Author Archives: Fiona - Product Lifecycle Manager at Amici

  1. Software Integration in the Life Science Sector

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    Software has the power to transform business operations by streamlining processes and driving efficiencies. Growing businesses can generate vast quantities of data which can be difficult to manage across multiple platforms and spreadsheets. Nowhere is this more relevant than in the life science sector.

    Historically, Enterprise Resource Planning – ERP – monoliths were the dominant force. These solutions combined administrative finance and HR functions with operational capability for manufacturing and distribution, allowing the smooth flow of data between different processes. Sounds great in principle, however, these ‘mega suites’ had one major drawback for the life science sector: they were ‘Jack of all trades, but master of only some’.

    Enter the postmodern software era, where technology has evolved to allow the communication of software via system integration.

    What is System Integration?

    Simply put, system integration of software is the process used to connect two or more IT systems into a single solution, which will meet the user’s business requirements. System integration is increasingly seen in everyday life. Consider the numerous websites which integrate with Google Maps, making it easier for customers to locate an individual store, or to figure out the nearest place to get their Friday night takeaway.

    Integration really comes into its own when enabling the smooth flow of data through business processes, taking full advantage of all of the benefits of best-of-breed functionality for the sector. Different integration technologies can be used depending on the application, but the one which has really entered the mainstream is Application Programming Interface – API.

    What is an API?

    An API is an interface which enables different software applications to talk to each other, without the need for any user interaction. These days, APIs are commonplace. One example is in payment processing. Here, APIs enable the communication between buying your goods online, and the payment made from your bank.

    Most major APIs use token-based authentication to ensure that the communication between applications is secure. This is an important consideration. Security of your data is critical when looking at integration options.

    How does this apply to the life science sector?

    Life science businesses have many of the same needs as businesses from other high-performing sectors. The Holy Grail is to have simple business systems in place which can scale for growth.

    However, niche requirements mean data must be rationalised from various points in the product development life cycle – from procurement and goods receipt, to manufacturing and sales. Not only that, life science companies must often adhere to strict regulatory and quality requirements, necessitating the need for specialist validated software with audit capability, and electronic signatures.

     

    Life science businesses have niche software requirements (click to see a larger version).

    Life science businesses have niche software requirements

     

    Until recently, life science businesses have been forced to jump between different software packages, paper-based systems and spreadsheets in order to meet their requirements. Not anymore. Software integration is becoming increasingly common, and can often be deployed straight away.

    Life science companies can now focus on getting the best applications possible for their business and ensure that these can integrate with each other to form a personalised solution for their stage of growth. These days it is possible to pair best-of-breed accounting software with specialist software for the life sciences. Everything from purchase approval for hazardous products, to FEFO-compatible inventory management down to the the batch level.

    Integrated software solutions, combined with modular options, offer huge advantages. Growing companies can buy exactly what they need at the time, rather than paying for unnecessary functions. The key to success is doing this well – making decisions on a solid understanding of the business requirements, and focusing on a smooth integration with no overlap.

    In a sector defined by innovation and growth, the flexibility and scalability of an integrated software solution is a no-brainer for life science businesses. For many, it is not a matter of if, but when they will outgrow their fragmented solutions, and move to integrated modular software which allows them to scale.

    Growing with you.

    Amici’s own in-house development team is experienced in integrating with other systems to improve and scale your business operations

    Contact Fiona or Chris at info@amiciprocurement.com or +44 141 810 2580 to learn more.

    Amici - Growing with you

     

  2. My career at Amici – 10 years and counting

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    As long as I can remember, I have dreamed of trail-blazing a career at the cutting edge of scientific procurement.

    Fiona Young, Amici

    Fiona Young, Amici

    OK, let’s face it, that sounds pretty improbable. The truth is that I dreamed of being a scientist – obviously playing a part in finding life-saving cures to diseases, or perhaps playing a heroic role in protecting the environment. I got off to a good start after my PhD, and spent several years researching environmental toxins at the University of Dundee. However, getting increasingly fed up of the constant cycle of grant applications and job instability, I decided to try something completely different. Unsurprisingly, permanent positions in algal toxicology were a tad thin on the ground.

