Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Update on my questions about recent Bruker pricing

I have received a number of responses on my post about Bruker pricing. Sadly, these were all off-the-record, so I cannot provide you with exact numbers. With the exception of one correspondent*, the rest of the comments were about significant (above 10% to well above 10%) price increases for Bruker products during the last year or two.

I don't really have a problem with Bruker using its now-dominant position in the NMR space to extract what it sees as a fair-market price for its products; in the formulation of "The Godfather", after all, I'm not a Communist.

But if they plan on using all means available to increase prices for new NMR products and services, they will prove themselves to be a less-than-friendly member of the chemistry community. It will be interesting to see if other organizations (JEOL? a revived Agilent-as-academic-consortium? (my useful bad idea)) try to compete. I suspect such a competitor would be welcomed.

P.S. Say, what's happening to old Agilent/Varian instruments these days? Bet you anything some NMR guy somewhere is buying them up...

*I did receive a comment about lowered prices from Bruker, but not from an academic.

11 comments:

  1. Old agilent/varian magnets are being paired with new Bruker consoles. Also, just read the previous post on the subject, LOL @ anyone thinking a JEOL instrument will give them the level of service/longevity an equivalent Bruker will. Also, have fun training everyone of your users on a new OS. There is a reason they are being quoted at roughly half the price. Also, I have seen nothing from JEOL that would indicate they are ready to rise to Bruker's level in terms of service. Basically, if you need to do "serious" NMR work you now have one option: Bruker. I am sure the JEOL would work fine doing some routine work, but if at all possible I would try to go with Bruker.

    Having said all of that, we have not seen an increase in pricing from Bruker. We do have a bid out on a new instrument that is a carbon copy of one we purchased right before Agilent announced, so that will provide an interesting comparison.

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    1. If a person cannot be trained to use new NMR software on a Windows 7 based OS, then they do not deserve to be in chemistry graduate school / postdoc (if they got that far). That goes for whether they fail to learn either any of the three companies' software. That kind of computer illiterate loser can only be tolerated if they are a distinguished professor.

      The rest of your post is just an anecdote, but I'd like you to expand further on it. Do you have any stories to tell that back up your view? Bruker is really terrible for service where I'm at, they said they would have to send a technician every time from the States and didn't sound too happy about it, and it was one of the major considerations that went into the decision (which is not yet final); I think it just depends on your country. And if good diffusion experiments, heteronuclei NMR, 2D-correlation, solvent suppression stuff is just considered 'routine' then so be it. It's good enough for me and both companies' instruments can do all that effectively.

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    2. In the late '90s in my old graduate school a lot of old Bruker and GE magnets were fitted with new Varian electronics and consoles. Varian software was Sun (Unix) based at that time and there was a lot of grumbling that the "easy to use" GE and Bruker was going away. The arrival of early useable Windows software made a lot of people reasonably happy.

      The Applintosh people were unhappy with either upgrade, though... Oh, well. Good to know that times have changed.

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    3. @uncle sam You could always take one of Bruker's service and maintenance courses, you'll learn enough about the inner workings to diagnose most problems. Bruker will mail out replacement parts to test, if they work, you exchange for the bad one and get billed.

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  2. I wonder what kind of backlash this may have on Agilent's sales. It certainly must leave a bad taste in some customer's mouths. Will they suffer a credibility gap when selling other large dollar research equipment?

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  3. Agilent already has a huge credibility issue, their customer service is terrible - just getting to talk to someone competent if there is a problem with the instrument takes a great deal of perseverance, and that is even when you have a service contract with then. I hear that they bought Varian mostly for its pump business, the varian NMRs they could not care less about because it was not profitable enough, and the quality of their customer service and the quality of their field engineers took a dump. They are now also turning people off in their HPLC business too, because if getting just a quote on an overpriced instrument is such a chore, what kind of support will they give in the future. And by the way, they do try to pressure you into a service contract for HPLC (few yeas back it was 5 grands a year per HPLC, and they tried hard to skin you on a routine repair costs, in the style of a sketchy car service garage. Fuck Agilent.

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    1. That is a shame. I remember my Dad (a duPonter) driving by F&M Scientific's facilities in Avondale PA when I was a kid and telling me the story of how they got started.

      Later when I got to college, one of my first projects was making glass columns for our HP gas chromatograph. It was a workhorse (the strip chart recorder, not so much though!).

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    2. Agreed that Agilent has very sketchy customer service. You basically need to know what part to order in order to get anywhere with them.

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  4. If a group of "NMR scientists" could get the capital together to form another competitor for Bruker, I would encourage them to do so. Sadly, the low profit potential would probably discourage many investors from taking a chance.

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  5. "I don't really have a problem with Bruker using its now-dominant position in the NMR space to extract what it sees as a fair-market price for its products; in the formulation of "The Godfather", after all, I'm not a Communist."

    You don't need to be a "Communist" to admit that monopolists do not extract "fair-market prices" but rather higher (and economically inefficient) monopoly-level prices. Even having only two "competitors" was bad. One is awful.



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    1. Good times, I have a quote from Bruker to retrofit my Varian 500 mhz NMR for $100,000 and on top of that I would still have to pick up the ~20,000 service contract in order for them to service our Varian. I have to say for a Public University I can't even begin to dream up how I'm going to come up with that kind of money when my annual operating budget is only 46,000.

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