COVID19 updates 4/3

Science goes on and most life sciences suppliers are considered essential and remain operational, though operating more slowly as they practice physical distancing (i.e. customer and technical services work from home).

Supply Chain Updates

Items outside of PPE and patient sample collection items remain largely available and the normal supply chain is operational, if slower.

Worth repeating that PPE and patient sample collection items like masks and flocked swabs are are in short supply and often on backorder.

For PPE requests with reputable suppliers, HappiLabs recommends the following:

  • Don’t believe a supplier website about their availability/lead time.
  • Calling customer service is also often not reliable at the moment.
  • Get an order in anyway for the PPE item you want.
    • This might prompt an estimated delivery date and gets you on a waiting list.

Carrier Updates

FedEx has a page dedicated to how COVID-19 is affecting their operations and deliveries. Highlights:

  • FedEx has options to re-route packages for local pickup if a delivery is missed
  • They recommend letting vendors know a lab is open for deliveries (for HappiLabs, we’ve got you covered!)
  • Cashback guarantees and delivery signature requirements have been suspended.

UPS has a similar site minus the help with delivery options. And as we reported last week, our anecdotal experience is that UPS seems to be having more delivery disruptions and problems than FedEx.

While most of the carrier industry is still working, their operations *are* often affected, especially in the final miles of delivery to a specific address.

We still recommend when placing an order scientists let their supplier know they are open and to place obvious signage stating that fact for the benefit of delivery people.

The Happi Note

COVID-19 is still around and physical distancing orders have been extended in many places around the world, including the United States.

The recommendations we made in our last COVID-19 impact post still stand. Keep washing your hands regularly.

We’re still working. Many labs are still working, even if limited just now.

Most items are in stock at suppliers and passionate scientists are continuing to work, including many on the novel Coronavirus, working toward solutions.

We’re here to improve scientists’ happiness and quality of their research and are thankful to all of them who provide a positive vision of the future, especially in times of uncertainty and disruption.

COVID19 Life Science Supply Chain Impact March 27, 2020

Our Coronavirus Task Force is keeping up-to-date on the scientific supply chain. Read about our goals and team here.

As we gather supplier statements about their operations during the COVID-19 pandemic affecting the world, here is what we’ve learned this week about Suppliers and Shipping companies.

Supplier Operations

Most scientific suppliers remain open as essential businesses to the healthcare industry. That doesn’t mean everything is operating as normal though.

Suppliers are operating a little slower due to working from home, and people working from the office while following social distancing protocols. This means customer service and other departments are often not as easy to get a hold of by phone or chat. Therefore, processing orders at some vendors is slow. It varies by supplier and changes by day.

PPE like masks, gowns, gloves, soap, and sanitizers are still in short supply. Many suppliers are limiting the amounts of PPE scientists can buy at one time or reserving the supply for hospitals and governments first.

Other notes:

    • 80% of the top 70 scientific suppliers have provided statements about their operations.
    • ULine, Teknova, and Fisher Scientific have stated they are prioritizing supply for those working directly on the COVID-19 outbreak.
    • Teknova has gone so far as to set up a dedicated email address for those labs working on COVID-19 (Covid19@teknova.com)
    • Of the suppliers with no statements thus far, most we have ordered from this week are open and processing order requests.

Suppliers who have announced closure/limited operations due to COVID-19:

New benefits from suppliers:

Amazon

Though not an essential warehouse for critical supplies, Amazon extended the closure of a warehouse for deeper cleaning in Kentucky today. And such incidents are what led BioLife Solutions, in heavily affected Seattle to announce closing of operations until May 4.

Shipping Operations (UPS, Fedex, etc.)

The “final mile” of deliveries are facing some issues. At HappiLabs, we have noticed that UPS in particular is having deliveries not attempted or instantly returned to the sender with no re-attempts made.

In general, note that shipping companies are having some ‘final mile’ issues delivering to varying degrees.

Actions to take

    • For items in transit, let suppliers know your address is open to deliveries.
    • Post clear signage at your door:
We are open. Call 555-1234 if the door is not open. Science must go on!
    • Bribe UPS or Fedex drivers. With food! And kind words (“thank you!”). A snack tray by the door can help ensure future deliveries occur without issue.

Those are the updates for today. Tune in next week as we continue to report our findings.

The HappiLabs Coronavirus Task Force.

HappiLabs Coronavirus update — March 26, 2020

Hello HappiLabs community. This is HappiTom, CEO, speaking.

