Approximately half of all pharmaceutical laboratories practice some level of self-maintenance — a do-it-yourself (DIY) approach that uses internal resources to perform instrument care and maintenance and to manage OEMs.
It’s easy to see why: DIY allows you to maintain control and direct management of your instrument investment, seemingly providing near-immediate response to any issues. Often, a self-motivated employee is at the ready to troubleshoot issues and try to resolve problems that keep the instrument or related software available for use.
The problem with this approach is that it can cause avoidable delays. DIY researchers spend time diagnosing issues rather than planning experiments. That time compounds, with some 20% to 25% of laboratory researcher/scientist time lost to activities that add no scientific value.1 An instrument failure may take a PhD chemist away from the bench for 30 or 60 minutes to examine the problem, and she may engage a peer for a second opinion – sidelining two scientists. On top of losing scientific time, the scientists may end up requesting a service call that can leave the instrument out of commission for a day or two, further delaying the experiment.
When self-maintenance draws lab staff deeply into noncore activities, it reduces scientific productivity — at a time when pharmaceutical companies need everyone focused on the scientific mission. For that, turning to a service provider can help optimize lab performance.
Yet pharma has a reputation for being slower than other industries to adopt proven service models for increasing efficiency and productivity. Some of that can be attributed to the complexity of discovering and developing drugs for human consumption and the resulting regulations for product safety and efficacy. But pharma has also been known for a “that’s the way we’ve always done it” mindset that’s hard to shake. However, the stakes are too high to ignore the benefits that insourcing service models deliver. Pharma needs to become more productive to alter the seemingly intractable fact that it can take, on average, 12 years and billions of dollars to bring a single drug to market.
A wide range of services exist to help lab managers and their procurement partners increase the operational efficiency and productivity of labs — whether R&D or QC manufacturing, big multisite global operations or smaller standalone ones. Instrument service and repair are often handled by OEM service contracts. But the range of services extends well beyond that, to include assistance with asset management, compliance, IT, noncore lab activities, consumables management, training, and more. Best-of-breed service partners can aggregate all these services and take ownership of the day-to-day operations, allowing lab workers to focus exclusively on science.
When an early drug discovery lab at one large pharmaceutical company insourced laboratory services from a services provider, it saw an 86% reduction in scientists’ time spent on noncore activities (58 hours down to 8 per week), and response time for instrument failure dropped from one to two days to four hours.2
A comprehensive services program offers proactive lab management to maximize instrument uptime, keep them compliant, and keep scientific staff productive. Rather than having that PhD chemist troubleshooting instruments or weighing compounds, service providers ensure that this work is performed by embedded experts – from technicians to engineers to scientists -- who are knowledgeable in the application. Importantly, comprehensive service partners bring the people, processes, and even the equipment and instruments as needed. This enables them to handle everything from performing basic lab work such as ordering consumables and doing instrument checks to validating computer systems and instruments.
Lab relocation is another activity pharma companies sometimes try to do themselves, but minimizing disruption requires a tremendous amount of planning and logistics by lab staff who may never have been through the process before. An experienced service provider knows how to manage and execute the move, from properly decommissioning instruments in the old location and bringing them online in a compliant manner at the new site. Not only is the relocation performed optimally, but the lab manager and scientists are also freed to maintain research productivity.
Switching from DIY to services takes a change in culture. Very often, hard-working lab managers and their staffs are too busy running the lab, comfortable with how it’s always been run, to think about how it could be run optimally - or they know it could be more efficient, but are unsure what steps need to be taken.
“When I was working in pharma, nobody thought of making any changes until corporate made severe budget cuts,” says Angelo Filosa, now Global Head of OneSource Professional Services at PerkinElmer. “After the first time in 30 years they’d had layoffs at that site, it really changed the dynamic because people realized they needed to change. Until that top-down message comes in, it is hard for people to change the way that they think.”
PerkinElmer OneSource Laboratory Services help organizations assess their lab operations to find inefficiencies, hidden costs, and room for improvement, and then works to help change the culture. It leverages years of lab know-how, state-of-the-art analytics and informatics, and boots-on-the-ground experience to turn inefficient and low-productivity labs around.
“We go into the lab and assess the workflows, and evaluate instrument lists and inventories and service activities,” Filosa says. “We find what their present state looks like and help them to see what their future state could look like with OneSource services. We can tell them, ‘We’re able to deliver this, with these services, and here’s how that’s completely different from what you have today.’”
Among the reasons to engage a service partner like OneSource Laboratory Services vs. DIY lab services:
- Fit-for-purpose expertise. Rather than having an experienced chemist troubleshooting an instrument failure, a service provider places knowledgeable service engineers and/or scientific experts to care for and proactively maintain instrumentation.
- Global support. For global companies with multiple locations, OneSource has worldwide coverage to support servicing, standardizing, and harmonizing global sites.
- Single point of contact. There’s no question who to call.
- Accountability. The service partner commits, in a service-level agreement, to deliver an outcome, and to be accountable to that agreement.
- Simplified oversight. Some DIYers blend self-performance with self-management of multiple instrument service contracts and other lab services. Consolidating all lab services under a single contract greatly simplifies the management oversight required.
- Assessment. OneSource helps you understand where the inefficiencies are and how to overcome them and can help your lab managers and procurement specialists build the business case for investing in insourced services.
The question lab managers must ask themselves: Have I properly identified my desired outcome, and am I resourcing accordingly?
End DIY Inefficiency
For self-maintenance labs, engaging a services partner can eliminate these pains and inefficiencies:
- Misplaced scientific time and effort — Free highly skilled scientists, researchers, and technicians from noncore and low-value-add activities. You may not even realize the amount of scientific productivity lost when a scientist becomes the go-to person every time an instrument or software interface needs troubleshooting.
- Instrument downtime — Proactive, data-driven management of instruments, regardless of brand, by an experienced vendor keeps your lab assets in better working order. This reduces downtime, as well as troubleshooting and service in the hands of nonexperts. Service providers like OneSource bring the benefits of predictive, rather than preventive, maintenance and lifecycle management.
- Complacent culture — The “we’ve always done it this way” mindset is neither efficient nor innovative. Learn from experts who’ve delivered outcomes and can bring their experience to improve lab performance. Don’t give scientists the responsibility for noncore activities, especially if they haven’t done it before (just as relocating a lab). Hire experts, and let scientists return their expert focus to the bench.
- No time for scientific creativity — You can free your scientists to think creatively by taking away mundane or routine chores and repetitive tasks. Sure, they can prep samples, but do they need to weigh out compounds or order consumables?
- Hidden costs — Just because the lab budget is in line with corporate’s expectations doesn’t mean there aren’t hidden costs and inefficiencies buried in it. A service provider can assess laboratory spend for opportunities for improvement, and demonstrate how to achieve them.
To learn more about PerkinElmer’s OneSource Laboratory Services, contact us to request a free assessment.
- 1 and 2BI case study. A Consolidated Approach to Instrument Servicing Case Study, 2018