UPDATE: Shortages in the Scientific Supply Chain

Scientists, we want to give you a heads up. 

The scientific supply chain for lab supplies and equipment is continuing to see disruption. Your science may be affected. Please read this update and plan accordingly.

HappiLabs is seeing significant delays (aka backorders) for common items as they are no longer in-stock. This is verified with public statements from leading global suppliers, shown at the bottom of this post. Supplies that would normally ship in 1-3 days, now have lead times of two-plus weeks — this is our new normal.

Gone are the days of, “Oh s***, I’m out of (reagent X)!!!!, ship me more overnight or my science pauses for two weeks.” Say hello to “Oh s***, I’m out of (reagent X), my science will pause for two weeks.”

HappiLabs is warning you….Plan your lab inventory and purchases at least two weeks in advance. DO NOT wait until a lab supply is down to the last serving, and do not think “The world will never run out of these.” 

The list of affected items changes weekly, but common items include:

  • Nitrile gloves
  • All PPE, obviously
  • Filter pipette tips
  • Robotic pipette tips
  • Freezers (-20 and -80) and fridges (mini-fridges seem OK for now)
  • PCR tubes and reagents required for PCR
  • Many Corning plastics. Ouch!

And think about the trickle effect as manufacturers need to print more PCR tubes for the increased demand from COVID-19 testing labs, the “printing press” for 250mL conical tubes is repurposed for PCR tubes. Now 250mL tubes are short.

Who knows what item will be affected next? Maybe those cute little paddles used to press sealing film onto a 96-well PCR plate. 

NEVER FEAR!

HappiLabs always sees the positive….This will end, and not everything is on backorder.

We are here to work with your scientists and plan ahead. We have four recommendations:

  1. Know which supplies are critical. Review protocols and experiments to confirm items you should not run out of.
  2. Buy 3-6 months worth of items that are essential to your science. We will review your purchasing data to inform you “What quantity is 3-6 months worth?”
  3. Invite your Virtual Lab Manager to your recurring lab meeting, at least monthly, to make sure we’re all on the same page about what is “critical” as your needs change.
  4. Diversify your suppliers outside of the normal players like Fisher, VWR, Sigma.

If you have 20+ scientists in your company, it will also be wise to set up “Standing Orders” where a smaller quantity of items is reserved and scheduled to deliver on a fixed timeline. This helps manufacturers plan demand ahead of time.

WHAT IS HAPPILABS DOING TO HELP YOUR LAB?

Keeping our ears to the ground. Every day we interact with customer service, sales reps, tech support, and shipping companies (UPS/Fedex/Amazon). 

We are in constant contact with regional distributors who are not on the front page of Google such as Neta Scientific, Stellar Scientific, and Genesee. Quartzy has been helpful as well.

Our lab managers meet daily to discuss developments and supplier updates, and share relevant info with your scientists.

We check ETAs BEFORE placing the order. Don’t get fooled…”But the website said it was in stock.”

We can’t predict the future but we do see this continuing for six-plus months. 

HappiLabs is working hard for our partners and scientists to manage your lab through a difficult time. We’ll continue to keep you updated on need-to-know shortages within the scientific supply chain.

Again, invite your Virtual Lab Manager to your next lab meeting and we’ll get through this together. 

Fist bump,

HappiTom and the HappiLabs team of Virtual Lab Managers

=====SUPPLIER PUBLIC STATEMENTS===========

Message from Corning via email:

Some of you have experienced delays getting Corning, Falcon and Axygen brand products over the past couple months and this is due to our relocating to a new warehouse and unexpected issues. This Corning flask backorder is unrelated and the Falcon flask alternatives will be shipped from our previous, unaffected, warehouse. We are getting caught up on these shipments from the new warehouse. If you can switch to the Falcon flasks for now and plan ahead just a little, that will help ensure your flask supply.

