In the current financially challenging healthcare climate, laboratories stretch resources to offer high-quality testing while expanding their testing repertoire.
Since reagents and consumables are business-critical and comprise a significant part of a laboratory’s operating budget, effective reagent and inventory management is one method that labs use to control costs and eliminate waste. Forecasting reagent consumption (which is dependent on demand), however, is not always a walk in the park.
Reagent management: an introduction
Effective reagent management is critical for running a productive laboratory because reagents need to be on hand to execute tests requiring those material types. Think solvents, reactants, biological material, reference standard material, and the like. All those need to be in stock when your analysts need them.
Reagent management: a challenge to get it exactly right
Many labs still choose to run their inventory on paper or spreadsheets – but with the ever-increasing focus on lab efficiency, amidst budget cuts – labs start looking at smarter ways to manage and plan their inventories.
Let’s keep it simple. Effective reagent management comes down to carefully balancing the below realities:
- It’s business-critical: reagents need to be on hand whenever your analysts need them. Otherwise, they can’t execute their work. Avoid reagent non-availability or stock-out, no exceptions.
- You want to minimize excess inventory: reduce inventory holding costs and avoid wasting expired reagents.
- You need to plan well ahead of time: you can’t just quickly order more reagents when you see you are running out. Reagents require production, bridging and validation, which means long lead times.
- You need to make sure you have enough capacity to qualify the material in time: for example, qualifying standard reference material can take up to one year or more. Qualification efforts need prioritization in the mix of other lab activities.
Balancing those realities is challenging because:
- Having the reagents on hand when your analysts need them is always priority number 1. However, being able to plan well ahead of time amidst volatile demand is every lab’s Achilles heel. As a consequence, labs have no choice but to overstock (= inefficient, waste).
- Without a systematic way of forecasting and tracking your reagent consumption, it’s challenging to determine the optimal replenishment date – without actually reaching the expiration date or safety stock.
- A lack of visibility on the lab’s capacity in the mid to long term makes it difficult to assure you’ll have sufficient resources to qualify the reagents on time.
Reagent management: 5 steps
So, what ingredients do you need to manage your reagents inventory more effectively? These five steps, although simplified, might be a good start:
- Step 1: having accurate visibility on your current stock.
- Step 2: forecast the consumption of your reagents (predicting the downward slope).
- Step 3: calculating the optimal replenishment dates taking into account expiration dates and safety stock.
- Step 4: Calculate the latest date we need to start the material qualification to make sure it’s available when the lab needs it.
- Step 5: assure you have enough capacity to see the qualification steps through (qualified people and instruments available).
Reagent management: how BINOCS can help
Sounds straightforward. In reality, it’s not but BINOCS can help you to get it right:
- BINOCS can help you forecast reagent consumption (forecast the downward slope). It gives you visibility on historical data (e.g., “runners”, predictable volumes), NPI forecasts (new product introductions), or programs (committed volumes/time).
- BINOCS can automatically calculate the optimal replenishment dates, considering your safety stock & expiration dates (= configurable parameters, so it matches your inventory strategy).
- BINOCS can automatically create a detailed sequence of activities that the lab needs to execute to qualify the material. Example below:
- The BINOCS planning algorithm forecasts if you’ll have sufficient resources (available, competent analysts & equipment) to qualify the material in time. In case of bottlenecks, you can use what-if scenarios to solve those bottlenecks before they happen.
How about reagent management in your lab? We’re curious to know more about what challenges you face and would welcome to opportunity to discuss how we can help! Book your discovery meeting below!