Ben Potenza

Learn about proactive ways to handle idle and surplus equipment.

For many people working in the biotech and biopharmaceutical industry, the focus is rightly placed on R&D, bioprocessing, and/or regulatory approval. Discovering, developing, and bringing the next generation of therapeutics to market is how the success and value of a company is defined. However, “biotech”, like other business areas, can benefit from taking a careful look at the substantial asset base that they use to execute their daily work in order to realize savings and efficiencies. Experts estimate that 5% of a company’s capital assets sit idle within their facilities at any one time.  Identifying, reusing, and/or selling those surplus assets can add significant value.

As companies have become aware of the benefits of asset management, most have also recognized that they don’t have the necessary resources or skill base required to tackle the issue in-house. In this article, we look at the types of service an outsourced partner can provide, and present a series of short examples to illustrate the impact asset management can have on the bottom line.

Bringing in the Specialists

For those wishing to achieve the very highest levels of excellence and deliver the greatest return on investment, there is a proven advantage in outsourcing to a partner with the expertise, know-how, and tools required to manage the process of asset management.

Companies that choose to do this can realize huge savings. For example, one multinational pharmaceutical company undertook a series of asset management projects with EquipNet. The program has now completed over 50 projects in close to 34 countries. They not only redeployed and sold surplus equipment, but also re-assessed the value of current inventory. To date, this program has delivered a total value of $41 million dollars.

In order to achieve this level of return, a holistic approach that balances the needs of a company should be considered. Sophisticated tools are now available to allow the development of a comprehensive inventory of assets, supporting their redeployment and utilization across multiple sites. Research laboratories, and production facilities, can also realize the best possible value from selling equipment that is no longer required. In some cases, older equipment may have most value as scrap. We’ve described this process with our “Value Control Model”. Figure 1 shows how redeployment, negotiated sales with managed pricing through an online marketplace, competitive auction events and clearance programs fit together to deliver a consolidated service, whatever the individual needs of a company.

Importantly, this approach is no longer seen as exclusively the province of large, multi-national corporations—many SMEs in the biotech and biopharmaceutical environment are recognizing the value of this process, too.

Figure 1. Assets can be liquidated using a range of strategies, from redeployment to clearance.

Facing Today’s Challenges

In recent years, mergers and acquisitions in the industry have resulted in larger organizations, spread over multiple sites and different countries. In some cases, this has led to duplicate facilities and equipment, circumstances ideal for rationalization. Such an acquisition was the driving force behind our second example:

A drug development company specializing in inflammatory diseases, located in the BioTech Beach region of San Diego, CA, was being acquired by a global pharmaceutical manufacturer.  As part of the deal, they were required to clear out an entire floor of lab space. The equipment that was to be sold included: high-end mass specs, NMRs, HPLCs, and centrifuges.

With over 200 items and a strictly limited timeframe to complete the job, they enlisted our help. Due to the large quantity of assets and the potential value, it was decided that the best way to serve this client was by holding a live auction direct from their facility (see Box 1).  This process was set in motion by a team of equipment specialists, who visited the site to properly inventory all available equipment.  The assets were added to an event catalog created by the auction and marketing teams, and promoted to a large audience.

On the day itself, the live auction event was run by three members of the auction team and two equipment specialists, with a designated project manager in attendance to coordinate all activities. Every aspect was carefully managed, from registering attendees to coordinating pickups. Upon competition, over $603,000 was generated in equipment sales.

Box 1: A Flexible Sales Solution—Auction Events

Auctions are a dependable channel for the disposal of surplus assets. This is particularly true when there are strict time limitations in place.

Designing and managing a successful event depends on many factors. A specialist partner should advise on the right approach in each case, whether it be an online auction, live/webcast auction events, sealed bid and private treaty sale. Innovation should be at work here—auction providers should ideally undertake active marketing of the sale, have expert knowledge of the equipment being offered, and a flexible approach to managing bids.

Working to Deadline

As noted above, time limitations are a common factor when redeploying or selling surplus equipment. For example, a global pioneer in drug and vaccine development needed to consolidate three facilities and one warehouse into a single location in California, redeploying or selling-off assets in the process.

Each phase had a very specific deadline. The first two sites needed to be completely cleared within two months, making the timing of this phase alone an extreme challenge. It was proposed that the client auction their surplus assets as part of a popular monthly online lab auction. This solution would allow for a large number of assets to be sold within the allocated time.

With the large following of buyers that consistently attend these regular online events, a good-sized audience was guaranteed. All available items were cataloged by equipment specialists, who were also available on both sites to oversee the post-auction process.

The online auction yielded positive results, with around 75% of the equipment selling. In total, sales of $238,000 were achieved. Since total clearance in the designated timeframe was required, all remaining unsold items were scrapped.

Solutions for Multiple Sites

Multi-country projects, which are being seen more and more often, add a further layer of complexity, particularly when combined with a tight timeframe. In one recent project, a Vancouver-based biotechnology company known for developing ocular products to treat inherited retinal diseases decided that they would consolidate—and that a facility in Menlo Park, CA, would be closed.

The limited amount of time available to consolidate the facilities meant that consignment was selected as the best solution. An inventory was created, and instrumentation and equipment was expertly packaged and shipped from its original site to a warehouse in Canton, MA. Once it had arrived, equipment specialists created listings and began promoting the higher valued items on an online marketplace (see Box 2). Meanwhile, the lower valued “commodity” items were filtered through monthly online lab auctions.

The Menlo Park facility was cleared of all its surplus assets ahead of its planned shutdown date. After a little more than a year, complete sell on of all 200 pieces of equipment was achieved—yielding $364,000 in equipment sales for the client. 

Box 2: Online Marketplace—Human Touch

Selling equipment has apparently been made more straightforward with the rise of the internet as online sales packages and auction sites have emerged. However, when considering such a transaction, particularly for high-value and complex pieces of lab equipment, the human touch is perhaps still the most important factor. Using a partner with specific industry experience and contacts, combined with a solid reputation, is often crucial to success. 

Innovative features to look for with online managed sales include:

  • Concentrated promotion of the managed sales platform
  • Expert evaluation of goods offered for sale from a proven, reliable team
  • Accurate setting of sale prices
  • “Top-down” offers rather than the more usual ‘bottom-up’ bidding model
  • Payment by results


Like many business activities, proactive asset management requires a complete process and proper management in order to be successful. The companies getting the best from these activities are often doing so with the help of an external partner.

By collaborating in this way, companies can navigate redeployment, auction, and disposal of equipment efficiently and effectively. Working alongside a specialist not only reduces workload, allowing laboratories to focus on their day to day work, but allows companies to find the correct market for their assets, and deliver maximum value.

Ben Potenza ([email protected]) is vp, marketing at EquipNet.

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