Turning Your Vendor into a Partner

Best Practices for Pharma Procurement


Today’s global life science-based companies are faced with a multitude of challenges when it comes to lab operation and maintenance strategies. Inefficient labs are the most common problem plaguing pharma companies – some steps taken might mistakenly be considered efficient or cost-effective while actually having negative long-term implications.

For example, it’s true that a high-value researcher can repair or calibrate a lab instrument, but that doesn’t mean that they should. Allowing well-compensated researchers to be distracted by non-value-added tasks – such as maintaining instruments, performing basic troubleshooting, and searching for service contacts and warranties – is not the best use of their valuable time.

Additionally, expensive redundancies occur when labs purchase potentially unnecessary instruments because they are not fully attuned on the instruments they already own. When you have redundant assets, they generally end up not being used to their fullest capacity, creating even more costly inefficiencies in the lab.

If your goal is to make your lab run more efficiently, consider these factors:

  • Strategic Alignment - How does corporate strategy impact your lab operations and vice versa? Is it more important to be “up and running” or to save a few dollars?
  • Operational Efficiency - Is the path you are taking to achieve key goals the most optimal one? Are uptime and execution goals for the lab?
  • Measuring Outcomes - Do you have consistent metrics for your lab and department, across instrument types and platforms that allow you to evaluate how you are performing across the industry? Is it important that your lab performs in the top percentiles?
  • Sustainability - Can you maintain this program globally, across all sites, over the long term? Or is that researcher with the repair skills strictly a local resource?

To overcome these inefficiencies, companies like yours often turn to outside vendors to help manage their workflow. While there is a wide selection of companies with vast product and service portfolios to choose from, it is critical that procurement teams look beyond cost and consider which vendor will provide the most value to the entire company – not just one lab.

Partner versus Supplier

There is a major difference between having a relationship with a vendor who is your service supplier versus a relationship with a vendor who is also your strategic partner. A supplier is a vendor who simply offers a one-off service contract, providing a transactional “fix this instrument” task.

A strategic partner, on the other hand, adds an extra dimension to the relationship. They go far beyond just instrument repair – maintaining all your instruments in the lab, analyzing your service data, and providing recommendations as well as insight into how your business is working or what can be improved upon. A strategic partner is positioned to help you when you need it most. They go above and beyond to deliver value because of the depth of their relationship with you. They proactively offer solutions to problems you didn’t know you had, rather than strictly executing what they were contracted to do.

The goal of any lab is to increase instrument availability, reduce the number of repairs needed and ultimately optimize the operation of the lab. By having an onboard, strategic partner with you every step of the process, it’s possible to achieve these goals.

Considerations When Choosing a Strategic Partner

If you’re ready to choose a partner, consider the following factors when selecting external support to ensure you’re able to achieve an elevated strategic partnership:


Analytics provides valuable knowledge that your lab can leverage to optimize and inform strategic direction. Unlike a vendor that offers merely transactional services with limited capabilities, a strategic partner can offer much more comprehensive support. They have underlying multi-vendor data and supporting analytics to provide true insight. This actionable data allows a lab to make strategic decisions such as where to invest in new equipment, where to divest/sell equipment, and how to reduce costs. In addition, having a partner who can provide tail spend analysis can assist teams in the consolidation of their instruments, which can reduce spend.


As your company expands its global footprint and extends its labs across continents, the harmonization of protocols is a critical component of lab optimization, enabling researchers to collaborate from anywhere in the world.

When your global sites are interconnected and using the same protocols, there is:

  • Smarter risk mitigation
  • Costs predictability
  • Opportunity for process optimization

Selecting a partner who has experience working across the globe will enable this type of harmonization across all of your lab facilities, no matter where they are located.

Additionally, a good partner should be considered an expert in the industry, comprehending both the science and your specific technologies. By having a solid understanding of the discipline and technology involved in the lab’s work, recommendations can be made to your teams to prepare for the future.

Cost and Risk

At the end of the day, the overall value of service should be the ultimate driver when selecting a third-party partner. While this sounds like an obvious solution, the procurement message is to consider more than an isolated, line-item dollar amount.

Over the longer term, it is imperative to consider the improvement of instrument availability and ability to reduce the number of instruments that your lab needs to purchase as spares. A strategic partner can help you take a broad view and determine the most successful solution for your specific discovery goal.

The life science world has evolved. Instead of utilizing vendors for a one-off “buy this, fix that” support, the establishment of a strategic partnership – particularly Lab-as-a-Service (LaaS) - will provide new opportunities to fully optimize your lab, resulting in a streamlined workflow and an agile, if not tighter, budget.


Creating a transparent, collaborative relationship with your strategic services partner involves trust, cooperation, involvement and mutual appreciation. In today’s lab environment, it’s no longer just about managing assets. Rather, there is great value for a “big picture” vendor, goaled with your future in mind – a teammate that will deliver not just people and instruments, but who will infuse relevant, useful analytics into your conversations to assist in insightful decision making and solutions for the whole lab.

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