On January 1st, 2012, the front page of The New York Times Sunday Business section featured a large, squalling New Year’s Day baby. The headline read: “I Just Got Here, But I Know Trouble When I See It.” The sentiment—echoed almost everywhere—is that the U.S. economic forecast remains gloomy and recovery is not expected any time soon.
Apropos of these restrained economic times, this month’s cover story examines the budgeting process and how managers can design and work most effectively within their research budgets which, as our recent survey revealed, have been essentially flat since 2009. Software tools, project management techniques, and ideas for maximizing research dollars are all covered. One idea the author puts forth is outsourcing. “Outsourcing of various lab activities, particularly capital- and staff-intensive ones, can also provide cost savings, thereby freeing funds to be spent elsewhere.” As the author points out, “No one enjoys the budgeting process, but it’s something that must be done.” And, done well, is worth the effort.
Echoing the same need for frugality, this month’s Laboratory Management article, “To Own or Not to Own,” looks at the financial advantages of and options for leasing capital equipment. “Leasing allows laboratories to use the most up-to-date technology without having to fork over the huge initial amount of capital necessary to purchase the instruments.” Turn to page xx to find out whether a leasing program is right for your lab and if so, what sort of agreement would be best.
Our second management article, “An Enterprise Approach to R&D Informatics,” opens with the economy: “The ongoing economic recession means that businesses everywhere need to rein in spending and do more with less.” Author Michael Doyle makes the argument that “closing cost and efficiency gaps between the research lab and final product requires a new approach to informatics, one that focuses on “e-enabling” data visibility, integration and sharing across the end-to-end innovation cycle.” Something else you might consider in your belt-tightening, productivity-improving resolutions for 2012.
And finally, this month’s Technology & Operations article, “The Evolving Service Model,” repeats the same theme: “As capital budgets became constrained due to the economic downturn, companies look to save costs in as many areas as possible. So as they try to eke out more mechanical life from their existing base of installed laboratory equipment, they will turn more frequently to service agreements.” Author Bernard Tulsi then describes various manufacturers’ equipment service and maintenance offerings and developments in this important category.
On another note, beginning with this first issue of 2012, we are pleased to introduce a new editorial section to the magazine devoted to developments in laboratory automation. Turn to page xx for Joe Liscouski’s piece, “Integrated Systems.” It’s not surprising to hear that the dream of integrated automation systems remains just that—a dream. However, Liscouski provides some ideas for getting around system juggernauts and making the most of what’s currently available. “The bottom line is planning. Labs have to develop rational lab-wide plans for the specification, purchase and use of laboratory technologies. You have to purchase from the selection of products that exist, but you can make informed choices,” he says.
Hope you enjoy these timely pieces along with everything else we offer in Lab Manager Magazine’s first issue of 2012.
Happy New Year!