    I spotted an ad for a Senior Capital and Services Buyer for Amici Procurement. Having almost zero experience in procurement, I wasn’t sure if this was really a good fit, or whether the role would be one I would be any good at. However, the ad stated that a scientific background was desirable, and with the lure of a permanent contract, I decided to apply.

    Ten years later, I am delighted to continue to be part of the Amici family. Nobody does quite what we do which can make it hard to explain.

    Imagine you could buy anything you ever needed on one single web platform, and I mean anything – your daily shop, your furniture, your car, even your MOT. Imagine that the platform provider did not accept supplier incentives, and that you had complete freedom of choice to buy what you needed: any product, any supplier, any brand. Imagine that you had a whole team of experts on hand to source and compare options for you if there was something you couldn’t find. Imagine that for every order you placed, someone would check to see when it would be delivered and would chase it up for you if it was late. Imagine how much time you would save. Sounds pretty good doesn’t it. Must be expensive. Well, here’s the clincher. Imagine that this solution SAVES you money over and above any discounts you had already.

    Sounds like a great proposition doesn’t it – and it is! We are delighted that our customers stay and grow with us year-on-year. Our platform is called MyAmici and we are the market leader in procurement and software solutions in the Life Science sector.

    It wasn’t always the case. We were a tiny team of six people when I started, but small as we were, we were already making a massive impact for our customers. From my very first day I got stuck into negotiating all sorts of equipment, from fridges and freezers to kitting out whole labs. Every week we would save our customers thousands on their equipment. I started to really enjoy the thrill of saving our customers money, and the thought of them paying list price for anything started really to upset me – I once wasted way too much time negotiating down a pencil sharpener!

    Since then, we have continued to grow not only the scope of our service, but also the number of our customers and the size of our team.

    I’ve been lucky enough over the years to have benefited from lots of training and opportunities. At Amici you are completely empowered and supported to progress in your career and become an expert in your area. After about a year as a Senior Buyer, I was promoted to manage the Sourcing Team and absolutely loved the challenge of a more strategic role. More opportunities followed and I became immersed in lots of different areas over the years: from managing our data team to leading consultative sales of our modules, which I was amazed to find I enjoyed. The thought of sales would normally sound quite excruciating to me, but I found that it was really quite easy when you have a solution that you believe in, and that delivers real tangible value.

    I’m now part of the Leadership Team and have a relatively new role as Product Lifecycle Manager. I wouldn’t have had a clue what that was at the start of my career, I’m hoping that I have a bit more of a clue now. Basically, I’m responsible for taking brand new concepts for modules for our platform, and evaluating which ones make most commercial sense to take forward. Modules are an extension of our platform and clients can choose to add the modules they need to support their business and make life easier for them. These solutions range from employee absence management, to asset and inventory management. All modules aim to save our clients time and give them all of the controls they need to ensure that their business runs smoothly. This means that their key scientists and staff can focus on their core objectives. After all, we’d all rather the scientists were helping find the cure to cancer, than running around trying to figure out who nabbed the stock that they need. Developing new solutions for our clients is incredibly rewarding – one of the first customers to try out our inventory solution told us it saved them around 5 hours per week. That’s almost a whole day, I’m sure all of us could do with an extra day per week, I know I could.

    To this day, it’s mind blowing to me that purchasing and time-saving solutions can have such a big impact.

    Based on the last quarter, we are saving our customers over £15 million a year. That’s over and above any discounts they had before joining us, and the saving includes our fee. From Sourcing to Customer Service, from Development to IT, every single one of our team members contributes.

    In simple terms, for every single employee at Amici, we save our customers enough money to pay the average salary of 11 scientists. That’s pretty incredible, and it is easy to see how each and every one of us is playing a part in finding those life-saving cures I had in mind all those years ago. I guess dreaming of a career in scientific procurement isn’t quite so improbable after all.

     

    Take a look at our currency vacancies here.

  3. Improving Inventory Accuracy through Cycle Counting – As easy as ABC

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    The latest software for managing your inventory is making it easier than ever to gain control and make business decisions based on real-time data. However, even the most powerful of solutions are at the mercy of human error and non-compliance. Such mistakes can result in financial losses from missing or expired stock, wasted effort and may even result in production grinding to a halt.

