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June 2022 – Lab News

Lab News

Are We Near a Breaking Point?

The commercial environmental laboratory business is a highly regulated and competitive business. Over the last three and a half decades of my career, I have witnessed numerous changes in the environmental laboratory business marketplace. Advances in automation, software, instrumentation, and laboratory information management systems (LIMS) have generally reduced costs to a half (or less) of what they were in the mid-1980s. A full Target Compound List/Target Analyte List (TCL/TAL) analysis suite circa 1988 was about $1500; whereas, today that same TCL/TAL is less than $750. Sometimes significantly less. None of these changes are as scary as what appears to be currently happening in front of our very eyes.

Laboratory services have been reduced to commoditized “unit costs” over the past 30 years. Data quality, on-time delivery, and the ever-important customer service, have been held out as differentiators by leaders in the laboratory marketplace, but I am hearing a steady hum from many of my colleagues in the laboratory business … “We are having problems staffing and retaining good Bench Chemists.”

Inflationary pressures are driving Chemists to other markets that pay higher wage scales than environmental laboratories. Environmental laboratories are having a hard time competing with higher-paying pharmaceutical, medical, industrial, and state and federal laboratory positions for Chemists.

If all the really good Bench Chemists were to jump ship and leave their laboratory positions for work in higher-paying jobs, that would leave laboratories grossly understaffed and would greatly reduce the pool of talent available for hire. So, what to do?

First, recognize that laboratory testing services are a vital part of the environmental services industry, and laboratories being fully staffed with highly skilled Chemists benefits everyone. We need analytical data to solve our clients’ problems! When choosing a laboratory services provider, the decision should not be based solely on the lowest price. Laboratories need, and deserve, a fair price for their testing services. If pricing increases are not considered fairly, then we may be seeing the demise of many good laboratory service providers.

Let Environmental Standards help your organization source laboratory services. Our guidance will be based on our unique knowledge of the laboratory services industry, which will be used to recommend providers that offer high-quality analysis services and customer service, and consistently generate high-quality data. Please reach out to me if you have comments/questions on this topic, or if you would like to discuss your organization’s analytical needs, email me.

David Blye, CEAC

Senior Principal Chemist