Time to Outsource Lab Management?

Expert scientific asset management drives efficiency in R&D.

The biotechnology and pharmaceutical industries waste huge amounts of time, money and resources, especially in operational areas. Pressure to improve cost effectiveness has spurred some innovation, including such approaches as process mapping and value analysis, also known as cost-out, in manufacturing. However, further opportunities exist to significantly improve companies’ efficiencies by reviewing core competencies and outsourcing select functions.

The hospital market in the United States provides an excellent example of a business setting that is constantly seeking to cut costs and increase productivity without compromising on quality. In this setting, the outsourcing of asset management has become a clear winner. My company, among others, has been working with hospitals for many years to provide asset management programs, supporting activities such as effective...

The benefits can be seen most markedly when applied to R&D departments. For example, in large organizations different departments may be looking at different therapeutic areas, but use common analytical techniques. By looking carefully at the utilization of these analytical assets, you can avoid unnecessary purchases, internally redeploy underused assets, and sell underused or surplus equipment to fund the purchase of new, cutting edge technology.

It is not uncommon for an asset management program to save a company thousands of dollars.

Such an approach may be considered radical as maintenance and lifecycle asset management have traditionally been untouchable for fear that any budget cuts made in R&D will stifle innovation. However, laboratory asset management in R&D can make the department more productive without interfering with the creativity of the science. Indeed, it is possible to enhance output through provision of the right equipment at the right time.

Lifecycle asset management can also improve service levels through the provision of on-site support, increasing up-time of equipment and saving hours of researchers’ time that would have been spent dealing with service-related issues. Concurrently, they are still able to contact vendors directly to discuss applications.

The program also offers advantages away from the end user, such as in procurement and finance. The classic example is in procurement, where departments currently spend a significant amount of time negotiating terms and initiating, tracking, and paying purchase orders for more than 100 original equipment manufacturers per laboratory. A laboratory asset management program can take that entire burden away by providing services such as consolidating maintenance contracts and implementing preventative maintenance plans. This releases the purchasing department to focus more on strategic buying, facilitating further savings through careful negotiation of larger, key purchases.

It is not uncommon for an asset management program to save a company thousands of dollars. For example, we generally see a reduction of service costs in the region of 15%, with additional soft savings of an additional 10%. Figure 1 illustrates the soft savings achieved by a large pharma company through reduction in service contracts, improved scientist and purchasing productivity, increased equipment up-time, and other savings. Another powerful example of the savings that can be achieved through an asset management program is that of a leading Japanese biotech company, which saw over 2,250 hours of scientists’ time saved in the first year of its contract, equal to 300 working days or more than a year’s worth of an FTE (full-time equivalent).

In the current economic climate, it is arguably more vital than ever that new approaches are adopted to ensure survival and success. Outsourcing laboratory asset management is a smart answer to a complex problem, and can provide real competitive advantage.

Fraser Black is General Manager of GE Healthcare Scientific Assets Services

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