the key survey findings was centred on lab size - one in five of lab managers (18%) consider lab size to be a challenge affecting their lab’s performance. Of those, 75% believe that space-saving designs of instruments could help overcome this issue.”

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