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How to build effective supplier partnerships

By: Roche Life Sciences

Posted: May 20, 2015 | Life Science Procurement

Managing your lab requires constant communication with third-party vendors, which means that principal investigators need to learn how to build and maintain supplier relationships. This is especially important if you are operating a smaller lab, as it is likely PIs will have to handle the bulk of the supply chain management side on their own compared to larger public labs.

Still, regardless of the size or purpose of your lab, maintaining inventory and communicating effectively with suppliers can help everything run in a streamlined and efficient manner. Here are a few guidelines that PIs should adhere to in order to keep supply chain management in check:

Don't invest in too many third-party vendors
The phrase "too much of a good thing" can definitely apply when it comes to supplier relationships, and there are three main reasons why, according to Business Bee:

  1. The potential to become overwhelmed
  2. Inefficiency
  3. Higher operating costs

Instead, PIs should stick to a handful of trusted suppliers for their lab needs. This can lead to lower costs and better performance overall. If you are unsure about which vendors you should consider reducing, think about their performance over the years. Have some vendors become unreliable, delivered products too late or proven they are not communicative enough to the needs of your lab? It might be time to think about narrowing down the list.

Pay your bills on time
In order to create a good relationship with a supplier, you will also need to demonstrate that you are a reliable customer. This means that keeping track of invoices and paying your bills on time is a must. One easy way to do this is to manage revenue as soon as you receive it, as it can be easy in a busy lab setting to forget about outstanding balances.

Consider distance and delivery
If your lab staff is working on a deadline and needs their kits in a timely fashion, you will need to think about practical aspects of the supplier relationship, such as delivery and distance. Testing and other lab applications often need to be completed quickly, and waiting too long on a distant supplier could cost you in the long run.

Innovative products are a must
Having the most cutting-edge software and lab tools available is of the utmost importance in a busy lab, especially since many PIs are watching their bottom lines. Choosing the right kits and reagents for your testing purposes can really make a world of difference in your diagnostic outcome, so always be sure to keep innovation in mind.

Continuous communication
As with any business relationship, keeping the lines of communication open between vendors is also a major factor in the success of a lab. Roche professionals, for instance, can work with PIs who are just starting to set up their labs from the very beginning or work with existing lab managers to improve upon the set up the lab has already. This helps PIs constantly improve their setting and allows for a streamlined workflow if roadblocks ever get in the way of research down the line.

Technology can enable your supply chain
Creating a collaborative environment between a PI and vendors requires open communication. This means that organizational tools and software could be the answers to getting the additional support from supply chain management, as many business are moving toward digital software and cloud storage. Not only does this streamline the supply and inventory process, but it can also help you strategize your own diagnostic needs within the lab.

Have a plan set in place for your vendor
To have a good relationship with your vendor, you'll need to first gauge your spending characteristics, according to Supply Chain Brain. This lets your supplier know what they have to work with, and it keeps procurement pricing on the table so that everyone is on the same page. Of course, this type of scenario requires trust and mutual understanding between the two parties, which can take time.

Building and maintaining supplier relationships takes time, but with Roche, PIs can rest assured that their diagnostic needs are controlled in a standardized, logistical and timely manner. Because many PIs are working under deadlines, having a supplier chain management strategy is key to the overall testing process.

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