What is the Busiest Day for Ordering Lab Supplies?

Wednesdays.

Fridays are 20% slower in terms of orders compared to the rest of the week.

HappiLabs took a snapshot of the last 10,000 orders placed by the Virtual Lab Manager team by day of the week.

IMG_6159

 

Why ordering slows on Fridays 

Tuesdays and Wednesdays are busiest for order requests, perhaps reflecting scientists ordering for the next work week or VLMs working hard to get orders in that will deliver by week’s end.

Scientists may not be making as many order requests on Fridays because the weekend is calling. Scientists like to have fun too.

Many suppliers will  not ship on Fridays or process an order until the following week (especially if a West coast scientists requests an item from an East Coast supplier on Friday afternoon). VLMs know this and may hold off on ordering until Monday morning because the order will not ship or sometimes even be processed until then anyhow. Scientists likely have a sense of this as well.

It just goes to show that scientists and the scientific supply chain are working for the weekend.

 

 

Handy Glove Guide

Hands are an important tool in science.  Protecting them so you can safely work in the lab is important.

Science often involves being around chemicals, sharps, scalpels, boxes, metal, liquid nitrogen tanks, and more that can be damaging to exposed hands.

Enviro Tech put together this guide matching glove material and their advantageous and disadvantageous shielding properties.

Screen Shot 2018-02-16 at 10.05.49 AM
The first two of ten gloves in Envirotech’s glove chart.

Gloves are only one part of being safe and responsible in the lab, of course (wear all of your PPE!).

The primary tool of staying safe is scientists’ own brains working to develop protocols to address and solve problems that might arise to keep the entire team as safe as possible as progress is made.

Cover Inage Photo credit: MaxPixel, CC0

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.

What’s in the Box?

Quantities matter in science. Ordering the requisite items for present experimental needs is efficient, avoids clutter, and reduces waste.

The language of quantities when ordering lab supplies, however, is often ambiguous:

“Order a tube of Taq.”

“Get three boxes of serological pipettes.”

Some suppliers are easy with quantities designated by unique catalog numbers (Thank you NEB and Biolegend).

Some make it harder.

Each, Pack, and Case

Each, pack, and case can all be considered a box of an item and sometimes one catalog number corresponds to all three tiers (e.g. some listings at VWR).

boxes-1170966_1920 Pixabay CC0
What and how much in each box?  Photo credit: Pixabay, CC0

Packs and cases can also contain single items. Requesting a case of media supplied one bottle per case will result in receiving one bottle. Unless the request was stated in number of bottles, less media than requested will arrive.

The good news there: ordering more is easier than having too much and trying to return some.

Item quantities are variable and every supplier is slightly different.

Check the Amount

Virtual Lab Managers meticulously checks quantity when ordering.

Asking the requestors to clarify is a best practice:

“This media is sold 1 bottle/case. Do you need more than one bottle?”

“A case contains 3,000 syringes. Do you need that many?”

Ordering the right quantity is good science.

 

Achieving Good Goals in 2018

HappiLabs’ core goal is to improve the happiness of scientists and the quality of their research.

How do we know if we’re achieving that goal with the scientists we work with?

Sometimes we get direct feedback from scientists as in this recent example:

“Happy Holidays HappiLabs! Thanks for all the orders you have placed for us and all the help! You guys are amazing.”

This is good feedback and suggests we’re doing well, but this is a result of focusing on actions we can take to ensure scientists are happy. For instance, we actively work to respond quickly to emails.

We work to have S.M.A.R.T. goals like this:

Specific – Respond quickly to messages and requests.

Measurable – How fast do we respond?

Achievable – The Virtual Lab Manager team can work to cut response times.

Relevant – The better we are at timely responses, the happier we make scientists.

Timed – We will work to achieve response times scientists are happy with and assess our efforts in June.

Layered on S.M.A.R.T. goals is setting good goals. Re-assessing goals is also allowed.

As scientists, HappiLabs likes data. Data from S.M.A.R.T. goals turns into real world difference-making, including making scientists happy.

As you plan for 2018 and beyond, are your goals good and S.M.A.R.T.?