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    Why Product Alternatives are Important in Keeping Biotech Experiments on Track

    By ZAGENO - 4 minutes read

    Supply chain uncertainty continues to present challenges in the scientific community. The demand for lab teams to generate results has led to their being overworked and burning out, while the increase in demand has lab supply vendors struggling to keep up. As a result, industry-wide shipping delays of necessary supplies ranging from pipette tips to PPE are hindering scientific innovation.

    In order to keep their experiments moving in the right direction, research scientists, lab managers and procurement teams have had to get creative when it comes to navigating ongoing supply chain disruptions. When shopping for supplies they are putting brand loyalty to the side and instead focusing on getting whatever supplies they can, as quickly as they can.

    For many, this means turning to product alternatives that they don’t typically use or source. Alternative products are substitutes used when traditional, standard lab supplies are unavailable. For example, when staining trays are unavailable you can repurpose a pipette tip box with removable inserts, or get creative with products not typically used for scientific purposes that meet your criteria.

    Here’s how procurement teams and lab managers can continue embracing product alternatives, as well as a few ways to keep your experiments on track as you continue to navigate supply chain disruptions.

    The Increased Need for Product Alternatives in Biotech Research

    When the lab supply shortage first struck in 2020, scientists around the world rushed to secure and store all of the consumables and basic lab supplies they could to continue their experiments and other lab activities.

    As these stockpiles continued to shrink without any signs of relief from an overloaded and understaffed supply chain, desperation for the necessary lab supplies increased. As a result, many supplies piled into overwhelming backorders. For example, the worldwide demand for gloves exceeded supply by 200 billion before the start of 2021.

    However, the rush to find product alternatives is not always successful, or straightforward. While some supplies simply don’t naturally lend themselves to being easy to duplicate, there are also faulty retailers out there who are attempting to capitalize on the stress caused by supply chain distractions by manufacturing unlicensed, ineffective product alternatives of their own.

    In most cases these alternatives are shoddily crafted and can pose a threat to the health and safety of lab staff. 3M saw such a rise in fraudulent respirators that they created a hotline dedicated to fighting respirator fraud around the world.

    It is important that scientists and lab managers use reputable product alternatives and carefully source new suppliers, establishing systems that have three, four, or five backup options when a product or item is out of stock. Additionally, lab teams can use vendors who offer scientific experts of their own who understand your area of research of subject matter to suggest alternate products.

    Digital marketplaces like ZAGENO come equipped with scientific experts who are ready and waiting to help lab managers, finance teams, and procurement teams find the lab supplies they need (alternative or otherwise) to keep their experiments on track.

    How to Stay on Track Towards Research Milestones

    The good news is, as supply chain disruptions continue to persist and frustrate scientists, there are some ways that lab managers can ensure their ongoing experiments stay on track. And while there is no way to determine exactly when these disruptions will cease, abiding by these lab supply procurement best practices is a step toward reaching research milestones in any global climate.

    Stay stocked up on key supplies.

    Between 2019 and 2021 lead time for lab products increased 200%. Meaning that essentially by the time orders arrived it was already long past the time to place the next orders. Naturally, many lab managers took this as a sign that they needed to stock up on key supplies.

    To do so:

    • Calculate your storage capabilities to determine how much stock you can store on site
    • Evaluate the supply needs for all ongoing and upcoming experiments, to prevent future delays
    • Patronize smaller and independent supply vendors when larger retailers are unable to fulfill their orders
    • Place smaller, more frequent orders from suppliers who can’t fill large orders
    Plan experiments in advance.

    Planning experiments in advance goes hand in hand with stocking up on key supplies. While you are in the process of evaluating your supply needs, look a month or quarter further into the future than you normally would. Supply chain disruptions ebb and flow, but there are some specific supplies that are seemingly never in stock these days and need to be ordered especially in advance.

    However, before you can do so lab managers must first research their suppliers and potential partners to generate an idea of new product ship dates and backorders on necessary items. 

    To stay up to date on the latest supply chain updates and how they affect the supplies you need, subscribe to This is ZAGENO for data-driven discussions on The State of the Supply Chain.

    Continue checking digital lab supply marketplaces.

    In some cases the best way to find product alternatives is the most obvious way — with patience.

    In time, the supply chain will regulate and shipping dates will return to normal. Until then, product availability will vary. One day your go-to online retailer may have all the gloves in stock your lab could ever need and the next day their gloves are back ordered until 2023.

    When you utilize a digital life sciences marketplace you are exposed to a wider range of vendors (who have access to a wider range of lab supplies). A product that isn’t available on the platform today could very well become available this time tomorrow. As new suppliers continue to crop up on the scene, more difficult-to-find lab supplies can show up at any moment.

    If possible, set product alerts when procuring supplies through a digital marketplace so you will be the first one to add coveted supplies to your cart.

    Whether you are able to track down all the supplies your lab needs to stay on track or you’re in the process of researching product alternatives, it’s necessary to stay informed on how supply chain disruptions continue to impact the lab supply procurement process. To get started, here’s From the Lab Bench to the Cart: Understanding the Scientific Buyer’s Journey.

    To learn more about how ZAGENO can help you reach your biopharma customer, book a live demo today.
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