Virtual hug or a fist bump.

I’m trying to be transparent with our employees and customers to maintain confidence that your scientists can continue to lean on the HappiLabs Virtual Lab Managers (VLMs). I also write this to offer guidance and ideas to other operators of small businesses as we evaluate tough decisions and which strategies to execute.

Our overall strategy for adapting to a fast-changing environment: be patient, observe, decide.

Based on this, here is what’s going on at HappiLabs:

Our headquarters is in Illinois (home of the Chicago Cubs and The Field Musueum) with a Shelter-in-place order. According to language in the Order we are an essential business and can work at the office:

    • Section 7 “….biotechnology companies (including operations, research and development, manufacture, and supply chain).”
    • And per Gov. Pritzker’s words: “roles that are essential to the supply chain”

Virtual Lab Managers are critical for lab operations to maintain inventory and supply chain. Some of our labs are processing patient samples. Covid19 or not, we leave no patient behind!

Tough Decision #1: Do we force any employees to work from the office to maintain our pre-pandemic operational efficiency?

No. Virtual lab managers can work anywhere, and we will continue to reduce opportunities for coronavirus transmission. It is currently optional for our employees to go into the office. However, I am recommending that our Team Leaders organize a rotating skeleton crew at our HQ starting next week. We have plenty of office space and will practice social distancing protocol.

Raudel_Sandoval_Happy_Virtual_Lab_ManagerOffices have a better technological setup than our employees have at home, allowing them to focus, work faster, and be more responsive to the needs of scientists. We are using this week as experience to determine how our productivity changes at home and then decide who should spend some time in the office.

To improve our work-from-home capabilities, we are immediately increasing the usage of two off-the-shelf apps to maintain efficient operations:

    • OpenPhone helps maintain each VLMs ability to constantly make phone calls to customer service, sales reps, and tech support while they work from home.
    • Domo is a data analytics platform to monitor productivity of our lab managers and lab busyness. 

Tough decision #2: If we lose income for any reason, do we cut staff?

That is not the plan, but we do want to remain profitable during these tough times. Therefore the strategy to save money, if necessary, is by temporarily reducing hours or salaries from some employees before cutting 1 job. We are changing some employees from salaried to hourly to increase the ability for flexible hours. 

To simplify it: some people might lose money in the short-term (until their government check arrives), but no one is losing a job.

In any case, I do not anticipate we will suffer much. HappiLabs is a strong company with smart scientists managing labs all across America. We have a strong brand and loyal following. We have a decent buffer of cash and a line of credit. And….Until every scientist has access to a Virtual Lab Manager, there will always be demand. If we lose some customers soon, we will gain new ones.

Also, we are sticking to our regular vacation policy and schedules. If an employee had a day off already planned, they can keep it that way, and we will make sure no one’s health benefits get cut.

Tough Decision #3: What do we do about delinquent paying customers?

Myself or our accounting team will be reaching out very soon. To avoid being taken advantage of, we are planning a strategy we’ve never done before.

If a customer is late paying us by more than 45 days, and you are not responding to our emails or phone calls, we will stop working for that lab.

It’s a tough decision because we do not want to leave any scientist hanging, but we need to get paid in a timely fashion for managing your lab. 

Advice to labs who are struggling to fundraise or stay alive…..do your best not to stiff small businesses as you run out of cash. Be transparent (as best you can) and please pay the giant corporations last. Keep fighting, but if doomsday does arrive, I will buy you a beer and give you a shoulder to cry on.

Decision #4: What are we doing to stay busy for our labs?

Cleaning and maintenance. Purchasing has slowed down for many labs (definitely not all), therefore we are busy cleaning your accounting, tracking all open orders, and organizing your chemical safety documents and inventory (SDSs, etc.).

We also created a Coronavirus Task Force to keep a close eye on supplier and shipping updates. If we anticipate a risk to your lab’s supply chain and operations, you will be notified. Four of our Virtual Lab Managers are involved. Read about them here

Stay strong!

HappiTom

Chief technology officer of Chicago business


Message from March 18…..

Short summary of this message: 

HappiLabs will operate at limited capacity for the rest of this week (Thursday and Friday), and then back to full force on Monday. Expect slower responses on Thurs/Fri.

Please cc purchasing@happilabs.org on all communications to your Virtual Lab Manager to ensure faster responsiveness, if you need it. This email will forward to a small group of people who can help you.

