It’s no surprise that insourcing highly skilled scientific staff can be a smarter approach to optimizing lab workflow. With increasing pressure to discover and deliver new drugs at a faster pace, it’s crucial to find the right strategic partner who can meet your requirements. However, it’s an overwhelming process given the number of companies to choose from.
It isn’t easy to determine what kind of scientific services support you require in a vendor. There is an abundance of vendors to choose from, all of whom offer a variety of service levels. By utilizing our comprehensive interview checklist, these will help determine what your lab specifically requires in a vendor. In addition, it will simplify the process as you begin evaluating the right fit.
- The term “scientific services” is broad and can mean different things to different people. What kind of services are included in your offering?
As you begin to decide on which third-party vendor you want to work with, it’s important to clearly understand what services are included in the proposals. Often, vendors claim to offer a full package of scientific services, but they only can provide first-tier lab support, which often consists of handling lab consumables and waste cleanup. Rather than choose a vendor with limited capabilities, you should find a company that can provide a wide range of capabilities, including direct lab support, management of analytical instrumentation, on-site experts, and a thorough evaluation of your laboratory processes so you can devote more time to research instead of day-to-day operations.
- Do your scientists have the right skill set to help us achieve our goals?
A vendor needs to understand your instrumentation and processes to ensure your lab runs optimally. Do they have the right scientific background to be able to perform daily noncore scientific processes? Will they be able to understand the basics of your work? Highly skilled subject matter experts should also be able to grow in their role and have the flexibility to adapt as your needs change.
- What kind of training do you have in place?
For scientific staffing specifically, you should be aware of the kinds of training a vendor has in place to ensure that the scientists working in your lab are subject-matter experts and able to provide the superior support you require. It’s also important to have defined programs (such as safety training) that scientists need to participate in before they’re brought onto your site.
- Do you follow a particular methodology?
Having a solid methodology in place allows for clear communication, enabling a smoother workflow. A superior vendor first performs a thorough assessment of your workflow and then classifies all your activities as core or noncore, so you have a chance to see how a consulting engagement can benefit your lab. From there, an improvement roadmap with achievable milestones as well as longer term projects can be developed to ensure your goals are met.
- What analytics do you provide to measure performance?
During your evaluation, you should make sure that the vendor can provide analytics and usable real-time data. Such detailed reporting can provide visibility into all aspects of service delivery – including how services are being performed, whether service levels are being met, what costs are being incurred, and if ROI targets are being achieved.
- How can you help us reduce the time spent on routine instrument checks?
Consider all the devices and instruments in your lab. Each instrument has a purpose, and the resulting measurements these systems produce are needed for the important research being performed. What happens if those instruments become inaccurate and fail to provide precise results? While we all know that instrument checks are necessary to prevent this from happening, they can also take scientists away from their core research. A good vendor has an instrument-check program in place to verify that your equipment is operating accurately and takes a proactive approach by providing data to optimize performance and identify problems. This helps reduce the time spent on instrument checks and ensures assets are ready to run when you need them.
- Do you have the flexibility to handle a dynamic lab environment?
A lab environment is always changing. As a result, you need a partner who can be flexible and adapt to your process as it transforms. For example, let’s say you hire a vendor as a lab automation specialist to optimize your liquid-handling assays. However, the needs of your lab suddenly change and now you need to switch your focus from biochemical to cell-based assays. Can your vendor quickly transition their team to handle these new requirements?
- Do you have the capacity to deliver what we need?
If the vendor you select can’t keep up with your needs, delays can translate into missed opportunities, negatively impacting your manufacturing schedule. It’s critical to ensure that your vendor has years of experience to meet your requirements – and a large staff on hand to deliver what’s needed.
- Can you handle different instrument types and technologies?
The ability to provide support across all technologies is necessary to successfully running a lab. A multivendor approach is key – your qualified staff should be able to handle many types of instrumentation and applications, regardless of make, model, or technology. Your staff should also be flexible enough to adapt to lab workflow changes while mastering other technologies. Their versatility makes them more productive and capable of acclimating to changing needs.
- Do you have an onsite presence?
Because not every lab is the same, it’s important to understand exactly what kind of support you require. Having a vendor who provides onsite support means you have the instrumentation expertise on a consistent, daily basis. This team understands your lab’s unique requirements and can tailor their support to meet them. At the end of the day, you want your lab’s daily workflow and scientific processes to be working smoothly by the additional onsite support your vendor provides.
- How can you help us to be better prepared for the future?
Science and technology are about making advancements and looking beyond current ways of thinking. Being able to acclimate and adjust accordingly could mean the difference between success or failure. Looking ahead to the future needs of your lab is essential when choosing a partner. You need someone who can see the big picture and your vision.