24 03 20

Exclusive interview of the "Laborpraxis" - conducted by Marc Platthaus, editor-in-chief

Laboratory equipment: second-hand and checked // In 1989 Dr. Wolfgang Kuster founded a trade for second-hand laboratory equipment in Burladingen, Swabia. In the LP interview he explains, among other things, what kind of resistance he faced at the beginning.

LP: Dr. Kuster, in the automobile trade, second-hand cars are an important part of the market. When you founded Labexchange more than 30 years ago, a company for trading in laboratory equipment, you were a pioneer. What did you have to do to convince people in the early days?

Dr. Wolfgang Kuster: The acceptance for second-hand products in general was by far not as high 30 years ago as it is today. Even with automobiles, the willingness to buy a used car was much lower than it is today. 30 years ago, there were no guarantees as they are offered today by standard. In the case of used cars, it is only since the new purchase right that the buyer has a warranty claim in any case and in most cases can even buy an additional, more extensive warranty package. Laborgerätebörse has taken this course right from the start, when it was not yet legally required. From day one, used devices were offered to Labexchange with a minimum 60-day functional guarantee, which could be extended up to one year. Laborgerätebörse was the first company to offer commercially used laboratory equipment with a guarantee on the market. The start was as brilliant as if the market had been waiting for this offer. I had previously spoken to sales managers and managing directors of market-leading companies such as Hewlett Packard, Perkin Elmer, Varian, Shimadzu, etc. and asked them about possible chances of success for my idea of manufacturer-independent sales of used laboratory equipment. They advised me in unison that this venture would certainly not be successful. Not only because of the manufacturers' fears of competition, which of course were kept under wraps, but officially because of the impossibility of providing the necessary services for all equipment from all manufacturers. Therefore, the greatest effort was made to convince the manufacturers to provide us with the necessary spare parts for maintenance of the equipment. The users of instrumental analysis as our customers did not have to be so much convinced by the purchase of our equipment, because right from the start we put together an all-round carefree guarantee package, which today, in the total of all guarantees we give, is unique in our field worldwide.

LP: Apart from the name - today Labexchange is the name of Laborgerätebörse - what has changed in the past decades?  

Dr. Kuster: Over the decades, we have expanded the regional reach of our sales force and now serve the entire world. This is only possible due to our guarantee commitments also abroad. Other companies have joined Labexchange - Die Laborgerätebörse GmbH in order to significantly improve the variety of offers for customers and suppliers of used laboratory equipment. This is Labexchange-Service GmbH, which carries out all installations, maintenance and repairs for Labexchange and also independently for each laboratory of instrumental analysis, as well as operating a large spare parts shop. Labstribute GmbH in Munich conducts auctions of laboratory equipment as well as entire laboratories including inventory. Recently we have established the company Testimore, which sells used measuring and test equipment according to the Labexchange concept. What has not changed in the last 30 years is that Labexchange - Die Laborgerätebörse GmbH is still the market leader in the industry, even worldwide.

LP: With your advancement award, founded in 2014, you support pupils and students in their scientific education. What motivated you to create this award?

Dr. Kuster: For the 25th anniversary of Labexchange, we have established the Labexchange Foundation, or Wolfgang Kuster Foundation. I set up this foundation on the one hand as a sign of gratitude for the success of the Labexchange concept, and on the other hand to take on social responsibility. The Foundation takes a direction in support and funding is targeted and not scattered in all directions. One part of the foundation's activities is the annual awarding of the Labexchange prize to young, interested people who are researching in the field of environment and sustainability with scientific equipment which we sell. The Labexchange advancement award supports the young researchers mainly with the necessary analytical equipment, which is donated.

LP: Its headquarters in Burladingen is not located at one of the logistical hubs in Germany. Why did you nevertheless consciously choose the Swabian Alb for your company location?

Dr. Kuster: With the start of Laborgerätebörse's activities, the challenge was to find laboratory equipment which was no longer needed, in order to build up a sufficiently large pool of devices which would make it interesting for users to find their desired devices in it. At the same time as the equipment pool was being set up, the search for addresses for users of instrumental analysis was running. Both pools - the equipment pool and the address pool - had to be created simultaneously as central components of the exchange for used laboratory equipment. The regional location of the company headquarters was therefore not, and still is not, the main factor in the company's development and success.

Dr. Kuster, thank you very much for the interview.