Is your team still using Spreadsheets for creating and tracking purchasing orders?
Most Biotech or Pharma companies start their purchasing process with emails and spreadsheets.
In the beginning, there are only a few scientists and then the lab grows and you need to purchase more lab supplies, capital equipment to get the experiments running.
At some point, the email-based approvals for purchase become unsustainable.
Moreover, investors require better cost controls and visibility for compliance purposes.
If you are a CFO/controller of the company, you probably have the following questions and concerns:
If you are thinking about these questions, you are not alone.
We have helped many Biotech companies’ finance teams answer these questions and gain better cash flow visibility.
In this article, you would learn:
Let’s get started.
The main issue with the manual spreadsheet process is the loss of efficiency and your inability to track expenses unless the books are closed at the month-end.
Let’s first look at what a typical process looks like, where are the choke points for efficiency, and what we can do to unplug those efficiency blocks.
We are going to assume that lab technicians are requesting a purchase that is approved by lab managers and finance.
The current process looks like this:
If you do have an approval process for purchasing lab supplies, then the first step is for the lab technician to request the purchase.
This could be done by spreadsheets or you probably have a requisition form that needs to be attached with the request for purchase.
Most companies resort to just sending purchase requests via email.
You first have to go to different vendor websites, then find what you are looking for, then enter that information in a requisition form and then send an approval request.
The challenge here is not that the request process is manual. It also takes more time to have the purchase request approved because the lab manager might not have enough information to approve the request.
Once the request is ready for approval, the request is sent for approval before the lab technician can actually place the order for lab supplies.
There are a couple of challenges with this manual approach:
Due to these reasons, email-based approvals are not effective
Once all the approvals are in place, the lab technician then needs to place the order with the vendor.
There is a duplicate effort here:
First, the lab technician has to go to a vendor website, find what they want to purchase, get the total cost and send for approval.
And once it is approved, the same effort needs to be duplicated on the vendor’s website to place the order.
Some vendors don’t have online ordering and they request a purchase order.
That is another additional step and if you don’t have a purchasing system, you now have to create a purchase order on a spreadsheet.
Once you have placed the purchase order, you need to track the purchase order and that becomes another spreadsheet!
Here are the things that need to be tracked:
After receiving the purchase order, the next step is to let the AP team know that you have received the purchase order so that they can pay the vendor on time.
You got the product, now you need to track what has been consumed and what is being used by whom.
Theft is not an issue for many companies, but if you are not keeping a track of what is being used and by whom then there is definitely a potential for theft.
If you don’t have an inventory system, you probably have another spreadsheet for tracking the lab inventory.
You of course need to track who is using what inventory but you also want to track the expiration dates and lot numbers so that you can easily trace back the usage to the lot number.
Tracking inventory also allows you to book costs for different experiments.
So if your finance team wants granular spend visibility, they probably want to track expenses at different projects/experiments.
So how do you go about simplifying the lab supplier’s purchasing process?
In the sections below, we will cover a step-by-step process and show how you can improve the lab’s productivity. Specifically how a purchasing system can help simplify the process for lab purchases and order tracking
The first is to automate the purchase requisition process so that you are not spending endless hours chasing the managers for approval.
Here are the key ingredients of a purchase requisition process.
The following screenshot shows how a requisition would look like in a purchase requisition process:
On average, companies can have up to 12 -24 hours long purchase order approval cycles. The longer the approval process, the more time it takes to place the purchase order and receive the products.
Here are some ideas on how to reduce the purchase approval cycle time:
Here is an example of an effective workflow:
CFO’s care about cost control and so should you 🙂
The finance team keeps a close eye on the cash flow so that you don’t run out of money. That is why it is important for the finance team to review large purchases in advance so that they control the timing of the purchase order based on the projected cash flow.
So how do you involve finance in the approval process?
Here is how to include finance in the approval process:
The other benefit of involving finance in the approval process is that they can validate the chart of accounts assigned to the purchase.
This allows for the cost to be booked to the right account and accurate financial accounting.
Why spend time entering purchase requisition data when you can simply choose what you want to purchase.
If it is no different from the online shopping experience that you use for personal purchases.
There are primarily two types of catalogs that you can leverage
With external catalogs, you can browse the vendor’s entire catalog and pick what you want to purchase. This is called a punch-out catalog
Here is an example of a punchout catalog:
Once you have decided what you want to purchase, you can simply transfer the shopping cart to your purchasing system.
You can even automate the coding of the purchase requisitions so that the technicians don’t have to worry about entering the correct cost codes.
If you are concerned about limiting the purchase to selected items, then a punchout can also handle that. You can ask the vendor to limit the number of items or the type of item that is available for purchase.
Not all vendors can’t support a punchout catalog.
It could be that they don’t have the infrastructure to support it and there are some vendors who probably won’t issue you a punchout because your purchasing volume is low.
In that case, you can ask the vendor to provide you with commonly purchased products or services and you can create your own catalog.
Here is an example of an internal catalog:
Internal catalogs give you better cost control because you can limit what you show in the internal catalog and adjust pricing as you need to.
Once you have placed the order to the vendor, you need to track the lifecycle of the purchase order.
Now it is more important than ever to track the purchase order because of the uncertainty in the supply chain.
With a purchasing system, you can centralize the order tracking once the order is placed.
Here are a couple of ways:
Here is an example of how you can track purchase orders:
So far we have covered the process for ordering the lab supplies.
But how do you keep track of that?
How do you know what you have in Inventory at any time? What lots have expired and can’t be used.
All these are important information that you need to know to effectively manage the inventory.
Here is what we recommend for tracking the inventory of lab supplies.
If you have multiple labs, you obviously can maintain different locations in an inventory system.
However, you might want to look at arranging inventory by different bins/locations within the same lab also.
By organizing the inventory in different locations, it is easy to track and report on inventory. For example:
This also allows you to easily transfer the inventory between different locations so that you can make effective use of inventory.
Let’s say you have excess inventory at one location and a nearby location needs the same product, then it is just easy to transfer and keep track of the transfer.
How do you track who is using what product in the lab?
That is where a release management process comes into the picture.
A release management process not only helps you track inventory that is being released for consumption but also allows you to track the following:
You get accurate usage reports and cost allocation to different projects.
Want to know how much inventory you have at hand and the total value of the inventory?
That is where inventory valuation comes into the picture.
With the built-in Inventory reports, you can easily track how much inventory you have and what is the total cost of the inventory.
For example, if you group up your inventory into different categories, for example, Chemicals, beakers, etc. then you also track the inventory value by these categories.
Here is a sample inventory valuation report:
In this article, we have covered an end-to-end process to help you reduce the time spent on purchasing and tracking inventory.
By leveraging this process, most of our clients have seen results like this:
Curious to see how ProcureDesk can help you achieve these results?
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