2020 and 2021 were challenging years for science, but also ones that heralded scientific innovation more quickly than ever before. Between the COVID-19 vaccine, advancements in cancer detection technology, and CRISPR gene editing reaching new milestones in human trials, scientists forged ahead during a time when lab operations were faced with obstacle after obstacle.
Now, research labs are navigating a disrupted supply chain that has led to supply and equipment shortages and products on backorder, a need for new vendors to meet lab supply demands, and a whole new way for labs to operate. Today’s R&D and biotech labs have to operate with a lean methodology, or face roadblocks and budget challenges.
Here’s how research labs are applying an agile, proactive approach to lab operations by strategically planning inventory and management of experiments ahead of time and being as efficient as possible to end the year prepared.
Ending the Year in the Lab Right
Lab managers are no longer unprepared for the continued supply chain interruptions. They also have new priorities and considerations, like whether they will allow their teams to work remotely in any capacity or how to infuse technology into lab operations. With the end of year approaching, lab managers are reviewing their budget and evaluating where to invest any remaining funding, as well as planning out the 2022 lab budget.
Preparing for a Continued Lab Supply Chain Shortage Impact on Lab Operations
1. Order big or order small.
If you have storage for several months worth of supplies and consumables, purchase it when it’s available. If you don’t have much space, order more frequent, smaller shipments.
“If you can get three or four months” worth of supply for certain consumables that are not at risk of expiring, order in large amounts and reserve that quantity more than you would typically do.
If you have room, convert an old office into a storage room; store things wherever you can. We found that a lot of customers will order from multiple/different suppliers. They understand it's going to take a while, but they're ordering a bulk amount.” James Pavlovich, VP of Customer Success, ZAGENO
2. Track utilization of supplies and watch trends from the past year.
Watch how your lab spent money this year and how your team used supplies. By identifying patterns ahead of time, you can map out the year from a budgeting and logistics standpoint and avoid last minute requests for more funding. By predicting and forecasting lab supply needs, lab managers can save budget and purchase bulk items at a reduced cost, or seek out new suppliers and discounts.
3. Use a spend analytics dashboard.
To keep on top of increased use of things like single use PPE or consumables in the lab, use a lab spend analytics dashboard. With a singular place to track lab data and reports, lab managers and finance teams can best allocate resources amongst projects.
4. Work with multiple suppliers.
Inventory isn’t a guarantee anymore, so working with a variety of suppliers and equipment manufacturers increases the likelihood that experiments will be carried out on schedule. Partner with lab supply marketplaces that offer scientific consultants who can make specific recommendations for new suppliers or product replacements.
5. Anticipate continued interruptions to lab supplies, testing, logistics, and access to vendors suppliers.
COVID-19 and the associated labor shortages, supply and resource shortages, and overall lack of product availability continue to affect the supply chain and research labs. Despite global vaccination efforts and a return to society in some ways, researchers predict that the impact of the pandemic will last for years to come.
As a lab manager, advocate for a tech-focused lab operations and inventory management system and ample back stock for needed lab products.
Using Year-End Budget in the Lab
A new strategy since the pandemic began and even before then is to stock up on frequently used supplies, or purchase supplies in advance of research beginning. If you have the space to pre-purchase lab supplies and equipment, you give your team the runway to begin research as soon as the planned start date arrives.
Consider spending leftover year end lab budget on:
- Pipettes + pipette tips
- Petri dishes
- Cleaning supplies
Planning the Year Ahead of Experiments
By planning ahead, labs can make the most out of time in the lab, meet research milestones, and prepare for delays in product shipments or having to wait a year for a freezer. Plan timelines with extra time built in for procurement of lab supplies and equipment and research availability early in case of significant lead times.
Ending 2021 by setting up 2022 for success and adopting a lean lab mentality will increase your lab’s ability to continue research for the months and years ahead. The sooner you implement future-proofing strategies, the sooner you can operate with confidence and best serve your lab employees.