Each new year presents slight shifts in the challenges scientists encounter in the areas of sourcing and procurement. As the world grapples with the threat of shipping strikes and the after-effects of the COVID-19 pandemic—and the possibility of future waves and viral mutations—an unstable supply chain and delivery system can translate to added stress and anxiety for the research scientist. We’ve compiled a short list of the top procurement challenges scientists are likely to face in 2023 to help you and your team better prepare for potential roadblocks, and devise new solutions for success.
Today’s scientists are concerned not only with the final solution of a scientific research problem but also with the consumables, chemicals, and equipment needed to complete the project. Unfortunately, the procurement process is not always simple, and can involve some research of its own.
Anyone with experience procuring lab supplies for time-sensitive experiments has likely encountered procurement challenges which can be equal parts frustrating and stressful. In today’s world of complicated supply chain issues, scientists are frequently tasked with sourcing vendor and product alternatives. There is a lot riding on the timely procurement of critical research materials!
Below we discuss four of the most common procurement challenges 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 Procurement While Conducting Full-Time Research
Purchasing is more than just placing orders. It involves inventory control, order tracking, vendor selection, and price and contract negotiation. The procurement process can also include receiving, inspecting, returning, and stocking supplies. Dodging delays and backorders of critical materials that could bottleneck the entire research operation requires a lot of time and planning.
Having to do all of these tasks while conducting full-time research can be frustrating. The procurement process often consumes a significant amount of time, which can result in reduced 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 long 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 forfeited in favor of receiving items quickly.
In the absence of a dedicated in-house purchasing department, an outsourced procurement service like BioProcure offers is the best way to prioritize getting what your lab needs on time and at the best possible price. A team whose main objective is procurement will be able to spend the time necessary to research and negotiate pricing while your team focuses on making new discoveries in the lab.
Challenge #3: Supply Chain Disruptions
Years after the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the supply chains that deliver lab supplies and research materials are still struggling. According to the US Food and Drug Administration’s Device Shortage List, supply issues concerning personal protective equipment, laboratory reagents, pipette tips, and other lab materials are expected to continue.
Supply chain issues are caused by a variety of factors, including an increased demand for COVID-19 research and testing products, quarantines, manufacturing shutdowns, slowdowns in air traffic, a sluggish economy, 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.
Supply Chain Disruptions: Click here to read about the innovative ways our partner BioProcure is helping scientists and lab managers sidestep supply chain roadblocks.
Challenge #4: Maintaining Clear and Auditable Purchase Records
Keeping proper and thorough records of each step in the procurement process is crucial for an 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 software 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, MSDS binders, 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. Although essential to business health, establishing and incorporating the development and maintenance of a purchasing record-keeping system into these tasks may lie beyond our capabilities and technical expertise.
A Challenge for Life Science Leadership: Unburden Your Scientists
Over-burdening scientists can lead to stress and burnout, exposing 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 of overly burdensome administrative work is investing in electronic solutions that replace labor intensive and error prone paper-based processes. You can learn more about the impact of e-procurement technologies on procurement performance in our whitepaper.
Prendio is an eprocurement software built specifically to help cut down on the administrative workload for R&D teams so scientists can spend more of their time in the lab. Prendio’s automated workflows optimize the purchasing process, leading to faster order placement and shorter turnaround times. With a more efficient procurement system, items get into the hands of bench scientists faster. You can view all the features of Prendio’s affordable, cloud-based eprocurement software here.
If your organization is ready to give scientists more time to focus on science, combining a procurement software like Prendio with an outsourced services company like BioProcure is the ultimate time and cost cutting solution, 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 and Prendio are focused on recovering research time to accelerate scientific discovery, improving compliance and auditability of the procurement process, and helping to optimize business operations.
If you want to learn more about what Prendio and BioProcure can do for you, contact us today.