Angelo Filosa Ph.D. Global Head of Scientific Services PerkinElmer
Co-Sourcing Improves Pharmaceutical Laboratory Productivity
Success in the pharmaceutical industry is measured by the ability to research, adapt, produce, and deliver key findings and products as rapidly as possible. Achieving these goals within an environment of fluctuating markets and pressure to contain costs is a formidable challenge that requires effective strategies and processes. However, current models for running laboratories are plagued by inefficiencies that lower productivity and ultimately drive up costs
Drawbacks of In-House Laboratories
The problems associated with in-house laboratories are well-recognized within the industry. Because of budget cuts and workforce reductions across all departments, laboratories are often understaffed and researchers have to take on the burden of managing multiple, time-consuming details that are critical to keeping a lab functioning. This takes valuable time away from focusing on research.
In fact, results of a recent study1 revealed that scientists spend up to 25% of their time on non-value added tasks like instrument maintenance, paperwork, and inventory management. Another exacerbating factor is the lack of time and expertise among scientists to pinpoint specific issues that negatively impact operational inefficiencies and identify which equipment and systems need maintenance or upgrading. This impacts productivity in subtle but significant ways. For example, outdated internal communication systems and poorly planned layouts result in wasted time walking from one station to another to triage issues and review findings. The net result of poor productivity is reluctance on the part of the company to continue making the investments needed to improve operations and increase productivity.
Limitations of Outsourcing
Due to the inherent problems associated with in-house laboratories, many pharmaceutical companies have turned to outsourcing as a means of increasing R&D efficiency and productivity.
While at a glance, outsourcing may appear to be an effective and cost-efficient way to streamline laboratory operations, it is a one-dimensional solution that does little to address the shortcomings of in-house facilities. In addition to the costs of paying for outsourced services, considerable investment is still needed to keep pace with inventory management, identifying the need for equipment and software upgrades, and maintaining internal monitoring and oversight to ensure ongoing adherence to R&D protocols and alignment with research goals.
In short, significant time and internal resources, along with the budget to support them, are still required. For these reasons, a growing number of companies are questioning the bottom-line value of outsourcing and looking for better solutions.
Co-Sourcing: An Innovative, Holistic Approach to Laboratory Support Services
Co-sourcing is a unique “hybrid” solution to improve lab functionality while maintaining efficiency. Unlike outsourcing or individual consultant services, co-sourcing provides a unified team of professional services experts to work side-by-side with in-house staff to identify customized solutions that will improve efficiencies and maintain desired operations moving forward.
Why a Holistic Approach?
Because issues in one area of lab function, such as poorly functioning equipment or outdated communication systems, often have a ripple effect that bogs down the entire process of completing research projects. One of the primary benefits of co-sourcing is the ability to address both big-picture and granular operational issues that impact operational overall efficiency and productivity.
Unlike individual contractors with expertise in a single, specialized area, such as software systems or equipment maintenance, the co-sourcing model offers a full range of services that can be deployed as needed to resolve issues causing systemic operational dysfunction.
Key to the success of co-sourcing is the oversight of a dedicated lab project manager, who is the single point of contact for all services. They can help assess and monitor all facets of the laboratory to identify interconnected issues that are impeding operations and reducing productivity, and help pinpoint which services and solutions are necessary to resolve them based on the laboratory’s individual needs. On the flip side, insights gleaned from “big picture” assessments can help laboratories avoid the cost of superfluous services that are not necessary.
A lab project manager should be well-versed and qualified to help support higher-level laboratory operations, including asset management, QC, regulatory compliance, business analytics, and optimal use of laboratory space.
Finally, a co-sourcing collaborator that offers start-to-finish relocation services can be a tremendous asset when part or all of a laboratory needs to be transferred to another facility, whether nearby or across the globe. Because of the multiple, complex steps required to dismantle, pack, transport, and set up equipment and systems to a new facility, a co-sourcing collaborator with relocation expertise who is intimately familiar with all aspects of laboratory functions can help plan and streamline every step of the process.
Ultimately, the holistic co-sourcing service model will allow researchers to reclaim their role in setting research priorities and goals, and focusing on the discovery and development of new therapies and diagnostics that will advance healthcare and improve patient outcomes.
What to Look for in a Co-Sourcing Collaborator
In order to provide truly holistic, customized co-sourcing solutions, the service provider should offer:
- A solid history of reliable laboratory support
- Experience with all facets of laboratory operations, from asset management to supporting scientific workflows
- Dedicated project management to evaluate laboratory operations as a whole and identify specific interconnected issues that are impacting productivity
- The expertise to identify appropriate solutions and avoid unnecessary interventions
- Ongoing scientific expertise to support scientific experiments and ensure efficient lab operations and productivity
- Equipment maintenance services backed by experience with all equipment types provided by multiple vendors
- Onsite IT support to troubleshoot software systems and recommend upgrades
- Start-to-finish relocation services