The longer message:

As the world changes, I am directing our employees to take a day off Thursday or Friday to spend time with loved ones and let it all sink in. We’re calling it a “Take a breather” Day. The plan is to go easy for the rest of this week, and then be ready, fully charged for next week and beyond.

For labs in the Bay Area, according to the Order given to the Bay Area, biotechnology companies are an “essential business” and can stay open. See section 10B of the Shelter-in-place order. Therefore, HappiLabs will be here to support Silicon Valley scientists in any ways, except for….

….Thursday and Friday, we will have a skeleton crew available at HappiLabs to keep an eye on things and help with urgent situations in your lab. Responses will be slower than normal and we probably will not place many orders.

Please cc purchasing@happilabs.org on all communications to your Virtual Lab Manager to ensure faster responsiveness, if you need it. This email will forward to a small group of people who can help you.

That being said, some of our Virtual Lab Managers want to keep working each day, so some of your labs will continue with 100%, fast support for the rest of this week. Your lab manager will let you know if that’s them.

After this week, even if purchasing slows down, we still plan to be busy cleaning your accounting, following up on all open orders, and organizing your chemical safety documents and inventory (SDSs, etc.).

Aside from that, I’m not going to sit here and tell we’re “operating as normal.” Frankly, I’m annoyed at any company who claims that. I’ll be real with you and tell you we’re not operating like normal, but our managers are meeting daily to evolve our business operations to fit the changing landscape. I expect your experience with HappiLabs to change very little, but our behind the scenes will change as we adjust to work-from-home, extra days off from our team, and social distancing.

We will also be putting our Accounts Receivable department to work. If you owe HappiLabs money, please pay it, especially a few of you who owe from January or February, and especially before paying the behemoth corporations like Fisher, Thermo, VWR and Sigma. We very much appreciate it.

That is all for now. Good luck and may the force (and your immune system) be with you!

Tom Ruginis, CEO and President of HappiLabs, Inc

Coronavirus and your lab inventory

HappiLabs is getting questions from scientists, similar to “Hey, do you know if coronavirus will affect the supply chain and shortages with our supplies?”

The short answer is…yes. Supply chain disruptions are inevitable, but also unpredictable. It is a good idea to plan for some shortages but it’s hard to say which supplies.

Many items will not see any disruption, but things like disinfectants, masks and disposable gowns will be hard to buy.

Gloves…it’s hard to see supply going short. There are so many types, styles, brands, and suppliers for gloves. But we don’t want to speculate on inventory levels of any lab supplies because we just don’t know what will happen globally.

HappiLabs is staying in contact with certain suppliers and keeping an eye on their response, but even suppliers have a hard time predicting their future inventory levels. Therefore, we’re not putting a lot of weight in their responses right now. It’s a day-by-day situation.

If your lab feels the need to stock up on any items, here’s what you can do to help HappiLabs help you:

  1. Identify the catalog #’s and supplier name for critical supplies. Repeat CRITICAL. Don’t stock up on things you MIGHT need.
  2. Provide Catalog # and Supplier name to your Virtual Lab Manager. A photo of the package label is super helpful. Use our app to make it easier to send us a photo (downloadable at the AppStore, search for HappiLabs or HappiApp).
  3. Let us know if you want to stock up and buy those catalog #’s, or just wait and be ready to buy more.
  4. Be ready to ask a manager or executive for approval for increased spending.
  5. The HappiLabs team will help by identifying backup suppliers for critical supplies. In some cases, if you’re locked into a specific brand, you might be about of luck. But if you can change brands of a supply, we’ll find a backup supplier.

Before you spend crazy amounts of money on extra supplies, here are some risks to be aware of:

  • Do you have space to store extra supplies?
  • Do supplies (like reagents, antibodies) have expiration dates you need to be aware of?
  • If your science changes, you will be stuck with lots of inventory, and HappiLabs cannot help you resell it if you don’t use it anymore.

As far as HappiLabs operations goes, we are healthy, and taking standard safety measures to prevent the spread of covid-19. Our workforce is strong and you shouldn’t see a disruption from our operations at the moment. Although, considering an increase in demand for purchases, we are busier and might ask your lab for help if we can’t stock up at the pace you want to, or we’ll ask you to pay more for our employees working overtime.

My final words: stay calm and take this day-by-day.

If you have further questions, email your Virtual Lab Manager or myself.

-Tom Ruginis

CEO of HappiLabs