Message from Rainin via email:

Our biggest challenge to date has been the rapid and large increase in demand for our tip products. The need for COVID-19 testing has created a global shortage of pipette tips, and Rainin as well as other tip manufacturers have been unable to keep up with the enormous increase in demand. Through quick actions to expand capacity we have been able to increase our output by about 60% and we have planned further capacity increases but are awaiting the delivery of additional tools that are currently in very high demand.

Even though Rainin has significantly increased production, the need for tips continues to grow. Therefore, if our delivery times are longer than you have come to expect from us, we appreciate your patience and understanding!

From Eppendorf:

From USA Scientific

We’re hiring a Virtual Lab Manager

Virtual Lab Manager at a growing life science company

If you have experience with lab management, purchasing, or customer service in the sciences, apply!

ABOUT HAPPILABS

HappiLabs is a small business with a startup mentality in Chicago that provides a service to scientists called the Virtual Lab Manager. We support scientists in various ways, virtually, which includes acting as an outsourced purchasing department (some might say a Personal Shopper) for biotech companies and scientific research labs.

We have a mission: to improve the happiness of scientists and the quality of their research.

By helping scientists do their job, we are helping all the people on the planet who benefit from inventions, creations, and knowledge that scientists create.

Purchasing and Customer Service ScientistYou will co-manage a minimum of two labs. We are “virtual” so your job consists of sitting in our offices and communicating with scientists, in other parts of the world, about what they need to run their experiments.

You will be trained to be one of the best lab managers in the world.

EXPERIENCE

A strong candidate will have one of these backgrounds:

  • Lab manager or postdoc (or superb grad student) who has managed people, experiments, and budgets
  • Purchasing agent
  • Sales rep in the life science industry (but this is NOT a sales job)

RESPONSIBILITIES

  • Communicate with engineers & scientists to understand their needs and experiments
  • Communicate with suppliers (sales reps, technical help & customer service) to obtain pricing and technical info, place orders, retrieve order updates, and solve logistics and supply chain problems
  • Keep accounting records organized
  • Report progress and solve problems at team meetings

TIMEFRAME

Looking to start now, preferably in Chicago.

COMPENSATION

  • Full-time, salary
  • $50-70k, depending on experience
  • Medical and Dental health benefits
  • A t-shirt, free coffee and snacks at the office

SKILLS AND TRAITS YOU SHOULD HAVE

We want a long-term commitment, someone who will help a small company grow into a large one.

  • Tech savvy (very good with a computer, its keyboard and multiple monitors)
  • Proactive mentality – help without being asked to help, and an ability to predict problems
  • Knowledge of hardware or mechanical engineering, and/or chemistry, and/or molecular biology
  • A passion for science and desire to make a difference in the world.
  • Confident presence on the phone. We frequently call suppliers

===== APPLY NOW! ======

CLICK this link –> HAPPILABS JOB APPLICATION (VIA A GOOGLE FORM)

It will not hurt to connect with Tom on LinkedIn.

Time to Vote. HappiLabs will be short-staffed on Election Day

From the CEO, Tom Ruginis….

Following up on our Black Lives Matter commitments, HappiLabs is giving employees the time they need to vote with an extra paid holiday. We will be splitting the holiday across 2 days in order to maintain our commitment & responsiveness to our customers. On November 3 and Nov 4, we will be short-staffed. We want to warn our labs:

There will be a limited number of Virtual Lab Managers available. On the day your lab manager is off, only urgent matters will be addressed. All regular communication channels will be monitored. If you do need HappiLabs, another Virtual Lab Manager will be here, but please plan accordingly.

We urge your labs to do the same. Make sure your scientists have time to exercise their right to vote, and select leaders who believe in science and fact-based decision making.

Go vote!

====ABOUT HAPPILABS====

HappiLabs is a small business focused on changing how science labs are operated. We work with a mission: to improve the happiness of scientists and the quality of their research.

The mission guides our day-to-day decisions when managing a lab, and it keeps us focused on improving long-term innovation and funding in the sciences. We are always looking for our next Virtual Lab Manager or our next lab to manage. Please reach out if you have any questions or want to work with HappiLabs.

