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Five ways to get
the most from
your lab and
manufacturing
facilities

A proactive approach for life sciences companies

Following the disruption of COVID-19, your biopharma company may be scaling up production of new life-saving treatments, researching new modalities or focusing on laboratory productivity and efficiency. There’s been record growth in life sciences research and development (R&D) spending and it’s expected to reach $213 billion by 2024. With billions of dollars of investment on the line, extracting the most value from your laboratory and manufacturing facilities will be essential in achieving your goals.

It’s especially important to anticipate and address critical challenges in your technical operations and reduce risk. Whether you lease or own your facilities, here are five ways to increase efficiency and set the stage for innovation:

1. Anticipate all details when opening or adapting a new site

When you’re expanding your footprint in a new location, critical details in facility construction and build-out can mean the difference between launching an efficient facility according to schedule or encountering costly delays and operating problems. The decisions you make in constructing or building out a space will affect your ability to run efficiently when a facility is brought online—and can also have an impact on a facility’s regulatory compliance.

For example, it’s critical to understand how much power and water will be needed to support your operations, and to properly locate utility connections. In addition, building infrastructure design can have significant impact on operating costs—a boiler that is too small for the demands of the facility can be costly to remediate, while a too-large boiler means wasted energy and expense.

Seemingly minor details can lead to major problems. For example, placing equipment in front of an electrical panel can mean major delays or interruptions in R&D or production in the future if someone needs access to address an electrical issue. Inadequate storage space for valuable inventory can mean using high-value functional space to house supplies or create safety issues if passageways are partially blocked.

Regulatory compliance issues also can jeopardize cost efficiency. Once your lab or manufacturing site is in use, any gap in facilities compliance can potentially lead to FDA citations or even pose an existential threat to operations. Overlooking even relatively simple requirements, such as providing the right number of eyewash stations or the placement of life safety equipment, can compromise safety and have costly outcomes.

2. Streamline the facilities supply chain

If your organization has undergone multiple mergers and acquisitions, some individual sites may be purchasing their own facility supplies. By streamlining facilities procurement, your organization can more easily track inventory, access a vetted network of reliable vendors, save through volume purchasing, and reduce the risk of R&D or manufacturing interruptions caused by lack of critical supplies. Centralized procurement means you can use market intelligence and data to anticipate supply chain issues and anticipate the volume of consumables needed.

Streamlined facilities procurement is valuable whether your operations are based in one market or in countries around the world. When time is of the essence, an established network of preferred suppliers can streamline access to critical supplies, make it easier for researchers to conduct their work—and reduce costs, too.

3. Benchmark staffing and other practices against industry standards

Not all life sciences facilities are equal—different kinds of technical operations require distinct levels of support, and varying skill sets. But how do you know whether you have too many or too few of the right kinds of professionals supporting a particular laboratory or manufacturing facility? One way is to benchmark against the operations of other organizations, as well as against staffing levels among your own facilities.

For example, a wet lab will likely entail more regulatory compliance than a dry lab, requiring more resources to ensure that a facility is consistently in compliance. While over-staffing is less risky than under-staffing, neither is desirable from an efficiency standpoint. Over-staffing creates a drag on efficiency, while under-staffing can create operational risks and a drag on efficiency if equipment is not properly maintained or compliance is neglected.

Benchmarking can help you right-size staffing to keep facilities running smoothly and efficiently. In addition, you can benchmark facility operations against industry best practices to learn whether you could be doing more to ensure uptime, safety and regulatory compliance.

4. Build in facilities resiliency

In the event of the next pandemic, hurricane, power outage or other catastrophe, preparedness will be critical for restoring operations. Having a business continuity staffing plan in place will help ensure that an external event is not catastrophic for your research or manufacturing operations. Your plan may entail shifting staff from an un-affected location to support a site in need or securing external assistance. What matters is planning ahead to mitigate the risks of a major disruption.

5. Leverage technology to reduce facilities operating costs

From using sensors to detect burned-out light bulbs to automating work-order management, today’s digital technologies make it possible to monitor building performance, prevent equipment failures, reduce energy waste and manage inventory and vendors across multiple properties concurrently. Also critical, these technologies can streamline the labor-intensive, paper-based processes of facilities regulatory compliance.

Operational efficiency is more important than ever for biopharma companies. Leading facilities practices and technologies can help improve the productivity of your research and manufacturing operations—and accelerate the journey from laboratory to saving lives.

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