There is often confusion over the responsibilities of the FAS team and engineers. However, it’s important to note that they do in fact play different roles. While an engineer has an engineering background, FASs will have a scientific background.
The work of an engineer is critical for installation and maintenance of lab instruments. Without their technical support, lab teams would struggle to achieve optimal usage of instruments. They will ensure the set up of the machine you have purchased is configured correctly and will be on hand on a future basis to provide assistance.
The FAS, on the other hand, will ensure that the protocols for the application you collectively devise with the lab service provider, are designed with science in mind.
FASs will often be PhD-level scientists, specializing in certain areas ranging from genomics to structural biology. The breadth of a FAS team’s training and expertise is a fantastic benefit as it gives you confidence to pursue innovative ideas.
The advantages of having both an engineer and FAS working together is that they can look at the same scenario from different perspectives—an engineering perspective and a scientific perspective. As a result, they can find solutions to problems quickly, with limited interruption.
Typically, the FAS will work with you in the sales process to understand what you aim to achieve from a scientific standpoint. This enables them to recommend instruments and applications that will be fit for purpose. As the FAS has quite often previously worked at the bench themselves, they are well positioned to provide added scientific value, in addition to the assistance given by dedicated Sales Managers.
This ensures that science flows through every aspect of your interactions with potential providers to guarantee that applications are up to scientific standards.
One of the common questions we are asked at SPT Labtech is ‘Who in the industry is innovating with your products and applications?’
Both in academic research and industry, it’s common for word of mouth and scientific credibility to influence your actions when you want to test novel methods.
Perhaps one of the biggest benefits of having access to a FAS is that they act as a real life use case. They work with hundreds of companies, instruments, applications and they see how other scientists are pushing the boundaries when it comes to scientific innovation. They are constantly learning and adding new methods to their scientific repertoire.
For instance, in the field of single cell genomics, a fast-paced area of science which publishes new and improved methods at a rapid rate, the FAS can provide knowledge transfer on how single cell labs can install and use instruments that have the necessary flexibility to adapt to change, as well as establish and customize miniaturized protocols of choice. In this regard, the FAS can contribute reputable guidance and direction on how you can innovate. They can also act as a practical sounding board, should you want to test a theory.
Our FAS are masters of troubleshooting. If you have a problem, chances are they have experienced said problem before. As a result, they will likely have the necessary understanding to rectify the issue quickly and with limited negative impact on the day to day running of your lab’s activities.
The FAS's responsibility is to guarantee the applications you are using are fit for purpose. In order to do this, they decipher the bottlenecks and obstacles you may be experiencing by actively listening and remaining flexible in their approach. This means you should never hesitate to call on them when you need a shoulder to cry on!
The FAS role is one of collaboration. They communicate with numerous departments within a lab service organization and supporting the sales team is just one of those areas, as mentioned above. The FASs also build effective relationships and obtain valuable, first-hand feedback from customers so they can report back to research and development teams with common trends.
FASs will undoubtedly have efficiency in mind when it comes to implementing an application for use on lab instruments. The FAS will provide practical expertise on how to minimize costs, eliminate laborious processes, enhance data quality and preserve sample integrity, all with the intention of boosting efficiency.
Take for example, liquid handling applications for genomics. In an environment where the protection of samples is of the utmost importance, the FAS will help you define and implement the protocol for the application so that the loss of samples is reduced, exposure to the air is decreased and cross contamination with other reagents is avoided. In a lab where there is a high turnaround of samples, this is fundamental to increasing efficiency and thus reducing costs.
The FAS will also put processes in place to secure these efficiencies and cost reductions, enabling you to measure impact and return on investment. Furthermore, the FAS can often find a novel use for an instrument, for purposes other than its intended use, to expand utility further. In one instance at SPT Labtech, one customer was using the dragonfly crystal screen optimizer and in partnership with the FAS developed assays for mass spectrometry on the same instrument, enabling the customer to achieve their goals with a piece of equipment they already had.