During the pandemic there were reports of supply chain issues with a number of healthcare basics and lab supplies. Scientists were scrambling to source key items such as plates and filter tips. These issues have dissipated for some, however, there are still reports of suppliers offering long lead times and difficulties with sourcing items. The availability of laboratory consumables is also being highlighted as a problem, specifically for items including plates and lab plasticware.
What are the main issues causing the shortages?
Three years on from the onset of Covid-19, it would be easy to think that these issues have been resolved, but it would appear that not all are due to the pandemic.
The pandemic has clearly affected provision of goods, with global companies having to face issues stemming from both labour shortages and distribution. This in turn has led to manufacturing and supply chains having to halt processes and look at ways of reusing what they can. ‘Because of these shortages, many labs are adopting a ‘reduce, reuse and recycle’ ethos.
But as products reach customers through a chain of events – many of which are facing challenges from raw materials to labour, procurement, and transport costs – they can be affected in many ways.
Generally the main issues that can affect supply chains include:
· Increased costs.
· Reduced availability.
· Increased lead times and distribution.
Just like consumer goods and services, the cost of raw materials has increased dramatically. Companies must consider the cost of inflation, and the cost of gas, labour and petrol.
Labs have been staying open for longer and undertaking more testing. This has resulted in shortages in lab consumables. There are also shortages in raw materials across the life sciences supply chain, especially for packaging materials, and some components needed to manufacture finished goods.
Initially, supply chain disruption was being blamed on the fallout from Brexit. This has had some impact on the availability of goods and workers, and supply chains have been progressively getting worse during the pandemic for a number of additional reasons.
‘’Before the pandemic EU nationals made up 10% of the UK’s HGV driver workforce but their number fell dramatically between March 2020 and March 2021 – by 37%, compared to a fall of only 5% for their UK equivalents.’’
Increased lead times and distribution issues
From the availability of drivers to access to freight, there are a number of combined forces that have led to increased lead times.
· 42.3% said they are stockpiling supplies and reagents.
· 61.26% are purchasing additional safety equipment and PPE.
· 20.90% were investing in software to accommodate employees’ remote work.
What can you do to try and overcome the issues?
Some of the issues can be avoided if you work with a trusted provider and plan ahead for your requirements. Now is the time to carefully select your suppliers and make sure that you are entering a partnership, rather than simply a buyer/seller relationship. This way, you can discuss, and be made aware of, any supply chain issues or changes to costs.
Try to iron out any procurement issues which may stem from increasing costs by looking for alternate providers. Often, cheaper is not better and can lead to delays and issues with inconsistent materials, inferior products and sporadic lead times. Good procurement processes can drastically reduce cost, time and risk, while also ensuring a consistent supply.
Find yourselves a reliable supplier that will work with you. Ask for delivery estimates and costs up front – ensure that the timeframe is realistic. Agree realistic delivery timescales and communicate your requirements (if you can) well in advance.
Only order what you need. If we have learnt anything as consumers, stockpiling will only exacerbate the situation. Many people, and companies, have adopted a “panic buying” mentality which can cause kinks in demand that are not manageable.
There are many lab consumables suppliers, but you need to be able to work well together. Knowing that their products meet the desired standard, are affordable and “not risky” is the minimum. They should also be transparent, trustworthy and display ethical working practices.
If you need help to manage your laboratory supply chain, get in touch, we (Suzhou Ace Biomedical company) as a reliable supplier can assist with advice on how to achieve a continual supply of goods.