AstraZeneca's buyers win 'hearts and minds'

7 March 2012

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7 March 2012 | Angeline Albert

Winning the hearts and minds of scientists was the reason a contract to outsource lab supplies services added value, a senior purchaser at AstraZeneca has said. 

The pharmaceutical company’s global category manager, lab supplies, Tom Dexter yesterday told an audience of buyers at eWorld Purchasing & Supply, that a clear communication strategy devised early on and delivered to the organisation’s 10,000 scientists resulted in their compliance when it came to using laboratory supplier VWR.

Speaking at London’s Queen Elizabeth II Conference Centre, Dexter said road shows and other communications work ahead of the contract going live on 1 April 2010, made an impact. Six weeks after the contract’s start date, 90 per cent of the companies’ end user base of scientists were using VWR, instead of alternative suppliers or doing the work themselves.        

Dexter said: “We freed up scientists to do science. VWR looked after the calibration of laboratory equipment, when previously scientists had been doing this. It’s important that buyers focus on delivering the right message early on and win the hearts and minds of end users.”

AstraZeneca spends $18 million (£11.4 million) a year globally on consumables for laboratories, which includes pipettes and glassware. Dexter said the cost saving from using VWR in the first year of implementation was $3.5 million (£2.2 million). 

Dexter said standardisation is a current focus for the company. He said: “We have one site with 143 different types of pipette tips which essentially do the same thing. We are currently in the process of standardising this to reduce the level of choice to five to 10 different tip types, which we found still meets scientists’ needs.”

He added: “There is value to be had in procurement not just ticking boxes but maintaining stakeholder relations post implementation. This means talking to stakeholders to find out what they want and ensuring suppliers deliver what they promised to avoid a contract going stale after one or two years.” 

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