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

Reporting on Black Lives Matter action items

In July, HappiLabs made a commitment to Black Lives Matter. We are focused on improving diversity in the scientific supply chain. A statement few other scientific suppliers have stated outright.

An immediate, impactful action we set is to include Neta Scientific when shopping for lab supplies. On the flip side, we are driving business away from $170+ billion ThermoFisher, the blue whale of the scientific supply world, to improve the imbalance between ultra wealthy and everyone else. At HappiLabs, we walk the talk and will report metrics on our progress.

Before June, the HappiLabs network spent $0 with Neta Scientific. In the past three months, we made 21 purchases for a total of $16,639.17. August saw an increase of over 200% from July.

The bottom graph shows the difference in number of orders from the HappiLabs network between Neta Scientific and the ThermoFisher whale (Fisher and Thermo are tracked separately, although they are under the same corporate umbrella).

We ask that all scientists, in or out of the HappiLabs network, be more mindful about who they buy from and how you can contribute to change in the scientific supply chain.

It’s a long, tough road and we are up for the challenge of change. HappiLabs and our team of Virtual Lab Managers support equality and equity. Our position puts us into battles with scientists, sales reps, and sometimes even lawyers about the final decision on where a scientist buys supplies. We stand strong on our position to increase inclusivity in the scientific supply chain.

We’ll report back in a few months. In the meantime, follow us on Twitter @happilabs_org or contact us here with questions/comments.

5/6 COVID-19 update and Getting Back to Work in the New Normal

Supply Chain and Courier Updates

Per our last updates, suppliers are mostly operating and processing orders.

They are still practicing physical distancing and operations are a bit slower than usual. Sales reps aren’t traveling and so are quite responsive to quote requests on the whole.

Many are still prioritizing PPE for COVID-19 response. Smaller suppliers like CP Lab Safety (they’ve shipped some of their masks day of order) or other smaller suppliers are likelier to have availability (especially masks; in general “short” lead times are around two weeks).

Keep in mind that some suppliers are considering all sales final and not accepting returns due to COVID-19.

Couriers are operating, but last mile deliveries can still be problematic. Thank delivery drivers, have clear signs that a lab is open to delivery, and let suppliers know that the lab is open and if there are any issues with a shipment, contact them to help resolve it.

The Happi Note – Getting Back to Work

HappiLabs and many of our partner labs continued to work as essential businesses during the COVID-19 shelter-in-place orders, with many working from home.

Many labs did temporarily close and may be wondering about how to resume operations as the COVID-19 physical distancing restrictions ease.

Having a plan to safely get back to work and how COVID-19 will continue to impact operations is important. For instance, one lab has masks, hand-sanitizer, gloves, and sticky floor mats at key entryways ready for scientists returning to the lab.

Several suppliers are hosting webinars aimed at this:

HappiLabs remains at work and this month will be safely and fully re-opening our offices as shelter-in-place orders are eased.

We are grateful for the worlds scientists and healthcare workers that are working to mitigate COVID-19 and helping us all get back to work in new innovative ways.

COVID19 Supply Chain Updates 4/23

Supply Chain Updates

Per our last updates, suppliers are mostly operating and processing orders.

They are still practicing physical distancing and operations are a bit slower than usual.

Many are still prioritizing PPE (especially masks; shortest lead times we’ve found are around two weeks).

Keep in mind that some suppliers are considering all sales final and not accepting returns due to COVID-19.

Courier Updates

Keep close eye on shipments. Definitely get tracking numbers and monitor them and make sure items get delivered.

FedEx and UPS are both operating, but are not guaranteeing delivery, have suspended signature requirements for delivery verification, and aren’t always re-attempting deliveries if they can’t deliver to a site.

For global freight monitoring, Agility Logistics has put together this resource.

We recommend having a sign where deliveries occur stating a lab is open for deliveries and any relevant instructions to ensure a smooth delivery.

If a shipment goes awry, contact the shipper first to see if they can resolve it.

The Happi Note

There are a few labs in the HappiLabs network working directly on COVID-19. Distributed Bio is working on a therapeutic. Octant, Inc. is developing a better detection protocol for the virus. They’re two out of many others working to help the world manage a pandemic.

Grants dedicated to COVID-19 are also out there for scientists working on it.

Rheaply has worked with Northwestern University’s Computer Science department to set up a resource exchange program for getting critical supplies where they are needed. Follow the link to register.

HappiLabs continues to operate and we are grateful for the world’s scientists who work to identify, manage, and solve the world’s problems.

COVID19 Supply Chain updates 4/8

Life sciences suppliers are still largely operational and working, albeit a bit slower than usual as they work to manage processing orders while protecting their own workers as much as possible.

PPE supplies remain tight. Gloves are more available than masks, gowns and sleeves.

Supply Chain Updates

Charles River and The Jackson Laboratory

Animal deliveries affected (via an email from Charles River):

  • As of 4/13 will not be making animal deliveries on Wednesdays in the Bay area
  • Throughout the rest of the week, they are making fewer stops along their routes.
  • Delivery times will be earlier than usual as well given their reduced delivery schedule.
  • Jax has a resources page for managing animals, including cryoperservation and pre-ordering for when labs re-open
  • Jax is also sending around a truck on April 13th and 20th in the San Francisco Bay Area if a lab wants mouse strains picked up for cryppreservation (contact jaxservices@jax.org to inquire).

VWR (could be affecting other suppliers as well)

Some suppliers are experiencing a high volume of unauthorized returns (i.e. couriers unable to deliver and returning items to sender).

  • VWR has told us they have a lot of returns they are sorting through
  • If you *need* an item you ordered, they recommend placing a new order while they sort things out.
  • As always, call the supplier to talk to the shipping compay regarding misrouted/returned packages.
  • VWR has cancelled PPE orders drop shipping from manufacturers like 3M due to high demand. 3M is essentially refusing the VWR purchase orders.
    • This is evidence that suppliers are prioritizing fulfillment for hospitals/companies directly involved in working on COVID-19.

Fisher

  • Fisher Scientific now has a statement on their site akin to what most other suppliers have said about prioritizing PPE orders for customers directly doing work on COVID-19.
  • As with other suppliers, take extra time to order and note the full name of a recipient and let the supplier know a location is open to deliveries.

Twist Bioscience

Twist Bioscience is the first supplier we have seen to actively state they will accept an order and delay shipment until a lab re-opens. If you ask when placing an order, some suppliers will do this for the scientific community even if not stated as openly as Twist Bioscience did.

Courier Updates

Couriers are operating as they were last week and still working to sort out non-delivered packages (often just returning to sender). Get in touch with the supplier to attempt to re-route any packages. See our last post for how couriers are being affected.

The Happi Note

Suppliers are managing this and as essential businesses in response to COVID-19, remain open.

Keep washing hands and ensure that surfaces are properly cleaned. Production Automation Corporation has gathered guidelines for cleaning surfaces to mitigate COVID-19 spread (though note: these are recommendations based on what we know has worked against other coronaviruses and can reasonably be expected to work as well against SARS-CoV-2 (aka COVID-19).

If you have extra supplies, Biocom has a site of places requesting items and to register if you are needing supplies.

HappiLabs is contining to monitor the supply chain and is still working along with our partners to help scientists during this pandemic.