PlanDomino keeps pharma labs healthy and efficient

15 Jul 2019

Image: Greg Heaslip/PlanDomino

Our Start-up of the Week is PlanDomino, a resource and workflow management tool designed for pharmaceutical laboratories that aims to boost productivity.

With 27 years of business experience and a significant amount of time working with a large European consulting group’s pharmaceutical and labs practice under his belt, it’s only natural that Dr Greg Heaslip combined his two areas of expertise to found PlanDomino.

PlanDomino is a resource and workflow management tool for pharmaceutical laboratories that boosts productivity and gives end-to-end visibility of samples as they pass through the lab.

PlanDomino estimates that its service can reduce implementation time (compared to paper-based solutions) by 95pc, improve availability of laboratory process metrics by 90pc and reduce time tracking samples by 80pc.

CEO Heaslip, who has a PhD in engineering, told, “PlanDomino services global pharmaceutical manufacturing companies.

“Raw material, QC and microbiology laboratories cause a sizeable bottleneck at the beginning and end of the process of manufacturing pharmaceutical products. PlanDomino improves the overall performance of these labs and also aligns them with plant operations by connecting to production scheduling and supply chain.”

What makes PlanDomino stand out from other services is its scheduling algorithm. Heaslip said: “Pharma manufacturing laboratories are extremely complex and volatile work environments. Our ‘secret sauce’ is our scheduling algorithm that always ensures that the most important work is prioritised. Part of this challenge has been to develop a dynamic system that can handle the rapidly changing environment.”

The goal

The ultimate goal is to transform the way laboratories operate as a business unit. “Most laboratories operate as a silo, where samples are delivered and results or certificates are produced within an agreed lead time. Labs are measured on their adherence to these lead times and so they drive the goals and behaviours of the lab,” explained Heaslip.

“We want to change this to a prioritisation regime that matches the overall organisation’s needs. For example, most raw materials testing should be prioritised based on the requirements of production, not on agreed lead times. We integrate with SAP or whatever ERP system is on site to ensure that this is the case.

“Likewise, for our finished project, testing priority should be based on what needs to ship next and not on an arbitrary lead time. By connecting to logistics and supply chain we can make this happen and have a big impact on pharma manufacturing.”

The future

PlanDomino is coming to the end of its first pilot scheme and Heaslip says that the business side of things has been going extremely well so far. From operations so far, he said, “We can see that PlanDomino is having a big impact and will hopefully result in our first global roll-out for a tier-one pharmaceutical manufacturer.”

There are a number of other global pharmaceutical brands looking at PlanDomino’s pilot schemes at present and, while deployment is slower than hoped, the company is ultimately glad that it invested the time in listening to the client’s needs. As Heaslip put it, “We think it will pay off in the long term.”

PlanDomino has received funding and assistance from NDRC, Enterprise Ireland and Horizon 2020 already, and attracting further investment isn’t a huge priority right now. “We could be in the enviable position where clients will fund the business from here on in,” Heaslip told


Heaslip said that if he could impart one bit of wisdom on self-starters based in Ireland at the moment, it would be to own their niche.

He explained: “It is tempting to expand your offering to a larger market at the start, but this approach will drag you and your team in many different directions.

“When we started out, we thought we could service all types of laboratories and we struggled. Now we are 100pc focused on pharmaceutical manufacturing testing laboratories. Not long from now, we will own this market because we are listening to them and we are designing PlanDomino to meet their specific needs.”

It’s only when PlanDomino proves that it can deliver for this market that the company will expand its offerings to other laboratories or functions within the pharmaceutical industry.

As far as tools go, PlanDomino’s team use a combination of Trello and Jira to manage challenges and goals that they set out, such as agile development cycles and two-week sprints. PlanDomino also uses the ‘design thinking methodology’, with the help of a social scientist who helps the start-up run structured focus groups with users and buyers to gather feedback on the service.

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Kelly Earley was a journalist with Silicon Republic