Rich Miceli

How Equal, Functional, or Exact Match Search for Supplies Keeps Labs Running During Shortages

Industries across all markets experienced supply chain disruptions in the early phases of Covid, and it is expected ...

Industries across all markets experienced supply chain disruptions in the early phases of Covid, and it is expected that these shortages will continue for well into 2022. In addition, delays are being reported from backlogged ports, many staff are reporting their own bottlenecks. Researchers, manufacturers, and healthcare industries have borne the brunt of the impact of shortages and interruptions.

Then, as pharmaceutical companies raced to develop a vaccine, the ripple effect was felt deeply across life sciences. Laboratories performing research into cancer treatments, work on rare diseases, and essentially any other research work area that was deemed non-essential were unable to obtain basic supplies like consumables, including pipette and filter tips.

Just this month, Nature magazine reported that this issue remains ongoing.

While international border closures, delays of off-shore shipments, manufacturing challenges, and ongoing unpredictability of the pandemic generally present real hurdles for laboratories and researchers, it has also surfaced three significant opportunities:

  1. Enablement of private marketplaces for labs
  2. Fast onboarding of “tail” suppliers or other vendors not being actively managed by procurement
  3. Tools to search approved alternatives for equal, exact, and functional.

What many labs discovered was that there were, in fact, supplies including critical consumables available but that these items were with suppliers with whom they had not worked with before, creating the need to build new relationships and onboard new catalogs while trying to navigate the impact of COVID.

Online Marketplaces Keep Labs Running

Labviva procurement center

As primary suppliers and distributors emptied their shelves at an astonishing pace, those laboratories who had access to online private marketplaces or dedicated platforms often had a better chance of securing the protocols or equipment they needed.

Functioning much like consumer marketplaces, any supplier or manufacturer who has inventory can sign up, giving purchasing managers access to a much wider selection than the traditional model of managing supply catalogs in house.

Quick Onboarding

At Labviva, for example, as a software vendor, we interact with suppliers around the world and aggregate all of their products into a single search interface. Whether a lab has a contract, or has even ever heard of them, with an individual supplier doesn’t matter—Labviva handles the vetting and facilitates the transaction.

Because the Labviva platform integrates with existing purchasing systems like Jaggaer, SAP Ariba, Oracle, and others, there is no concern about making shadow purchases or loosing oversight.

Will This One Work Instead?

Hand in hand with life science marketplaces is equal, functional, or exact match search. Many purchasing managers are well aware that private label products from different suppliers come from a handful of the same factories and are identical products. However, when we consider the hundreds of thousands of reagents, chemicals, and instrumentation that are on the market, it’s impossible for procurement professionals to have this information at the tip of their fingers for every product.

Labviva uses AI to enrich data from the supplier and with additional publicly available data like journal citations and scientific databases. Adding published research papers and protocols to catalog items is one step in understanding what substitutions may be made, and offers more detail when embarking on new projects.

Product information is key in the decision-making process for researchers, and having the relevant scientific validation literature within makes the decisions easier, and faster.

yellow pipette tips

The second step is providing side-by-side comparison. If one is searching for a 12x75mm test tube, the manufacturer information across different brands is displayed, making it easy to do a true comparison.

In this functionality, it’s not unlike online consumer shopping: enter in a product name and brand, and the ecommerce site you are using will likely return exact results, but you’ll also get suggestions for compatible and competitive items.

Internal product reviews add another layer of insight. We pull from the community to ensure the suppliers on the platform are of high quality and reputable.

While no software application can protect against every circumstance, moving away from vendor lock-in and toward modern platform enablement will help procurement leaders keep their life sciences labs stocked and ready to handle new research, even as new challenges appear on the horizon.

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