Enjoy your day and here are cool microscopy photos from Efra Rivera-Serrano, PhD:

Reporting on Black Lives Matter action items

In July, HappiLabs made a commitment to Black Lives Matter. We are focused on improving diversity in the scientific supply chain. A statement few other scientific suppliers have stated outright.

An immediate, impactful action we set is to include Neta Scientific when shopping for lab supplies. On the flip side, we are driving business away from $170+ billion ThermoFisher, the blue whale of the scientific supply world, to improve the imbalance between ultra wealthy and everyone else. At HappiLabs, we walk the talk and will report metrics on our progress.

Before June, the HappiLabs network spent $0 with Neta Scientific. In the past three months, we made 21 purchases for a total of $16,639.17. August saw an increase of over 200% from July.

The bottom graph shows the difference in number of orders from the HappiLabs network between Neta Scientific and the ThermoFisher whale (Fisher and Thermo are tracked separately, although they are under the same corporate umbrella).

We ask that all scientists, in or out of the HappiLabs network, be more mindful about who they buy from and how you can contribute to change in the scientific supply chain.

It’s a long, tough road and we are up for the challenge of change. HappiLabs and our team of Virtual Lab Managers support equality and equity. Our position puts us into battles with scientists, sales reps, and sometimes even lawyers about the final decision on where a scientist buys supplies. We stand strong on our position to increase inclusivity in the scientific supply chain.

We’ll report back in a few months. In the meantime, follow us on Twitter @happilabs_org or contact us here with questions/comments.

Black Lives Matter – full support from HappiLabs to change the scientific supply chain

The other day, one of our Virtual Lab Managers, Ian Street, asked in our VLM Slack channel:

Has anyone seen a scientific supplier put out a public Black Lives Matter statement?

The only answer we could find is from industry giant ThermoFisher and their CEO Marc Casper’s politically correct statement that was vague and not what people will rally behind. NEB has retweeted some #BLM content. But where we saw every supplier and their sister company put out multiple statements about how they’re reacting to coronavirus, not much is happening on the human equality front. Does that say something about the operations of the scientific supply chain? Let’s change that.

HappiLabs 100% supports Black Lives Matter. We support disruption of systemic processes that are inherently racist, prejudiced, and sexist. We support people of color (POC) and their freedom to live the same quality of life as a white person. We support black scientists.

Black Lives Matter.

Therefore, as the CEO of a small business from Chicago, IL that specializes in shopping for lab supplies and equipment, I will make sure we leverage our network to be more proactive in support of the black community, and make changes in the scientific supply chain. Our 14 employees, 35+ labs, and 400+ scientists (and engineers) are a foundation that will promote change in the scientific community for years to come. We will provide immediate, small impact actions and stay focused on the harder, long-term battles for change.

Immediate, small impact actions:

  1. We are adding to our company holiday list: Election Day (vote for change!) and Martin Luther King, Jr Day. 
  2. A commitment of monthly donations to Big Brothers Big Sisters (of Chicago) and Pilsen Food Pantry / Figueroa Wu Family Foundation.
  3. We have started buying from Neta Scientific–a family owned supplier; and the only black-owned, national lab supplier (that we’re aware of). HappiLabs has begun pushing business towards Neta. We support you Dr Winfred and Garnetta.

Longer term actions

  1. Maintain a diverse staff and improve our recruiting processes to attract more black and POC candidates. 
  2. Encourage our scientists to avoid wealthy, institutionalized scientific suppliers.
  3. Raise awareness of smaller, diverse, and anti-racist suppliers.

Considering there are extremely few black- and POC-owned scientific suppliers, we will work to identify anti-racist organizations who are proactive and vocal about their interests to help change the scientific supply chain. Please let us know if you see scientific suppliers speaking out and supporting #BLM.

As always, science community, HappiLabs is here for you, fighting for equality and social justice (and an organized lab). Go science! Tom Ruginis, CEO