Buying vs. Shopping

Everybody knows that without a formal and principled buying process, you may as well just call yourself a shopper.  If you check books, there are many different processes that all promise optimal results.  Most of these processes start with understanding the requirement, but they are wrong.   I believe the first step to a successful buying process is to challenge the requirement. Have you ever had this scenario happen?   R&D asks you to source a chemical they absolutely must have tomorrow.  And they only approve of one manufacturer and one specification. Or if you work at a CMO, have you tried to please the client’s preference for material quality and price point, but the only supplier that fits that category has regular stock-outs? In times like these I’m always tempted to take a short-cut and jump into negotiations with the supplier.  However, I’ve found great value in beginning these projects with a challenge to the requirement, or a challenge to the status quo.   To be more thorough than just asking additional questions,  I demand a demonstration.  For example, my challenge may include:
  1. Show me the materials originally sampled and the results of the trials.
  2. Show me the emails to or the list suppliers originally contacted and their replies.
  3. Show me the last time a new supplier or material was tested and the results.
I follow up by researching and asking:
  1. Did the required unique characteristic of the specification improve form, fit or function beyond the competitor materials?  How much improved was it?
  2. Why were some suppliers excluded and others included?
  3. When was the last time the incumbent was challenged to provide competitive pricing and service levels?
Each of these challenges is meant to uncover the assumptions.  I make an assumption myself and I’m usually right:  the original requirement was assumed to be the best at the time but has not been updated for years.  Sometimes the detail received back and my follow-up questions from any one of these challenges has altered, even reversed the original requirements.  In many cases, additional efficiencies, better quality, and savings was ultimately realized. Over the years I’ve learned “politically correct” ways to deliver these challenges, and find the time to conduct them.  I wish there was a book about that on!  I’d love to find a easier way, but if it was easy, well then it would just be shopping!   Penny Grant, C.P.S.M. Sr. Category Manager, Direct Materials N.A. DPx Holdings B.V. Corprate Procurement Dept. 4307 Emperor Blvd.  Ste. 140 Durham, NC  27703 Office Phone:  919/226-3207 Mobile Phone:  919/280-5956 SkypeID:  Penny.Grant9