According to the Research Gate Lab Purchasing Report 2018, 3-4 people are usually involved in new lab purchase decisions. The survey revealed that while lab managers and principal investigators play a crucial role in purchasing decisions, other lab members frequently have an important part in determining purchasing decisions.
Today’s scientists are concerned not only with the final solution of a scientific research problem but also with the consumables, chemicals, and equipment involved. Unfortunately, the procurement process for these items is not always linear, and can involve some research of its own. Scientists often need to become aware of vendor and product alternatives, and must frequently navigate through complex purchasing channels and supply chains. Anyone with experience procuring lab supplies for time-sensitive experiments has likely encountered some major roadblocks, which can be equal parts frustrating and stressful. There is a lot riding on the timely procurement of critical research materials!
Here are four of the most common challenges that scientists face while managing the procure-to-pay process, and solutions that are making all the difference for life science organizations worldwide.
Challenge #1: Managing Purchasing While Conducting Full-Time Research
Making sure that all lab members have what they need and dodging delays and backorders of critical materials that could bottleneck the entire research operation requires a lot of time and planning.
Purchasing isn’t just about placing orders. It involves inventory control, order tracking, vendor selection, price negotiation, and understanding any requirements that must be accommodated in the contracts. In addition, purchase management can include receiving, inspecting, returning, and storing supplies.
Doing all of these tasks while conducting full-time research can be frustrating as they consume a significant amount of time and reduce lab productivity. I had this experience myself when I temporarily assumed a key purchasing role for my Ph.D. laboratory.
“I’m going to need an order of IL1β antibody by Monday. It’s for my new project.” Says a lab mate. “Who manages the purchasing for the group?” Asks the sales representative who comes around to the lab randomly. Although these interruptions may seem minor, they frequently distracted me from my high-intensity, focused lab work.
When a scientist assumes the role of purchaser, it can easily become a huge task that interferes with the conduct of science. When hiring a dedicated procurement manager is not an option, finding an outsourced procurement team to run quality sourcing from end to end will go a lot way toward accelerating research and saving the entire lab a lot of frustration.
Challenge #2: Negotiating Pricing and Terms
Everyone loves a good deal, especially when it means getting more out of your valuable research funding. Scientists shopping for lab supplies or equipment naturally want to negotiate the best possible pricing. However, most scientists, especially at the beginning of their careers, are novice negotiators. In addition, securing a quote could take anywhere from a few days to a few weeks’ time, depending on what is being purchased, the availability of the sales representative, and their company’s infrastructure. Scoring the lowest price on lab supplies, equipment, and services can be a complex and time-consuming task that is often skipped over in favor of receiving items quickly.
Challenge #3: Supply Chain Disruptions
More than two years after the start of the pandemic, the supply chains that deliver lab supplies and research materials are still faltering. According to the US Food and Drug Administration’s Device Shortage List, supply issues where personal protective equipment, laboratory reagents, pipette tips, and other lab materials are concerned are expected to continue for the “duration of the COVID-19 public health emergency”.
Supply chain issues are driven by an increased demand for COVID-19 research and testing products, quarantines, slowdowns in air traffic, and global disruptions in shipping and receiving both by sea and by air. These issues can present a big challenge for scientists who need to know that supplies for their experiments will be available and obtainable in a timely manner. Disrupted supply chains inflate prices and can slow or even bring a complete stop to scientific studies and research.
While it’s difficult to say when this situation could end, analysts are forecasting that it won’t be soon. Between the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the ensuing economic crisis caused by Western sanctions, and new pandemic-related shutdowns in China, the challenges to global supply chains continue to grow more complex.
As anyone associated with supply chain management can attest, supply chain disruptions are often unannounced and unique. Partnering with well-rounded professionals who are skilled at developing risk management strategies and building up network resiliency can produce game-changing results in an otherwise difficult global climate.
Challenge #4: Maintaining Clear and Auditable Purchase Records
Keeping proper and thorough records of a company’s purchasing activities is crucial for the organization’s growth and development. Although this is a vital endeavor, it can also be a time-consuming and primarily manual process if an organization isn’t using a procurement application like Prendio. Maintaining clear and auditable records of each purchase can become even more challenging as the company grows and the volume of transactions increases.
As scientists, we are tasked with maintaining several essential laboratory documents, including quality manuals, standard operating procedures, instrument files, equipment maintenance, calibration and verification records, temperature and humidity logs, and experiment reports. Handling multiple complex projects while managing lab documents and records is a lot to cope with. Establishing and incorporating the development and maintenance of a purchasing record-keeping system into these tasks, although essential to business health, may lie beyond our capabilities and technical expertise.
A Challenge for Life Science Leadership: Unburden Your Scientists
Besides leading to stress and burnout, over-burdening scientists can expose a company to risks that include lowered quality standards, poor mental focus, reduced performance, and overspending. Of course, no organization wants to have less support; sometimes, the cost of recruiting, hiring, and training additional employees is simply prohibitive. A good strategy to help relieve your scientists from the burden of administrative work is investing in electronic solutions that replace cumbersome paper-based processes.
Prendio is an e-procurement software built specifically to help R&D teams spend more time in the lab and less time on administrative tasks. Prendio’s automated approval workflow optimizes the purchasing process, leading to faster order placement and rapid turnaround times. With a more efficient procurement, items get into the hands of bench scientists quickly and easily.
If your organization is ready to allow its scientists to focus on science, using Prendio and BioProcure together is the ultimate combination of software and service, built from years of experience working with scientists and finance leaders in the biotech industry to ensure optimal business and scientific outcomes. From partnering with strategic suppliers, driving enterprise-wide cost savings, and finding alternative sources for back-ordered items, the professionals at BioProcure are focused on recovering research time to accelerate scientific discovery, while using Prendio improves the compliance and auditability of the procurement process and helps to optimize business operations.
If you want to learn more about what Prendio and BioProcure can do for you, contact us today by emailing email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org. We look forward to being your cost-effective, outsourced procurement solution providers!