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


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


  • 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.


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.


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.”


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.”


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.


Avoid the Time Sink of Product Research. Ask HappiLabs.

How often do you lose time researching information about a product or equipment? Ugh, we know that feeling and are happy to save you the time and keep your lab moving fast.

HappiLabs Virtual Lab Managers (VLMs) are more than purchasers. We answer scientists’ questions too, questions they’d have to take time away from their experiments to research. Here are a few questions VLMs have been asked recently.


Can you please find these one way stop cocks (STPC 100C) from a vendor with next day shipping? We need them by tomorrow.


Oh no! Sigma is out of stock. Can you find an alternative for this Calcium Chloride (449709-10G) from Sigma? It’s urgent.


We ordered some glass vials from Proindustrial.com with a 50 µm ID before. Can you please look for vials with a 60 µm ID? I would like the shorter length vials.


To fit our budget, can you source a Leica Microtome RM2135 from a used supplier?


Can you get a footprint estimate for a 230 L liquid nitrogen tank, and find out any regulatory details for securing it in California? If they need to be secured (for earthquakes, etc), can you find out what restraints are required?

How a Virtual Lab Manager tackles these requests: 

  1. Our team. A lot of VLMs have answered these same questions in the past. Therefore it’s easy to dig into our database or lean on each other for help.
  2. Search engines: Google, Bing, and Dogpile.
  3. Call vendor technical support or contact a sales representative.
  4. Search on a suppliers’ websites (last resort as many supplier websites lack sufficient info to get answers)

Science is full of questions. By fielding the ones about products and sourcing items, HappiLabs allows scientists’ to spend more time focusing on science.

Email us anytime!

Photo credit: Pixabay. Usage: CC0.