    So how can you verify your inventory data to get the best out of your software? In addition to putting warehouse access controls in place, most of us are familiar with a big stock take, but few of us relish the prospect of shutting down the warehouse or working out-of-hours to achieve it. Is there a way to reduce human error and nail inventory accuracy without disrupting business operations? For many businesses, the answer is yes – Cycle Counting.

    Cycle Counting is a process used to audit inventory, where small portions of inventory are counted at a specific time. Cycle Counting has been shown to have many advantages over traditional stocktaking, not least of which is the improvement of inventory accuracy and early detection of problems.

    Get the most from Cycle Counting with these five tips.

    1. Count little and often.

    Avoid shutdown! Cycle Counting involves dedicating a small amount of time each day or week to counting a small sub-set of your inventory. This can be done at the start of the day and is less prone to error. Don’t be tempted to count too many products. Errors are far more likely to be made on larger counts than on smaller ones. Small regular counts have been shown to lead to greater stock accuracy.

    2. Use ABC cycle counting.

    Tailor the frequency of counting to your most important products. Sort your inventory into three main categories based on how frequently you wish to count them. The highest value, throughput or highest risk products should be assigned as Category A and counted more frequently. Commonly, Category A is given to the top 70% of inventory value, category B the next 15% and Category C the bottom 15%.

    3. Improve accuracy through barcode scanning.

    Batch information and expiry are critical for GMP Life Science businesses, but easy to get wrong while counting! Incorporating barcode scanning into your cycle counting process can have an immediate impact on stock accuracy and add speed to your counting process.

    4. Monitor count variance.

    Set a target for inventory accuracy and track over time. It is important to track both – a single variance with high financial value is just as important as multiple variances on count quantity. Trends should be captured, investigated and used to identify products or locations which could benefit from additional counting.

    5. Take action!

    One of the major benefits of Cycle Counting is that discrepancies in stock counts should be spotted early-on, and the root-cause investigated in real-time before expenses are incurred later. However, it remains important to monitor targets and trends in count variance over time and act upon any underlying issues. Discrepancies are usually linked back to human error and processes may need to be tightened in high risk areas.

     

    You may also find the following articles useful;

    Managing Stock Expiry in your Lab

    Barcoding in the Biotech Sector

     

  4. Barcoding in the Biotech Sector

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    Barcode scanning is a tool which has become well-established in many industries across the globe. It delivers proven efficiencies and cost-savings in many environments, from the warehouse to the supermarket checkout. Barcode labelling and scanning can provide huge benefits in terms of inventory accuracy and efficiency, yet this tool is often overlooked in the biotech sector.

    Here we discuss five reasons to incorporate barcoding in your biotech business.

    1. Eliminate errors – Scan by batch.

    Look for a barcoding solution that links unique barcodes to the batch rather than product.

    Errors in inventory accuracy can have huge consequences in the biotech and GMP manufacturing sectors. Picking the wrong product or batch can result in wasted time and money, or more seriously, could render a final product ineffective or even hazardous to health. The latest inventory software holds many advantages over paper-based processes to improve inventory accuracy. However, no system is immune from human error or non-compliance. Human error has been shown to have dire consequences in the pharmacy sector, a risk which has been reduced since the EU mandated that most prescription medicines must have a unique barcode label. The biotech sector suffers from the same risks – similar packaging is used for different products, and packaging is identical between batches.

    It’s not just picking the right product from the shelf that can cause issues. Poor handwriting, keyboard data entry or even eyesight can create all sorts of errors in both paper-based and digital systems, from keying in a batch number incorrectly to selecting the wrong batch on screen.

    Using barcode labels can have a huge impact on data accuracy – almost eliminating human error. In fact, barcode data entry has been shown to be over 10,000 times more accurate than keyboard data entry. In practice, the implementation of a barcoding solution for the picking process can help reduce human error to almost nil, reducing costs and risks to your business.

    2. Traceability.

    GMP businesses should look for a system which offers options for auditing the receipt, picking and final use of raw materials. Scanned data should be subject to electronic signatures and be fully traceable with user details and timestamps.

