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

A Message from our CEO Tom: Post-YCombinator at HappiLabs

There has been a lot going on behind the scenes of HappiLabs the last few months. As we mentioned in our last blog post, this summer, we joined world-class accelerator YCombinator (YC), to help advance our virtual lab manager technology. A couple weeks ago, we participated in a pivotal part of the program, Demo Day, where I presented to a select group of investors, press and other YC companies.

ycombinator

Time has flown by and offered few spare moments, but while fresh on my mind, I wanted to share an update:

Fundraising is almost over and soon I will get back to focusing on operations and technology. We will fall short of our fundraising goals but have enough money to move forward with 1-2 strategic hires, and I’ll get back to finishing fundraising in a couple months.

There are two weaknesses investors are pointing out:

  1. We do not have an in-house engineering team (we’ve been outsourcing)
  2. They fear it is difficult to sell to scientists (I agree!), which limits the rate of growth

I’m not worried about sales, we know how to sell to scientists.

On the other hand, our priority continues to be welcoming a Lead Engineer to our team. YC offered a wealth of resources to help us understand and plan for the technological developments necessary to build a game-changing product that will allow us to reach more labs. This knowledge has influenced what we’re looking for in this leading tech position (Interested in learning more? Click HERE).

In the meantime, we hired two freelancing software engineers to continue development of our second app that improves security and automates the organization of our purchasing data. Little by little, we’re evolving our service and following through on our commitment to bring more innovation to labs and scientists all over the world.

We have received press from awesome business and tech outlets like TechCrunch and Chicago Inno, who have written about the work we’re doing. Click here and here to have a read, and feel free to share with your networks.

The last post-YC happening is four new customers. Again, sales is not an issue, we continue to grow based on an amazing customer experience and the word-of-mouth it inspires. When we do supplement that with real sales channels….look out!

We will continue to keep you in the loop on company news and updates.

Until then, hope you’ve enjoyed this glimpse into the last couple months. Thank you for your ongoing support!

Thank you for Supporting Our Mission

We are grateful for our scientists, suppliers, and accountants.

thank yous 1

The Virtual Lab Manager team at HappiLabs sends thank you cards to scientists, individuals at suppliers, operations managers, and accountants that genuinely help us in our work to make scientists happy and improve the quality of their research.

We thank scientists for being scientists working to improve our world and our lives.

Thank yous 2

HappiLabs knows it takes a team and special effort to change the world and we say thank you to those helping us do that.

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.

 

The Scientist Purchasing Cycle – Time Lost from Science

In your lab, who is responsible for negotiating prices, placing orders, following up on them, and tracking receipts for proper accounting?

If you answer “the scientists”, your lab is in a lot of trouble. For people who are not trained to manage money, negotiate, and understand accounting…does this make sense? No. And your lab is losing time (and boatloads of money) over it.

Welcome to the future! Where the purchasing role of the lab, and most lab manager duties, are available for outsourcing, allowing scientists to spend more time on science–what they are trained to do.

happy scientist at happilabs virtual lab manager purchasing