Business cards and instruments

Business cards and instruments

Names and information blurred to protect the innocent

Recognize this? You could take a picture like this in almost any lab around the world. Carefully taped on the front of a tremendously expensive, state of the art piece of equipment, a little rectangle of paper with the name and number of the person to call when the darn thing breaks. You can find these cards everywhere -  in research institution, industrial plants, academic labs. Sometimes the card is yellowed with age, or covered with amendments, additional numbers, and notes on how to make the darn thing work.

The equipment behind or under the business card is often some of the best in the world. These machines represent the culmination of decades of effort in research and product development, hundreds of hours spent by gifted scientists, researchers and engineers. You can do amazing things with that piece of equipment, whether it’s a polymerase chain reactor, mass spectrometer, electron microscope, or an SLA metal sintering rig. But the omnipresence of these business cards hint at the failed state of the customer support side of the instrument experience.

At Picarro, we believe that our job as instrument builders goes beyond bare functionality and compliance with a datasheet. We believe that the design of a support system deserves as much attention and sophistication as the machine itself. Maximizing the speed of an instrument hardly matters if your up-time is only 60%. Optimizing preparation schema won’t outrun an instrument that isn’t working properly.
You can detect gas particles to the part per trillion, but you have to pick and call somebody to let them know, “the damn thing is broken?”! and after waiting to get them on the phone, you wait. Wait for them to sent a part, or a software upgrade or a support engineer on-site. Or wait for a new instrument. That’s a support apparatus that hasn’t changed since mainframes were the size of semi-trucks. There’s a big discontinuity between the capabilities of the machine and the realities how it’s used, it’s one we’re working to resolve
You won’t find our business cards taped to the front of our instruments. To begin with our default state is working, not waiting. Our customers have taken Picarro instruments around the globe, and into environments which are challenging for anything to work in, much less a sophisticated scientific instrument. In fact, when I do see business cards taped to a Picarro instrument, it’s the customer’s card. They’re marked like luggage, so they don’t get lost in transport. Our instruments travel so widely some of them start to look like old steamer trunks. For me it’s wonderful to see instrumentation treated like luggage. There is no better testament to the engineering effort that went into designing and building our instruments to survive in the most challenging conditions.
You can always call Picarro. Our support phone number and email are published on the front page of our website. And calling or emailing will always get you in contact with a real, knowledgeable support engineer - not a phone tree or a call center. But we’re looking to change the sorry state of instrument support.
It’s for all these reasons I’m extremely excited about our latest support development - Instrument Performance Verification (IPVTM). This sophisticated software engine builds a virtual bridge between yoru instrument and  Picarro’s support team and allows for constant contact with your Picarro instrument. IPV monitors the "health" of your instrument, functioning entirely in the background while you run your instrument.

Why is this so important? Before you or your service reps notice that other machine has gone down, Picarro is calling you to tell you how to fix the problem. While you’re waiting on hold with the other guys, we’re working to fix your problem. While you’re sending the other instrument back to the factory, or waiting for support to arrive on site, we’ve got you back up and running. And sometimes it’s even sooner; this technology allows us to get ever better at detecting problems before they happen, and taking step to prevent them. That’s the dream at Picarro -  support as sophisticated and reliable as our instrumentation.
You can learn more about Instrument Performance Verification on our website. We welcome your feedback.