    Accuracy and traceability are critical in the pharmaceutical and manufacturing sectors, and particularly so in the event of a recall. Barcode scanning paired with a comprehensive inventory software solution is a no-brainer where inventory accuracy and traceability is key. Barcode scanning offers an easy way of tracking your raw materials, from initial receipt and generation of the label itself, to picking and even returning the item to the warehouse.

    The best systems will enable the printing of unique barcodes for every single container you wish to apply them to. They should also allow you to search both existing and historic inventory by barcode number, enabling the full history of the batch to be quickly traced and investigated should any problems arise.

    3. Save time – Scan your stock count.

    Save yourself the headache of a manual stock count by looking for a system which enables barcode scanning.

    Perhaps the best-known advantage of barcoding is saving time. For users of paper-based inventory systems, a huge amount of time is wasted writing down product and batch information. Even users of digital solutions will spend time manually searching for and selecting every item picked from or returned to the warehouse. Barcode scanning adds a great deal of efficiency to this process, updating the product status in the software as you scan each item.

    Best-in-class solutions will incorporate barcode-scanning technology into stock counting processes. Not only will this have benefits for inventory accuracy, barcode scanning can make stock counts a breeze.

    4. Make it Easy.

    You don’t need a doctorate in barcoding to use a scanner! Modern wireless scanners are readily available and can be used on-site or in a separate area for verifying picked products. Barcoding solutions can be implemented easily and do not require extensive training to use. Rather than manually keying in or selecting data from a long list of complicated batch numbers, scanning does all of the hard work for you – leaving you only to click away until scanning is complete. Most systems should tell you where you have made a mistake such as scanning in an incompatible barcode. The best solutions will enable the printing and generation of barcodes to be done within the software rather than relying on externally printed labels – making it even easier for you by containing all functionality within a single familiar system.

    5. Simple Labelling – Use QR codes.

    QR Codes can carry up to several hundred times the information on a conventional barcode, and can be printed and read at a size almost ten times smaller. Not only that, QR codes can be read from any angle or direction. This makes QR Codes perfect for easy scanning of small labels

    Cramming lots of information on a tiny label can make labels hard-to-read. The inclusion of a barcode precludes the need for overly detailed labelling since the barcode can be linked to comprehensive product and batch information in the inventory software. The best solutions will allow you to customise your own labels entirely, from using just the barcode on the label, to including other important information such as product description, batch number and expiry date.

    Barcodes can be printed on all manner of labels to suit your requirements: from labels which will stay put at low temperatures, to those which are resistant to solvents.

     

    You may also find the following articles useful:

    Managing stock expiry in your lab.

    Improving Inventory Accuracy through Cycle Counting – As easy as ABC

     

  5. Managing Stock Expiry in Your Lab

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    Is your Inventory Management System Out-of-Date?

    One of the biggest problems Inventory Managers have is the management of stock expiry. Often, missing or expired stock is not identified until the annual stock take and can amount to tens of thousands in financial losses. These losses will have to be written off, and expired stock disposed of appropriately. Moreover, poor visibility of stock expiration can lead to project delays or even production grinding to a halt. In some cases, expired R&D stock is not spotted in time, and products with reduced potency or even stability may be used in error.

    From Drug Discovery to GMP Manufacturing, the sheer variety and pace of products ordered can exacerbate the challenge. If these issues sound familiar, it might be time to review whether your inventory systems are still optimal for your business.

    Modern perpetual Inventory Systems, showing live inventory information, have major benefits over spreadsheets or paper-based systems. Some of these software solutions allow the user to view and sort by batch, expiry date and more.

    Whether having a critical evaluation of your own Inventory Management System or evaluating options for inventory software, we recommend watching out for the following to help make expired stock a thing of the past.

    1. Set and Review Reorder Triggers

    It is important to review re-order triggers to ensure that you have enough stock on hand without overstocking the product. Holding too much stock ties up cash unnecessarily, takes up valuable space and can lead to financial loss where products expire before they are needed. It’s also important to take account of the footprint, storage requirements and shelf life of the product when setting Minimum Stock Levels and Economic Order Quantities (EOQ).

