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Supporting Scientists

12 February 2008

For tracking and maintaining some 42,000 pieces of scientific instrumentation worth a £250m pharma giant, GSK, turned to its FM services supplier, Sodexho, to develop a solution integrated with its existing FM support services

WITH LABORATORY EQUIPMENT ranking as GSK’s highest value capital asset, developing a responsible and cost effective management system had the potential to provide the company with significant gains both in terms of cost efficiencies and improved utilisation of equipment by scientists. GSK needed a solution to a problem that had historicaly been costly, inhibited efficient scientific R&D and due to a fragmented service model, strategic management of scientific instrumentation was made difficult.

The solution developed by its FM service provider, Sodexho, won the PFM Award 2007 in 2007 in the Expert Services – Hard category. The judges said, “This partnership has transformed the complex and costly provision of technical laboratory equipment into a much smoother, more cost effective and quicker operation that clearly benefited the scientists and GSK’s business efficiency.”

Sodexho has been supplying a range of support services for GSK for over 12 years covering five manufacturing sites in Montrose, Crawley, Ulverston, Barnard Castle and Worthing, seven major R&D locations in Harlow, Stevenage, Greenford, Ware, Frythe, Beckenham and Tonbridge, and four consumer healthcare sites in Maidenhead, Weybridge, Slough and Coleford. Some 900 Sodexho staff deliver a range of services to high industry and customer standards.

Procuring and maintaining complex and expensive lab equipment has been a significant problem throughout the pharma sector, and equipment manufacturers have taken advantage of the volume and variety of models and ages of equipment that customers have to manage to maximise sales of new equipment and services, further compounding the problem.

Sodexho assembled a team of experts focussed in delivering laboratory instrument support and applied a fresh approach to this long-term problem. Now teams of on-site engineers are responsible for laboratory equipment providing a ‘first fix’ service for much of the equipment in use, and arranging and managing planned maintenance and breakdown contracts with manufacturers of complex systems.

The results speak for themselves
● Commercial savings of 25 - 40 per cent
● Improved uptime from 2 days to within 4 hours
● £1.5m in asset redeployment.

The system is managed by a central team from the Harlow site. It comprises a combination of dedicated engineers delivering instrument services within the labs; an administration team and systems to simplify and challenge the processes; commercial experts to negotiate the best possible terms and commercial compliance; and dedicated H&S and quality teams accredited to ISO9001:2000 standard to advise on best practice and audit.

Commenting on the success of the improved lab equipment service, Chris Ives, UK SiteServices Manager – European Operations at GSK UK Research & Development, said, “The laboratory instrument support provided by Sodexho to our UK R&D operations have brought real benefit to our company at both organisational and end-user levels. In addition to radical cost savings over previous models, we have improved reliability, up time, performance and productivity.”

This was designed not to be a one-off solution but one that could be built into management processes for the future. R&D lab instruments are constantly being improved and updated to meet rapid advances in technology. To future proof the solution Sodexho has developed Learning Laboratory which enables it to collaborate with the instrument manufacturers and other service providers to update and replace instruments as effectively as possible.

Being independent of the instrument sales process, Sodexho has been able to add value to the business and avoid a conflict of interest. This has allowed GSK to make purchasing decisions on the basis of scientific need and leaves Sodexho to support the lifecycle management of the instrument from sourcing to disposal.

As Ives explains, “We are able to make independent and informed decisions on asset acquisition, without the worry and hassle of the follow-up issues associated with maintenance, servicing, repair and life cycle management. We can now really maximise our assets in a way we could not before. Sodexho do it all – it’s effectively managed and executed.”

While the end user in the lab is able to concentrate on their science, Sodexho takes the hassle out of instrument repairs. There is a single point of contact for all instrument support needs and smarter working practices have reduced system downtime, simplified the process and improved regulatory compliance. There is increased visibility of service delivery reporting and consistent delivery of services across all GSK labs with dedicated staff who have developed a real understanding the customer’s needs. Equipment manufacturers tend to use a pool of engineers servicing many customers, and in the past this has meant that the client was unlikely to see the same engineer all the time.

This is an important consideration as Ives explains. “ Knowing that a team of engineers who understand our science, equipment and business are at hand and able to react quickly and appropriately to our issues really helps. This is both in a proactive way for planned services and highly reactive way for unplanned down time. This really helps us focus on what we do best – the science.”

Furthermore, manufacturers were often unwilling to take on more engineers unless the there was an increase in service quota or the number of instruments installed, and even then the employment of staff was slow and complex. By comparison, Sodexho now evaluates the business needs and employs engineers with expertise based on individual client requirements. Where Sodexho does sub-contract or escalate to the manufacturer, the offsite technician is hosted by Sodexho to the instrument, allowing the scientists to continue with his/her work. Sodexho also delivers services exactly to agreed service level agreements and not, as was previously common with manufacturers who over-sold needs to meet sales quota performance.

The new process ensures that the lab user spends less time on the telephone diagnosing the fault. An on-site labour and parts cache now ensures a fast response to calls. Each fault is attended to by an engineer within two hours or less and 80 per cent are fixed within four hours. This is a huge improvement on previous working and requires less equipment to be held in backup to cover downtime. There is also a managed schedule of maintenance services to meet compliance needs which in turn reduces risk of breakdown.

In addition to improving the everyday experience of equipment by lab users, the Sodexho solution has made massive strides in capital investment savings and consolidation. Using its independence from the manufacturers, Sodexho can advise GSK to invest in the instruments of their choice and receive a superior service without a hard sell from the manufacturer. Instrument lifecycle monitoring allows Sodexho to consider extended equipment usage beyond the manufacturers’ recommendation. This is often termed as ‘endof- life’ or ‘end-of-support’. Where possible Sodexho works with GSK to ensure an extended use of systems with corresponding reductions in costs, better budget management and environmental savings being made.

Sodexho’s expertise in consolidation of service support suppliers comes into play by reducing customers overall management costs, employing its Integrated Facilities Management tool to streamline administrative resources and develop the consignment stock model. It is now possible to identify and re-deploy existing surplus lab equipment assets via Sodexho Asset Management Team across the business resulting in reduced investment in instruments and sharing capital investment among various lab users.

Working with GSK has enabled Sodexho to develop a lab instrument support service which can be applied to any pharmaceutical, petrochemical or environmental laboratory where chromatography or automation systems are in use.

It is a collaborative approach between Sodexho, the client and the manufacturers which provides mutual benefit for all parties. Sodexho now has the expertise to provide a comprehensive multi-site lab instrument repair and service solution and is keen to continue to identify new services that would benefit its clients.

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