Looking back a decade or two, there were manufacturers who produced air quality monitoring equipment, and there were buyers (that are “users” such as environmental protection organizations) of such equipment who wanted to monitor air pollution levels, and nothing in-between. The users had the equipment under full control, but it also meant upfront investments to pay for the equipment. It also raised demands on the users’ in-depth knowledge not only about air pollution, but also about the instrumentation doing the air quality measurements.
Pros and Cons of Buying Equipment
This approach worked quite fine as long as the user had the budget to invest in the equipment and an organization large enough to maintain it. And it still works. There are many users who have no problem fulfilling these requirements also today. The upsides to the users are full control of the equipment with respect to in-house quality assurance, and freedom to operate it at their own discretion. The downside, besides the investment aspect where precious financial resources are tied up, is that it requires a long-term commitment and plans for maintenance as well as preparedness for potential repair needs. Sadly, it has happened far too often that there have been budgets to buy equipment, but then no budget and knowledge to keep the equipment running. The result has been no or doubtful monitoring results at high initial costs, with disappointed users and sometimes bad-will for the instrument suppliers.
However, recent years have seen a changed approach from the users’ side. More and more users realize that what they really want is quality assured data, and not necessarily to own hardware with all responsibilities and knowledge demands that come with such ownership. The driving forces behind such approach can be both bad experience from past times, and newly-slimmed organizations expected to focus on protecting the environment and not on being instrumentation experts. It can also be a matter of financing. There might simply not be resources available to make often heavy upfront investments in monitoring hardware before starting to monitor the air quality.
Subscribing to Data
In response to the users’ demand for data rather than equipment, both instrument manufacturers and third party contractors (often tied to specific manufacturers) have started to sell data instead of equipment. With a professional and knowledgeable supplier, this means many advantages to the user over the traditional equipment-owning approach:
- The supplier can often sell data at a fixed cost for a limited time frame, pretty much like a subscription.
- The user gets the data with a warranted quality, based on the supplier’s certified quality management system and accredited calibration procedures.
- From day one, the user knows what the data will cost and it is therefore easily manageable form a budget perspective. There are no hidden or surprise costs to the user.
- The supplier, knowing and trusting the equipment being used, can often provide the data with an attractive warranty on data availability.
- The user can focus on using the data, and leave the operation of the monitoring instrumentation to the experts, that is the suppliers’ staff.
The user’s downside and risks in the buying-data approach are few. The primary risk is probably hiring a supplier that is not able to pull off the job, but track records and obtaining references make that risk avoidable. To the user, subscribing to data is certainly much cheaper initially and it is often cheaper also in the long run, taking all hidden costs and risks into account.
The supplier and contractor know the equipment very well, and have dedicated technicians able to do all necessary preventive maintenance in cost-efficient ways, with less repairs and increased quality and higher data availability as a results. Admittedly, it also secures the goodwill for the instrument brands as there is no risk of instrument failures due to lack of understanding of the instruments and proper maintenance.
Often Win-Win with Data Subscriptions
In summary, there are for sure many users who prefer to buy, own and operate air quality monitoring equipment on their own, and there is nothing wrong with that as long as the users have the necessary resources in terms of budget and knowledge. However, it is often a win-win situation if the users instead subscribe to the data and focus on their core business: to study the data, draw conclusions from that, and protect the environment. Non-core activities such as ownership, deployment, surveillance, maintenance, and any repairs of instrumentation can be left to suppliers who are experts in the monitoring equipment. It’s their core business and what they are good at, and they can therefore do it at attractive costs to the users.
OPSIS and its representatives are happy to offer both quality-assured AQM instrumentation and quality-assured AQM data, whatever preferences you as a user may have. Don’t hesitate to contact us to discuss which approach suits your monitoring needs best.
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About the Author
Operative Support, OPSIS AB