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Material & Disbursement Services (MSD)


Effective Date:  03/01/1998

Last Modified Date:  11/20/2003

Procedure Description

Equipment specifications should be clear and concise so that there will be no doubt as to the intended use of the equipment and the quality level to which it must perform.

Procedure Steps

To prepare a thorough equipment specification, address the following user requirements, as applicable.

  1. Description of Need:  This is a basic statement of how and where the equipment will be used. Be sure to address such issues as standardization requirements and future demand or anticipated needs (expandability).  Describe the environment in which the equipment will be used—such as general office, medical or basic science research lab, clinical lab, or lab instruction. Indicate whether the equipment will be used for service or quality control work.  Specify whether it is a replacement, an upgrade to existing equipment, or new.  Give the make and model of existing equipment.

  2. Functional Specifications:  Also known as "performance specifications," functional specifications describe the performance characteristics required of the equipment. This would include requirements for ease of operation, compatibility with other equipment or software, multiple use capabilities, and any other performance-related specifications.
    • Examples:
    • A functional specification for a spectrophotometer might include the requirement to perform transmittance and/or absorption assays or more specific assays such as Lowry Protein Method.
    • A specification for a teaching lab microscope might specify the type of work required, such as general light microscopy, phase contrast, microphotography, or fluorescent microscopy. 
    • A specification for a backhoe might include the capability to dig a 3-foot trench and lift objects up to 2 tons.

  3. Technical Specifications:  These are the most difficult specifications to write because they delineate the physical characteristics of the equipment in terms of linear measurements, tolerances, and/or chemical properties.  Though many people rely on vendor-provided technical specifications as a point of departure for creating a specification unique to the particular requirement in question, care must be taken not to create specifications that unduly restrict competition.  Be sure that technical specifications reflect the minimum requirements for the equipment needed.  Anything above that may unnecessarily increase costs and limit vendor competition.
    • Examples:
    • A technical specification for a dump truck might include the number of axles, load capability, and maximum weight.
    • For a spectrophotometer, the technical specification might include requirements for a usable wavelength range of 150 to 950 nm, one RS-232 serial interface, a switchable tungsten-deuterium light source, capability for multiple manual cell positioner or peristaltic pump–driven sipper cell, LED digital readout display with readability to 0.01, 115V line operation capability, and a wavelength accuracy to 2 nm.

      Note: Avoid using manufacturer or trademark terms and descriptions.  If a particular patented mechanism or feature is required, generically describe the feature as completely as possible.  A "New Brunswick Gyrotory triple eccentric design" could be generically described as "shaker shall have shaft construction with individual shaft anti-vibration counterweights."

  4. Installation Requirements:  These requirements, which are incidental to the purchase of equipment, should be included with the requisition.  Include specifications for method and time of delivery, coordination with other contractors or in-house support such as Facilities Services, design and construction of modifications needed to existing space, electrical setup and power modifications, and accessory equipment installation. Installation costs could be quite high and be included as part of the initial competitive bid.
    • Example:
    • A floor-model centrifuge may have to be stabilized and leveled, and the rotor installation accomplished, by a factory-authorized technician.

  5. Training Requirements:  If extra copies of operator and/or technical manuals are needed, specify this in your requirements.  Also specify any training required for in-house personnel and any operation or troubleshooting demonstrations or seminars that need to be conducted by a manufacturer's technical representative.  Include the number of people to be trained and the number of training sessions required.

  6. Service and Warranty Requirements:  All service and warranty requirements should be specified. Warranty requirements should specify acceptable down time, response time by service technicians, length of time of warranty coverage, and whether the warranty includes all parts, labor, and travel time for service technicians.  Such specifications should also include the terms and conditions of any extended warranty contracts and any other maintenance or service contracts that the manufacturers or vendors are required to offer in their bids.

  7. Additional Requirements:  Other criteria that allow vendors to bid their products to suit the particular needs of the user.  Be sure to state requirements so that all costs will be identified by vendors responding to a request for bids.  Clearly identify any special travel and per diem, hourly rates for services, or any other related costs associated with the requirement.

Additional Information

See also:

MSD Policy 5, Equipment Specifications

MSD Policy 35, Delayed Receiving/Payment for Special Acceptance Considerations

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