Capital Efficiency | Lab Efficiency

5 Tips for Better Lab Supply Inventory Management

A tweet by a new Principal Investigator went viral last year. Written in frustration with the lab supply inventory management process, the tweet received hundreds of thousands of views and was shared with hundreds of labs. As we know, the daily life of a researcher isn’t usually viral material, so this tweet obviously hit a nerve about a commonly shared R&D. Luckily, there are actionable ways to better manage the lab supply inventory management process.

5 tips for better lab supply inventory management

  1. Conduct frequent inventory audits. You can’t manage inventory effectively if you don’t know what you have. By conducting regular inventory audits, you can compare current levels of each item with upcoming research needs to determine and address gaps.
  2. Utilize a centralized, enterprise-wide inventory system. In biotech startups, each scientist or group of scientists may their own track inventory via their own spreadsheet. This siloed approach increases the risk of over-ordering or under-ordering supplies. It also results in missed opportunities to leverage enhanced buying power and build stronger vendor relationships through order consolidation. Growing biotechs often choose to adopt lab inventory management software (LIMS) to automate the inventory tracking process and address some of these issues.
  3. Analyze actual usage. Keeping an accurate, easily accessible record of how much you actually use each item is key to identifying usage patterns. By understanding exactly what is utilized and when, you can better forecast supply needs and identify resource optimization areas.
  4. Set re-order level triggers. No one likes seeing empty supply shelves at a critical time during an experiment. Setting re-order level triggers for commonly used items can help prevent this. An automated re-order strategy prevents stockouts, saves time, and reduces waste.
  5. Empower scientists to become ordering users. Scientists often feel disconnected from the lab supply purchasing process, sometimes relying on an intermediary such as lab operations or procurement to keep necessary supplies stocked. A solution is to provide scientists with access to a lab supply marketplace, a platform that streamlines and automates the lab supply ordering process. Lab supply marketplace users can build a cart from millions of products across thousands of suppliers in an Amazon-like buying experience. Empowering scientists to become ordering users speeds procurement time, increases process satisfaction, increases accountability, and improves ordering accuracy.

Lab supply marketplace features that support lab supply order management

  1. Real-time dashboard. With real-time visibility into lab supply ordering behaviors, ordering users can analyze the available data to better plan future inventory needs.Dashboard features:
    • View and filter lab supply spending in a given period of time across filters such as cost center, project code, user, supplier, category and sub-category, and many more
    • Access an up-to-date, transaction history suitable for audit purposes
    • Analyze past item usage for use in forecasting future experiment needs
  1. Lists. With customized list creation, ordering users can better manage inventory needs for both new and frequently used items. Lists can also be made public for collaboration with other end users, or kept private.List features:
    • Add an item to an existing or new list
    • Add all items in a list to your cart in one click
    • Create a monthly purchases list to drive efficiencies in ordering and re-ordering
    • Make lists private or public, depending on the desired level of collaboration versus confidentiality
    • Access colleagues’ public lists, in which products common to both lists are highlighted
    • Find customer exclusive deals and special promotions
  1. Easy re-ordering. When specified levels are triggered by LIMs software or other mechanisms, re-orders are simple.Re-order features:
    • Access consolidated summary of entire purchase history
    • Filter to find particular orders or items
    • Re-order all items or re-order select items
    • Report issues with an item or order
    • Utilize quick checkout functionality to re-order frequently ordered, standardized products.
  1. Self-service lab supply ordering. Self-service ordering access supports inventory management by significantly reducing purchase cycle time and minimizing supply-related experiment delays. Scientists, procurement, and finance can quickly become active users, placing correctly mapped orders that follow streamlined approval flows. When items are running low or supplies are needed for upcoming experiments, scientists can take initiative with the ordering process.Self-service features:
    • Find an exact product by searching for name or product ID
    • Explore products from a selection of millions of SKUs, using a variety of search characteristics and dynamic scientific filters
    • Build a single cart with items from thousands of vendors
    • Compare prices between vendors with three-way matching
    • Add and order off-platform vendors within one day
    • Track order, shipping, and receipt status in real-time
    • Proactively re-order items before stockouts occur
    • Receive one monthly consolidated invoice

Effective lab supply inventory management and ordering is the cornerstone of a well-run research organization and is pivotal to milestone achievement. Precise, real-time, automated inventory management enables researchers to make informed decisions, reduces the risk of errors, and fosters a proactive approach to resource utilization. By investing in better lab supply management and procurement processes, biotechs can give scientists the gift of more time at the bench — and avoid going viral for the wrong reasons.

Get a free lab assessment to see how ZAGENO could fit within your lab supply ordering processes and cure your scientist’s pain points today.

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