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”.
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).
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?”
It is our intention to put a lot more importance on a very undervalued position.
The lab manager.
It shouldn’t be a position mixing operations with too much science. A lab manager needs to focus on operations, and if they are doing experiments too, your lab is going to be less efficient than the ones using a Virtual Lab Manager to support the people focused on science.
A good lab manager should be extremely proficient with a computer and apps. They will be receiving many emails, toggling through supplier websites, and communicating with everyone in the lab.
There are many reasons why a HappiLabs VLM is more efficient, but here are 3 reasons that have to do with technology:
We put our Virtual Lab Managers through training to become masters of a keyboard.
We estimate this saves a VLM at least 15 minute per day, simply by using (Command + Tab) or (Command + ~), etc. We can scroll through windows, tabs, and programs at lightning speed.
Copy, paste, scroll to the top, scroll to the bottom, undo, redo, and on and on. We aim to compete with a software developer’s mastery of a keyboard.
Logging in and out of supplier websites has never been easier, or more secure with password saving apps. Passwords don’t need to be retrieved from Excel or physical paper every time we order through Quartzy, Sigma, NEB, etc. They are automatically known. This saves 10-25 minutes per day for a busy lab.
Using multiple monitors
Every VLM has at least two monitors. One for monitoring communication (email, gchat, Slack, etc.), and the other is for other activity (googling, shopping online, analyzing quotes, etc.). By keeping a constant eye on communication, a VLM will respond quicker to all your scientists’ needs.
And a small shoutout to Moom. When analyzing multiple windows of data or comparing several quotes, resizing windows so you can see them all on one page is fast…HappiLabs fast.
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.