What is the one reason most companies have to trust contract lab services over their laboratory settings?
Niche instruments are only available in labs that specialize in certain kinds of testing; and experienced researchers, lab technicians, and other personnel who are well-trained to handle such specialized instruments. But is that all you need to know about a contract lab before you start a partnership?
No. There’s an enormous list of other crucial questions that you should be asking your contract lab before you agree to engage their services. Such questions should be designed to ensure your safety and the quality of the services you receive. This article will tell you exactly which questions to ask and why.
Productivity, efficiency, and instrument uptime are great buzzwords to focus on at a first glance, but that’s not all your contract lab services contract should promise. There should be an enforceable way to seek accountability when something goes wrong. Be it instrument breakdown, stretched deadlines, or the resignation of a much-needed staff member, the contract lab service of your choosing must be able to cope with such unforeseen problems. After all, you cannot push back the launch schedule of a particular drug or whichever product your company manufactures, indefinitely.
The contract lab of your choosing must also provide consultation, i.e., a way for you to directly converse with the researchers and understand the issues that are popping up. This should be carried out in conjunction with written reports submitted in a timely fashion.
Q 2. Does the contract lab have all the necessary accreditations?
Your lab must comply with internationally or nationally established Standard Operating Procedures (SOP). FDA mandates that all labs that carry out clinical testing should comply with GLP or Good Laboratory Practices requirements. You also have to ensure that the contract lab you are working with has ISO 17025 accreditation. This is an internationally recognized accreditation without which the services of a contract lab have no validity.
Q 3. How far away is the contract lab from your facility?
It might seem like in today’s day and age, the miles that stretch between the Pacific and the Atlantic are merely numbers. While that is true in most cases, in the case of clinical tests- distance matters.
Lab samples are difficult to transport in pristine conditions. This is because a slight change in temperature or pressure might cause a sea change in the sample. Also, there have been numerous cases of samples getting damaged due to manhandling and jostling.
The truth is, the distance might not be the factor that determines which contract lab you choose, but it is not a factor that you can casually dismiss.
Q 4: Besides cost, which factors matter the most before choosing a contract lab?
Response time is one of the first factors you should consider besides cost. This directly ties up with good communication. No matter how great your contract lab is unless you can communicate exactly what you need from them, there’s no way you can achieve your desired result. And after they have understood the assignment, they should be able to both respond to your queries and also deliver results within a suitably short span of time.
To ensure that your contract lab delivers results on time, you should set up intermittent deadlines before the ultimate deadline. If they cannot keep up with the first few deadlines, you should consider ending the partnership and starting anew. By terminating a partnership early you can limit your losses.
Q 5. How much should you pay?
Is the cheapest option the correct option for contract lab services? The answer is no. This is because of the concept of hidden costs and subsequent costs.
Even if you end up paying little at the beginning, the costs will eventually keep piling up as the testing process goes on. Therefore, it’s better not to pair up with a contract lab stating an absurdly low price for the testing. Either they are going to charge you exponentially more later, or they are not following GLP requirements and don’t have standard equipment.
This is why it’s a good idea to have an estimate of how much the testing process should cost before you begin negotiating prices. Discuss the possibility of hidden costs right when the initial contract is drawn up.
Though this is not an exhaustive list of questions, this should give you an idea of how to approach the negotiation process in general. Always make sure that the contract lab services that you are using have experienced professionals who are trained in the particular field of testing that you require. Also, it’s a good idea to find out beforehand if that contract lab has worked with similar companies or products such as yours.