TSRI's Purchasing Services Gets the Goods

By Mika Ono

From pipettes to pens, from furniture to mass spectrometers, Purchasing Services helps bring The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI) the supplies, equipment, and services it needs to stay at the forefront of science.

"We work with approximately 160 user groups across campus," says Tom Gilmartin, director of Procurement, who manages Purchasing Services as well as Shipping and Receiving, Central Stores, and the Mail Room [which will be profiled at a later date]. "We purchase goods and services that ranging from office supplies to high-value capital equipment and scientific instrumentation."

Sandy Dierdorff, manager of Purchasing Services, adds, "I'd say only about 30 percent of our work is the type of thing that people first think of, like ordering supplies and equipment. The rest involves coordinating our efforts with those in other TSRI departments to manage large projects or moving people and equipment from one location to another."

Purchasing is currently playing a central role in equipping and furnishing the labs and offices at the new CarrAmerica Building at 3215 Merrifield Road, which will open later this year. Purchasing is responsible for moving laboratories and offices from other buildings on campus into the new location, moving laboratories from across the country into the building, and coordinating the delivery of supplies, furniture, and equipment with the construction schedule.

"Typically, we contact new, incoming investigators three to six months prior to their arrival at TSRI to discuss their purchasing-related needs and concerns," says Gilmartin. "What equipment will the lab bring to TSRI and what equipment needs to be purchased? Does this equipment require special utilities? Will the equipment fit in the space? Will it fit through the halls and entranceways during the move? We try to anticipate potential problems and to minimize them in coordination with Facilities and other TSRI departments."

Additional issues sometimes include deinstalling, moving, and re-calibrating delicate scientific equipment and long-distance shipping of refrigerated or frozen biological or chemical samples that may represent years of experimental work.

"Each lab is different," comments Gilmartin. "Whatever the lab's particular needs, we try to arrange for a smooth transition."

Timing is also key. Ideally, the equipment, furniture, and supplies arrive when the laboratory space is ready—not long before or after. "We place some orders two to three months ahead of delivery," notes Dierdorff. "The hard part is that the actual delivery date is often a moving target. Construction timelines may change or delivery from the vendor may be uncertain."

Throughout this process, Purchasing works closely with the Office of Sponsored Programs to prepare purchase requisitions in accordance with grant requirements, Research Computing to ensure that appropriate computer equipment is ordered, Facilities Planning and Construction to make sure that the facility's design supports the utility requirements of the equipment, Shipping and Receiving (also part of the Procurement Department) to bring equipment and supplies to their final destinations, and Accounts Payable to pay suppliers.

Puchasing also works with an array of outside vendors. "In addition to finding competent vendors to get the job done, we are looking to reduce the institute's liability while work is being done on the TSRI campus," notes Gilmartin. "Issues such as vendor insurance coverage and contract terms may become important over the long-term."

"We have a great group," continues Gilmartin, who, like many of his staff, is a long-time employee having worked at TSRI for 21 years. "But we don't function as an island. The Purchasing group's efforts are coordinated with those of many other support service departments at TSRI. We work together with the common goal of facilitating the scientific work being carried out at TSRI."


Director of Procurement Tom Gilmartin and Purchasing Services Manager Sandy Dierdorff are two of the long-time employees in the group. Gilmartin has been with TSRI for 21 years; Dierdorff, for 29. Photo by Biomedical Graphics.