Lab Tests and Fuel Gauges

We get inquiries for a wide variety of tests, some of them we do not perform. So how do we as a lab determine what tests to offer? There are two main criteria for ALGL.

Is there a business case to offer the test? While that seems rather cold, like our customers we are a business and need to be profitable. We must determine if we can generate enough revenue to cover not only the materials and labor to perform the test, but also the operational costs. We need to develop the procedure, train staff, maybe purchase equipment that requires building space, maybe make building alterations to support the equipment, and the list goes on.  Often there is a lot of publicity about a given test, but the sample numbers generated don’t always reflect that market excitement.

Does the test provide value to our customers? A valuable test provides data that can within in a reasonable level of accuracy and stability track progress over time. Ideally the test will also provide some level of predictable outcomes in the future based on prescribed actions. This means there is enough understanding of the system to interpret the data to make informed prescriptive management actions.

A simple example is the fuel gauge in your vehicle. If the fuel gauge shows half full, what does that mean and what decisions can you make with this information?

The gauge reading of 50% or 0.5 is only data. However, though knowledge of the tested system you know the fuel tank has a 40-gallon capacity, now we know there is 20 gallons of fuel in the tank. If though observation you know that the vehicle gets 20 miles per gallon, you now know that you can travel 400 miles on that tank of fuel before running out. If through related research you know that your destination is 300 miles away, you can travel to your destination without stopping for fuel but will need to refuel within 100 miles after leaving that location. Our understanding of a simple fuel gauge is far greater than many of us consider. The greater understanding, the more informed decisions can be made.

Like the fuel gauge, a test value on a lab report is of little value until additional interpretive knowledge is gained.  New tests are being developed regularly and the key to their long-term success is interpretive data. The staff at ALGL are regularly tracking new and developing tests to see what offerings make business sense for us and our customers.

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