How to compare material testing laboratories – 10 aspects to consider

Julkaistu 17. elokuuta 2022

Teemu Myllymäki

Teemu Myllymäki – Tohtori, teknillinen fysiikka

Toimitusjohtaja, Measurlabs

teemu.myllymaki@measurlabs.com

When looking for a testing laboratory for a new analysis need you have, you (hopefully) find yourself in a situation where you have offers from several laboratories and need to choose who to send the samples to. While price and turnaround time are obvious factors to consider, there a many more things that you should keep in mind, especially if the testing need might be a recurring one. Here we share some of our best tips on how to make a good selection.

What to consider when comparing labs

  1. Price and additional costs

  2. Turnaround time

  3. Method differences

  4. Laboratory location

  5. Level of customer service

  6. Accreditation status

  7. Other quality management systems

  8. Terms of sale

  9. Payment requirements

  10. References

1. Price and additional costs

Price is a quite obvious selection criteria for most, especially since it can vary a lot between different service providers. This is also the reason why you always should get an offer from at least a few laboratories because the price in one lab can at worst be several times more expensive than the cheapest option. Another thing to take into account are additional fees from reporting, sample preparation, and the cost of shipping the samples. You should always compare the offers so that you consider the full cost of the analysis project, not just the price per analysis.

2. Turnaround time

Just like price, turnaround time can also vary greatly between different laboratories. These differences originate both from differences in the method and in how busy the laboratory is at the moment. Possible special delays due to holidays should also be checked if the timeliness of the results is critical for the proceeding of the project. One more thing to consider is the duration of the sample shipment - if one laboratory is located in your city and another in a distant foreign country, the shipment can add a substantial amount of time to getting the results.

3. Method differences

In some cases, depending on your analysis need, there might be differences in the sensitivity or accuracy of the method. These differences usually have to do with what instrument the laboratory uses. Even if all the offers you have would be accurate enough for your current need, you might want to consider if they also serve future needs - if you will need the same analysis in the future with higher sensitivity, you might want to start ordering from that laboratory already from the beginning to have comparable results throughout time.

4. Laboratory location

It may be easier for you to send samples to a local laboratory, but learning to send samples to a foreign country can save you a lot of money. Sending dangerous goods, such as flammable liquids to a foreign country can be very tricky, as packages often go by air transport, and sending dangerous goods as air transport requires having a person with IATA training. It is thus worth considering what is the right balance between saving costs and making things easy.

5. Level of customer service

This factor is often overlooked but is actually very important. As you may have questions about the results, the method technicalities or the sample requirements, getting high-quality expert service with short response times is a definite benefit.

6. Accreditation status

Even if you may not need an accredited result (or accredited method), the fact that the laboratory is accredited by y ISO/IEC 17025 gives it a lot of credibility. But keep in mind that an accredited laboratory is not the same thing as an accredited method. Also, if the accreditation is not necessary, selecting a non-accredited method or laboratory can be a way to save some money in analysis costs.

7. Other quality management systems

Even if the laboratory isn't accredited, it might still have other quality systems. Some commonly used ones are GLP (Good Laboratory Practices) and ISO 9001. These also give more credibility to the laboratory even if they are not quite the same as an accreditation.

8. Terms of sale

Checking the terms of sale can also be a relevant thing to do when deciding on the supplier. Consider for example if they offer a free repeat analysis if the measurement results are wrong and whether indirect damage of faulty results is covered (usually it is not).

9. Payment requirements

Some laboratories require you to pay for the analysis in advance, especially if you are a new customer. This might feel risky sometimes, especially if the analyses are more expensive. But fear not, we have never ended up in a situation where the laboratory wouldn’t even try to analyze our samples, or would have refused to return the money if the measurement couldn't be successfully performed. However, if you have company-specific requirements for example regarding the term of payment, you should make sure that these can be agreed on.

10. References

Checking for references is always a good idea. Especially if you manage to find some "hidden gem" like a foreign lab with exceptionally affordable prices, but feel like you would want some assurance for selecting them as your analysis provider. However, remember that many laboratories choose not to have any public references, but that does not mean that they wouldn't be good.

Conclusions

To sum up the discussion, there are many things you could consider when making the selection. However, the selection is seldom as complex as this list of aspects might suggest, since the goals of the project usually guide the selection quite naturally. Sometimes the results are needed as quickly as possible, sometimes the price differences are so large that the price will solely guide the choice, and sometimes the accreditation of the lab and the method is the most important factor.

If doing all of this comparing (and the laboratory search and offer-asking) feels like a lot of work, take a look in our webshop or contact us at info@measurlabs.com. For all the methods we offer, we have already compared several laboratories and selected the best ones, so you don't have to.

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