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.

An Analysis of Women-owned Scientific Suppliers

Summary

When a lab hires HappiLabs to be their virtual lab manager and do their lab shopping, we want to make sure we buy from suppliers who fit the values of the lab. Recently, one of our customers asked, “Who are the female owned suppliers? We’d like to buy from them.” Therefore, we hired Dr. Vidhya Sivakumaran (above photo), a cardiovascular–focused postdoc from Loyola University, to do research on the topic. This is an informal study assessing the population of women-owned suppliers of scientific supplies, services, equipment, and reagents.

happilabs shops for women-owned scientific suppliers
The 70 companies that were surveyed for this analysis

Methods

  1. We selected 70 suppliers with whom HappiLabs has purchased from over the past 6 months
  2. Scanned their website to identify the sex of ownership
  3. If it wasn’t clear, we confirmed website findings with a phone call or email

Note: If we missed any women-owned business beyond the 70, please notify us: hello at happilabs.org

Discussion

It is well know that most industries are male-dominated. However, this is slowly changing and with this many labs are looking to buy and work with women-run scientific suppliers when it comes to purchasing pipette tips, chemicals, antibodies, centrifuges, etc. It was our hypothesis that there are few women-run businesses. Based on our research, this is true. However, science is doing better than the Fortune 500.

Lab shopping for female owned science businesses
92.9% male vs 7.1% female owned scientific suppliers

From the sample we looked at, 5 out of 70 or 7.1% of science suppliers are owned and/or run by women: DotScientific, Chemglass Life Science, Gilson, Macherey-Nagel, and Science Exchange. This is slightly higher than the 4.8% of fortune 500 companies run by females (Catalyst.org). Yay science!

happy labs shopping for women-owned scientific suppliers

We did find out through the course of our study that women-owned businesses out-survive male-owned businesses in several industries and areas, such as education and restaurant establishments (Kalnins et al, Journal of Business Venturing, 2014).

We also observed that only 16.9% of corporate board seats were held by women in 2013, with little progress in narrowing the gender gap (Huffington Post). Michelle Rowley, a tech entrepreneur and founder of Code Scouts (a non-science business), knows this feeling all too well. She was quoted in Entrepreneur magazine as saying, “that is a weird dynamic – being the only woman in the room – and they are all staring at you because they have to. I thought, I wonder how the dynamics would change if we could get more women involved.”

How does HappiLabs want to help? HappiLabs is interested in supporting women-run companies by making it easier for scientists to purchase supplies and services from them. We also plan to reach out and possibly work with several groups that promote women in science, such as AWIS Chicago, the Field Museum Women in Science, Women in Bio, and the Chicago Collaboration for Women in STEM.

Please share this post with other scientists who might be interested in knowing about women-owned scientific suppliers. And sign up to receive our monthly newsletter with updates about tips and suggestions for being a conscious shopper (and user) of scientific supplies:

 

#LabShopping Tip Number 1

chuttersnap-233105-unsplashLab supply shopping can be a time-consuming task. For example, at least 17 companies sell 50 mL conical tubes. So how do you avoid low-quality, experiment-ruining brands? Which supplier has the best price? That’s where we come in. At HappiLabs, we know how to get these answers efficiently and fast.

Over the next few months, we’ll share #LabShopping tips we swear by for buying the highest quality and most affordable equipment and supplies for our scientist friends. If you have any recommendations of your own, we’d love to hear them! Please tell us in the comments or tweet us @HappiLabs_org using #LabShopping. Now, on to our first tip:

Never Pay List Price…

….without asking for a lower price. Many companies sell the same product, competition is high and there is always someone willing to give you a discount. Just ask.

If you’d like help with searching or shopping for lab supplies, get in touch!

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.

 

Clear Communication

Misheard numbers, letters or words cause communication miscues and inefficiencies.

A system for clarity is helpful.

For instance, The Radiotelephony Spelling Alphabet, also known as the NATO alphabet:

Radiotelephony_Spelling_Alphabet_(1955)

Virtual Lab Managers talk with scientists and suppliers talk on the phone quite a bit. Clarifying spelling or letters in POs and tracking numbers saves time. Using The Radiotelephony Alphabet, or other clarifying system, helps keep communication clear, efficient, and reliable.

A tip from Hotel-Alpha-Papa-Papa-India Lima-Alpha-Bravo-Sierra.

Image: Public domain.