Dr. Patrick Camus, Director of Research and Innovation, EDAX
This is the time of year when many analysts are scrambling to finalize details for the Microscopy & Microanalysis Conference – to be held this year in Columbus, OH. We too are striving to present our products in the best light for attendees to evaluate.
As conference attendees, you may well be coming with the task of evaluating and comparing software and equipment from a variety of vendors. Many will also be booking demonstrations, provided by the very capable application specialists of the representative companies. Their job, as well as mine, is to sell you the best product available, which obviously is from EDAX (wink, wink).
But what is your task for the week, and how should you prepare? I have a few universal topics that you might like to consider before you even hit the show floor.
Your primary task is to get enough information to make an educated decision about the best system at the fairest price to benefit the customers of your lab. That system may be the BEST IN THE WORLD system or it may have the absolute lowest price, but knowing the criteria before seeing the competing systems will help in balancing the cost and the benefits and select the best system for your lab.
Below I will present some criteria for system selection. I will use x-ray microanalysis systems as examples because that is the equipment that EDAX sells, but the approach is universal for all equipment purchases.
- Understand and appreciate all the system specifications because they are the best indicators of the system quality and performance, but emphasize those that that you currently employ or realistically could implement. For instance, if you have a low-level SEM, do you or will you operate at the maximum beam current of the system? How often do you really operate under the conditions necessary to obtain resolutions specifications? Make sure you understand how the system operates AWAY from the conditions used for specifications. These deviations may be more indicative of how your users operate and how the system will be useful for them.
- Appreciate aesthetics, but look beneath the system “skin” to actual technical performance substance. Do your current operators work that way or can they be retrained to work that way? Is the technology truly new or just re-skinned? The workflow may demo well, but do your operators work in that manner?
- Ask about your projected local service engineers. Ask for an interview with them before the sale. Over the lifetime of the system, you will probably work with them more than anyone else at the company.
- During a demo, perform tests under your typical or expected operating conditions to get a feeling for real-world performance in your lab. But also ask for suggested optimized conditions for better performance for future analyses. How much training is included or can be upgraded? Would training at your site or at the vendor site be more effective for those involved?
These are just a few of the topics that you should consider. This is a lot of preparation work to do before you even hit the show floor, but the answers to these topics will make your system selection that much more satisfying in the long run. And job satisfaction for you and your users goes a long way!