    Review your inventory throughput and forecasts regularly in order to set a minimum stock level which meets your business requirements. Look for a system which allows you to edit and review minimum stock alongside current stock levels, product throughput, storage temperature and even value where possible.

    2. Assign the Right Expiry Dates

    In a GMP environment it is a requirement to describe how expiry dates are assigned, used and sometimes extended. This methodology is equally useful for R&D Inventory.

    Managing Stock Expiry - Goods Received Number

    Supplier expiry dates are normally used as a default and relate directly to the tested stability of the product under the recommended storage conditions. In some circumstances, separate internal expiry dates can be used, and may be shorter or longer than the supplier expiry date. Expiry dates may also vary according to when a product is opened or where it is stored.

    Choose inventory software which will allow you to check in your stock by batch, or even make it mandatory to do so. Checking in by a unique GRN (Goods Receipt Number) is even better. The most flexible systems will allow you to add and edit both supplier and internal expiry dates, including date opened. GMP users should look for software which controls the use of expired products and make sure any changes to expiry date are fully audited.

    3. Location, Location, Location!

    A few simple precautions can really help tackle the problem of missing stock. Assign dedicated locations to each of your products and label these clearly. Make sure users are aware of any associated over-spill locations. Label each individual location with a basic number or use a barcode if your system is compatible. It is also good practice to rotate your stock, moving products with the latest expiry date to the back.

    A good inventory system will allow you to link locations to each of your products and track where products have been moved to. Look for a system which will allow tiered locations, giving you the ability to filter at both a site or building level right down to an individual drawer or container within a freezer. Best-in-class systems will allow you to assign and view both product storage temperatures and location temperatures. Some systems may warn you if you try to assign a location with an incompatible temperature to the product.

    4. FEFO – First Expired First Out

    Managing Stock Expiry - FEFO - First Expired First Out

    One of the most important features to look for in a best-in-breed Inventory system is dedicated FEFO functionality which will prompt users to pick items with the earliest expiry date. Modern perpetual inventory software is head and shoulders above static or paper-based systems when it comes to creating Pick Lists and reserving stock. Rather than picking random Lots from the shelf, a digital pick list can prompt the user to select stock with the earliest expiry date for the pick list – and show Inventory Managers exactly where this stock is located.

    Best-in-class systems will include barcode options which make it really easy for Inventory Managers to scan picked stock to verify that the stock picked is the same as the one reserved.

    5. Stock Count

    One of the main advantages of inventory software is that you can see exactly what you have in stock. However, even the most powerful solutions succumb to human error and non-compliance. Consequently, inventory management solutions should always be supported by a stock-take in order to minimise losses from missing or expired stock.
    We recommend ABC Cycle Counting in place of the more traditional Stock Take. Cycle Counting is a process used to audit inventory, where small portions of inventory are counted at a specific time. Cycle Counting has been shown to have many advantages over the traditional stocktake, not least of which is the improvement of inventory accuracy and early detection of problems. ABC cycle counting enables you to tailor the frequency of counting to your most important products.
    Look for a system which enables Cycle Counting by category and reporting by count variance. The software should make it easy for you to spot problem areas and investigate stock discrepancies.

    6. Reporting and dealing with Expiry

    Managing Stock Expiry - Expired Products

    It’s important to be able to use defined processes for managing expired stock, from quarantine to counting the cost of stock write-off. Inventory software should make it easy for you to view expiry dates for stock on hand. Watch out for systems which only allow stock to be deleted, rather than marking it as disposed.

    The best systems should include reporting on stock usage and disposals all the way down to batch or even container level. Some systems may even link product value to each batch, allowing you to track financial losses from expired stock and to investigate accordingly.

    GxP users should look for specialised functionality to ensure that expired products cannot be reserved or used, as well as providing electronic signatures and auditing to meet the needs of 21CFR11 and Annex 11

    Amici: Up-to-Date with Expiry

    At Amici, solutions are engineered to support our customers in managing stock expiry, and to ensure losses are kept to an absolute minimum.

    Managing Stock Expiry

    Image: Managing stock expiry with Amici. Click to see full-size.

    Take Control of your Inventory

    The Amici Inventory Solution is available now. Contact us at info@amiciprocurement.com or call +44 (0) 141 810 2580 to learn more.