Don’t Default to One Supplier

A woman stands in front of two doors, one blue, one red

A request comes in. It’s a supplier with an eCommerce site. To get the item ordered, the lab manager clicks a few times on a supplier site and the order is placed! Done. 

Except. It can pay to slow down a little and do a bit of comparison shopping. 

For example, this GeneJET kit is available through both Fisher Scientific and Thermofisher Scientific’s websites. Fisher wasn’t having a sale on this item, but Thermofisher was. By changing a website, money was saved! 

Item from Fisher Scientific Catalog. Source: Fishersci.com.
The same item on sale at Thermofisher.com (aka Life Technologies). Source: Thermofisher.com

EMD Millipore and Sigma are another example where this can work. EMD Millipore doesn’t often have promo codes. Sigma often does and EMD Millipore items are often available through sigmaaldrich.com.

Again, ostensibly, these are one company, Millipore-Sigma, but their web portals sometimes don’t behave that way.


These both are special cases of a general rule: if something is offered more than one place, definitely compare pricing, availability, and the lab’s relationship with supplier. Last: ask a preferred supplier to match a competitor’s better price when deciding where to buy an item. 

Cover Photo Credit: Letizia Bordoni on Unsplash.

Too Subtle Product Differences

Mimicry is pretty common in nature. As in nature, so with lab supplies.

An ever-evolving ocean of distinct products exists. No one scientist needs all products available in their career, of course. However, even when focused on basic items, confusion can occur due to what is essentially mimicry, AKA “branding”.

For example:

WhySimilarItems

That “plus” makes all the difference for whether tissue will stay on the slide’s surface or if it’s just a slide where tissue won’t adhere.

It’s easy to see a lab stocking both kinds of slide for various purposes.

This issue could easily come up when ordering too. “Get me more Superfrost” slides…and the “Plus” gets left off.

Solutions

A lab manager could store each slide in separate places, or mark the Superfrost Plus slides to be distinct when they are delivered.

Manufacturers could help by making packaging distinct (in this case, they don’t).

Fisher and other suppliers can do better.

In the mean time, lab managers and scientists will have to be hyper-vigilant in making sure they order and use the right product for their work, especially when near-mimics exist.

Photo credit: Heliconius butterfly mimicry. Wikimedia commons, CC 2.5, from Meyer A, PLoS Biology, Vol. 4/10/2006, e341 doi:10.1371/journal.pbio.0040341.