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    5 Lab Operation Strategies Learned From COVID-19

    By ZAGENO Team - 3 minutes read

    Biotech serial entrepreneur, Stan Lapidus, highlighted the stakes involved in running a biotech lab during a conversation with us at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic “I try to hold a mirror up to my team members to ask them if they're spending their time well, because whether they're spending it well or not, the meter was clicking, it's $10,000 a day. It's $40,000 a day at a biotech and at a biopharma it might be $100,000 a day.” With such high capital, resource, and time costs, how do lab managers and lab leaders make inputs go further? How do they maximize the efficiency of their research & development lab to ensure every dollar spent goes toward creating research and innovation impact? 

    Moreover, beyond the typical intense demands, labs have been further tested through COVID-19 and the ongoing supply chain disruptions that have resulted from the pandemic. Nick Vyas, professor at USC’s Marshall School of Business, highlights the growing importance of supply chains as the foundation that underpins everything on which the biotech and pharmaceutical industries are built. “Yes, science is important. Yes, the research is important. Yes, the end product — pharmaceutical products are very important — profit obviously is important, market share is important, but what drives and creates all of this is the movement of goods and services, which is the supply chain.” 

    To support lab managers in successfully overcoming the challenge of leading labs through these times of disruption and change, we recently hosted a webinar with lab operation experts on proven strategies to run biopharma research & development  labs efficiently. 

    Here’s a recap of five proven strategies our expert panelists recommend:

    1. Focus on systems rather than individual projects. Instead of handling each task as it comes up, take some time to notice patterns. Are there particular types of workflows, projects, or action items that come up especially often? Design processes accordingly to automate as much of your repetitive tasks as possible. For example, use a centralized platform to receive order requests from scientists in one place instead of reaching out to every scientist separately via email or Slack message. When you have proper systems in place, you can drive efficiency and focus on higher order, strategic projects while still getting every task done accurately and on time.


    2. Break large tasks down into atomic actions. A lab manager’s to-do list can feel overwhelming. Instead of feeling disappointed or stressed at the sheer size and breadth of your to-do list, pick one of the higher priority items and break that down into atomic actions. Then, schedule these atomic actions for your free hours of the day (hours when you are not in a meeting or otherwise occupied with another project). Afterwards, you will feel the weight of a task lifted off your shoulders. Moreover, by breaking down seemingly insurmountable to-do’s into atomic tasks, you ease yourself into the process of getting things done. You also can better gauge all that goes into each “to do” and consequently how much time you will need to accomplish everything and when you will get to each moving part. 


    3. Over-communicate. Communication is so crucial, especially in a remote world where people no longer have the natural rapport of an office and the ease of just walking up to a colleague and asking a quick question. If you are unsure about an order detail, confirm with the scientist. If you haven’t heard from someone on a request, check in. If you have particular preferences around how processes are implemented, share. If you have ideas on how to improve something, convey that. Remote work can make people feel isolated and hamper collaboration. To foster greater trust, better cross functional work, and more visibility, over communicate. Set an example by being especially communicative, and others will follow your lead and mirror your actions as well. 


    4. Have contingency plans. With the ongoing supply chain disruptions caused by COVID-19 and other events (such as the recent Suez Canal blockage), it’s wise to expect the unexpected. Instead of hoping supplies will arrive on time, make a plan for the scenario in which they don’t. Are there stocks that you use frequently? Make backup mixes. Are there supplies your lab uses often? Order extra and keep those in the supply cabinet just in case. Do you have especially important files? Make multiple copies and store them in different locations. Hope for the best but plan for the worst. 


    5. Leverage technology. COVID-19 has brought labs fully into the digital age. Technology can help you navigate unexpected disruptions whether supply chain or pandemic related (or both!). With remote collaboration software, you can better communicate with your team from home, get visibility on their progress, and track where ongoing projects stand. With cloud storage, everyone can have secure access to and ability to save important documents. With a marketplace, like ZAGENO, you are able to centralize supply order requests, track supply orders in real time, and source alternative products in cases of out of stock or backordered products. 

    Watch our on-demand webinar, Get Out of the Swamp of Backorders: Proven Strategies to Run Your Lab Efficiently, for the full conversation.

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