The key considerations while choosing a rheometer are detailed in this article. Some of these considerations include hardware and software features, after-sales support, time-to-solution, and how requirements may change in the future.
Hardware and Software Features and Instrument Specifications
A rheometer’s features and their advantages, along with the performance of the system, are key things to consider before buying a new system. Unless you are experienced in using a rheometer, written specifications may be confusing, and even misleading. An instrument may have the best specifications on paper, but there still may be better instruments available in the market. These specifications were likely provided in ideal conditions, and will not match the conditions required for your particular application. For this reason, it is always better to discuss instrument specifications with the vendor.
It is important to decide whether you will be satisfied with your primary support being provided by a supplier's sales organization. Consider whether you will be able to completely understand how to use the rheometer with training from a sales representative, who normally gives demonstrations for the purpose of achieving a sale rather than to attain research-standard data.
It may be better to purchase from a company who have expert personnel to deliver professional support through a range of different channels, so that individual customers can achieve the most from their rheometer investment.
Ensure that the company has the following:
- A well-staffed help desk with highly trained advisors who will be a live initial point of contact
- Excellent support made available to customers round the clock via the web
- Experts who spend 100% of their time working on a specific technology area
It is always important to consider more than the initial pre-sale experience when making a decision.
The Longevity of the Instrument
The longevity of the instrument should be considered in order to ensure that the technology used won't soon become too dated. Will buying this instrument still look like a good decision over the years to come? This is something that is commonly disregarded when selecting a new piece of equipment, and it can be disappointing to find that the technology has upgraded quickly and last month’s gadget is no longer the best one around.
Manufacturers often discuss product lifecycles, which are represented in the graph in Figure 1.
Figure 1. Product life cycle graph.
Before purchasing, consider the stage that the product being evaluated has reached. In order to obtain an objective answer, check the number of years the product has been in the market – if the answer is three to five years, you can assume that the product is in the maturity, saturation or decline stage and must decide whether this is good or bad. Think about whether the vendor will continue developing the platform, or if they are already developing a new platform and the product available now will become obsolete.
It is important to understand that purchasing a product is a long-term investment. Always consider the stability of the company from whom you are purchasing, the number of years since the company was established and the company’s ownership status. You may need to consider whether the company has a global presence, to ensure that you could roll this product out as standard across your other facilities worldwide if required. Think about the probability of the vendor offering a reliable, trouble-free experience both pre- and post sale if the equipment is used world-wide.
Total Cost of Ownership (TCO)
This kind of an investment requires a large initial spend, but also a commitment from both the customer and the vendor to work in tandem through the lifetime of the investment. When you consider that the purchase of a rheometer is an investment and rather than a quick-impulse decision, then it becomes important to calculate not just the purchase price but also other costs over the life of the instrument, like repair or service, training, parts, support, service contracts, upgrades and accessories. Even if a large discount is offered, the 'Total Cost of Ownership' needs to be taken into account.
How much of the Instrument’s Full Capability will be Used?
It is common in the analytics industry that instruments advertised as having certain capabilities cannot be used for the defined application without more accessories or an additional software. Beware of being drawn by the 'feature & specification' dump. Always ensure that the vendor has application staff who will guide you in getting the best from your instrument and not under-utilizing it.
Time to Solution (TTS)
Malvern Panalytical’s research shows that one frustrating aspect of working with a new rheometer is the time taken to obtain excellent quality rheological data on an unknown sample, particularly when it looked so easy when being demonstrated. The vendor representative completes installation, and then the problems may begin.
Questions about the sample preparation required, the best choice of system and the necessary conditions for strain, stress, amplitude, frequency etc. may be answered, but once the test begins, several other issues can arise. These frustrations may cause the operator to determine the most easy and rapid test conditions, however, these may not be the most informative or ideal conditions for material characterization.
Are You a Chemist, or a Rheologist?
With a well-designed rheometer, it is possible to get the best of both worlds. The latest rheometers have been developed with both groups in mind, where software is the interface that can ensure that the most complicated tests are easily performed, and simply-designed test protocols can yield complex material properties. Instrument manufacturers in highly regulated and complex industries will have the edge, bringing to instrument development the comprehensive understanding and knowledge from several years developing software and hardware to satisfy specific industry needs.
Sample Requirements – Will they Change in Future?
This is difficult to predict, given the pace at which business changes today. The best advice is to be as flexible as possible to ensure you can cope with divestitures, acquisitions, expansions, restructuring, and the like. In case your business environment changes, it is important to be prepared for whatever comes.
Increase in Productivity/Increase in ROI – Considerations for Management
The following issues may need to be considered:
- Ask vendors how the purchasing process works prior to the sale, and the manner in which support will be provided subsequent to the sale
- Request a demonstration, either remotely in the early buying stages or in person later in the process
- Check with the team who will be carrying out the work for any recommendations
- Align long-term goals with purchasing requirements
- Ensure that the vendor understands the application and has previous experience in it
- When talking about expectations of purchasing and using the equipment, be upfront with the vendor
- Clearly define what has to be accomplished with the new system
- Study the system in a holistic manner instead of focusing on just one attribute.
'Risk vs. Reward'
These issues are a large part of the way in which a number of people make complicated buying decisions. How should you weigh factors (risk vs. reward and pros vs. cons) against one another? Should you make the most conservative and safe decision to lower the risk, or are you striving to get the best for your money and make a significant difference in the company? Are you looking for the most widely accepted decision, or are you confident enough to make your own decision?
This guide will hopefully help you make the 'right' decision for your company, rather than just choosing the 'best' available product.
Factor Checklist For Comparing Vendors
Summarizing all that has been already discussed, certain considerations before taking the final decision are listed below:
- Likelihood that the system performs as promised
- Ease of use
- Amount of time/labor saved by using the system
- Total Cost of Ownership (TCO)
- Quality of technical support and customer service
- How important is the customer to the vendor
- Best throughput
- Operator satisfaction with the instrument
- Can this technology take the company to another level?
- Amount of training required to use the system properly
- Whether it offers improved capabilities/benefits vs. the company’s previous systems
- Level of usage by staff other than the main operator
- Quality and forms of training offered by the vendor
- Ability to help attract new clients, grow revenue, lower costs, etc.
This information has been sourced, reviewed and adapted from materials provided by Malvern Panalytical.
For more information on this source, please visit Malvern Panalytical.