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.?

Thank you to Suppliers that Help with HappiLabs’ Mission.

HappiLabs has a mission.

Outstanding suppliers are part of that mission. In this season of reflection and gratitude we’d like to acknowledge our favorite suppliers.

To these excellent companies:

Platinum 🌟🌟🌟

  • New England Biolabs
  • McMaster Carr
  • AbCam
  • Thorlabs

Gold🌟🌟

  • Promega
  • E&K Scientific
  • Cayman Chemical
  • Teknova

Silver🌟

  • Agilent
  • Zymo Research
  • Diversified Laboratory Repair
  • IDT

Honorable Mention: VWR, Digikey

Thank you for being reliable, responsive, friendly, and easy to work with.

Thank you for automatically sending order confirmations, shipping updates, and invoices.

Thank you for fixing problems when they arise and being easy to get a hold of.

Thank you for having well-designed and functioning websites.

Thank you for your excellence in serving the scientific community this year.

Sincerely,

The HappiLabs Virtual Lab Manager team:

Raudel, Liz, Elizabeth, Justin, Amanda, Ian, and CEO Tom.

 

Would a scientist pay a million dollars for an urgent order?

Order requests can be well planned, normal, ASAP, or URGENT.

According to Merian-Webster, “urgent” means calling for immediate attention.

Scientists, when requesting an order for lab supplies, here are suggestions for using urgent vs ASAP vs normal vs well planned.

I plan well, >1 week

Scientists placing these are awesome people who plan well ahead of time for their experiments.

This order will be processed after shopping around, supplier negotiation, and will generally be processed within 36-48 hours.

This is also the default for capital equipment requests, custom items, and items with long lead times.

Normal

Orders can sit for a bit, there’s time to go shopping (which can take a day or two). Scientists will have an opportunity  to change their mind about the item or quantity requested. These are placed within 6-36 hours of the request.

“Can you order more MAP1 antibody. I’m good for about 1 more week.”

ASAP

Orders are given priority but assume delivery will be > or = 2 days, at best. The request should include a need-by date.  We’ll make it happen.

“Hi HappiLabs. We made a change to the experiment. Please order a pack of 30cc syringes. It will be very helpful to have them by Friday.”

URGENT

The order is critical to a scientist’s workflow and needs to get there next day.

A Virtual Lab Manager will drop everything, including your teammates requests. You want our primary focus on getting that order in ahead of a supplier’s shipping cutoff time, onto a UPS plane, into a truck stuck in traffic, unloaded at your receiving door, signed for, and carried from the door to your lab.

“URGENT. What can you do to get me a replacement light bulb for the microscope by tomorrow morning? All work is stopped until we get a new bulb.”

On average, URGENT will cost you $62 in extra shipping costs. Sometimes it’ll cost you a MILLION dollars

 Million Dollar Shipping

Is it really URGENT?

Urgent is NOT

  • Pipette tips. It is not flasks. It is not gloves. Inventory for these requisite consumables should be planned well ahead of time.
  • Custom items requiring weeks of lead time to fulfill.
  • Office supplies
  • Snacks

Help us help you by selecting the right shipping speed, maintaining a smooth virtual lab manager workflow, and use URGENT only when it’s urgent.