The Value of a Virtual Lab Manager


This post will show how a HappiLabs Virtual Lab Manager brings value to any lab in the world, especially a biotech startup. We perform all sorts of tasks to help scientists, but we specialize in purchasing lab supplies and equipment. HappiLabs provides clear savings to labs both in terms of time and money.

We evaluate time savings just as much, if not more, than financial savings. At regular lab meetings, our team of Virtual Lab Managers dissects the purchasing process in an effort to constantly improve and keep our labs running as efficiently as possible.

To supplement our studious efforts, we utilize cutting edge hardware and software.

If your company needs help creating a purchasing department, we can help. Let’s discuss the full purchasing cycle and the time associated.

It’s not as simple as “I need something. Order it. It arrives in 2 days.” There’s a lot more behind the scenes work that goes into ordering, which academics take for granted with help from their department or university purchasing systems. The entire purchasing cycle takes place in seven steps over the course of a few days to weeks.

Purchasing Flow Chart

Remember, in the world of startup biotech, you’re on your own.

1) Identifying supplies to buy

This involves Google, incoherent supplier websites, and phone calls to tech support and sales reps when buying something new. Sometimes our customers do this themselves, sometimes they send the research to their Virtual Lab Manager.

“Hi Raudel, I’m looking for options for DNA extraction kits. Can you find me a couple and their price per extraction?”

This saves 15-60 minutes per request for scientists.

2) Finding fair pricing

Our scientists don’t bother with this and trust HappiLabs will find a supplier with fair pricing. Keep in mind, it’s not always about price. We evaluate the whole value of a product and the supplier selling it (such as customer service, speed of shipping, and communication).

If scientists do this themselves, they’d be on the phone trying to get quotes from suppliers or googling. But their job is science and this is another 30 minutes that can be spent in the lab. That’s why they hire us.

Additionally, HappiLabs has relationships with suppliers so communication is quicker and we can leverage our purchasing power for even more cost savings.

3) Placing orders

This is not always as easy as logging in, click…click….click…done. Sometimes it’s a 5-15 minute phone call as you check stock and availability, double check pricing, and provide your payment info. The simplest order will still take at least 8 minutes online. Go ahead, time yourself. Scientists shouldn’t waste time doing this.

4) Receiving an order confirmation

What? Yeah, the most underrated step. It should not be taken for granted. Just because you called in an order or placed it online, DO NOT assume the order is being processed.

Most scientific suppliers are not as awesome as Amazon, and mistakes happen. Make sure you get a confirmation # otherwise you might be waiting and waiting and waiting for an order that was never processed.

5) Tracking shipping estimates

More important than you know, especially with the big suppliers. DO NOT trust their online estimates. Always call, and even so, believe no one until you have a Fedex or UPS tracking #. HappiLabs keeps scientists on schedule by staying on top of ETAs so experiments can be planned accordingly.

There are no surprise backorders with a Virtual Lab Manager. We spend about 4-8 minutes per order assuring this.

6) Receiving an order

Making sure the shipment gets to the right person is one of the most amusing moments of the purchasing cycle, and often the most difficult. HappiLabs has their secret as to how this happens and packages are rarely lost, especially at incubators like QB3@953, where there are 41 companies receiving packages.

7) Filing the invoice for accounting

It takes about 8-12 minutes per order and crucial for keeping the accountant happy. We work with and intergrate our workflow with many types of accounting softwares or systems.

Tracking down an invoice isn’t always simple. Some suppliers automatically email you, but many don’t, and then there’s the occasional mischarge that only gets caught if someone is monitoring invoices. We always do. There are two unintentional, sneaky ways suppliers make extra money from companies not monitoring invoices:

  • You’ve applied a promo code during the checkout process, but the order doesn’t get invoiced with the discount.
  • You were told “free” shipping, but were charged a “Handling” or “Fuel Surcharge” fee.


In the long run, a Virtual Lab Manager moves faster and makes fewer mistakes than most lab managers, and especially if someone is doing this job who wears five different hats.

Think about it….an expert, with one hat, sitting at a computer with a load of resources and tools behind them — who do you think will do the job better?

Meet our Virtual Lab Managers.

(NOTE: this post was originally published on the Perlstein Lab blog. We’ve made edits to generalize it.)

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