Procurement also has it's WTF moments


  • Discourse touched me in a no-no place

    I was talking to an acquaintance yesterday. He's a purchasing manager, and he told me of this little tale which happened recently. Apparently, they were organising a coordinated acquisition of a lot of expensive kit (electron microscopes, etc.) and so were having a big get together between the purchasing people and the various vendors who were interested in trying to supply this group. So far, so ordinary. (Far quicker to do this than to get every last damn supplier to come and listen to what you have to say in their own special meeting.)

    The WTF moment was when my acquaintance stood up and said that the criteria for selecting the supplier would be price and quality of product/support, because that got an immediate complaint from one of the suppliers that these were unfair and unreasonable criteria. Apparently this floored my acquaintance for a few seconds (a rare thing!) and then he responded “Well, what other criteria would you propose we use? Colour of logo? Number of ‘R’s in the month?”



  • I can't see why quality of product is necessary. I mean, how precise does an electron microscope have to be really?



  • So if the complaining supplier doesn't get the contract, and this is an official tender, he might feel the need to challenge the tender process in court, because making "quality" a criteria is clearly a discrimination against suplliers with poor quality.



  • I'm not seeing the rest of the story!


  • :belt_onion:

    @dhromed said:

    I'm not seeing the rest of the story!

    Agreed. Needs more Hanzo.


  • sockdevs

    And more Rings.


  • :belt_onion:

    @Arantor said:

    And more Rings.

    5 at least. More if we get really hungy.


    Filed under: Mmmm... Onions...



  • I recently had to buy new stuff for our Physics lab to the tune of 80,000€.

    Naturally, we were to get several quotations. Only problem: We had to get six(6) quotations and they had to be comparable.

    The problem with the first requirement: There are only 2 companies in Germany who have a complete set of Physics lab equipment (Phywe & Leybold).

    The problem with the 2nd requirement: "Comparable" meant "identical to the last detail". Which means that if Phywe offered a coil of 1 meter length with 400 windings and Leybold offered a coil of 1.2 meter length with 450 windings, the quotations wouldn't be comparable anymore. Even if they were functionally identical. (Just one example. In essence, even if both quotes allowed for the exact same experiments, about 90% of the stuff wouldn't be "comparable")


  • Discourse touched me in a no-no place

    @dhromed said:

    I'm not seeing the rest of the story!

    Yeah, well that's all I got as my train arrived and forestalled further discussion. The guy who told me was too busy laughing (and feeling glad that his response wasn't sexist, as the person from the supplier was female, not that that really adds anything to the story). I've got no idea who the dim supplier was.



  • I seem to remember hearing at my last job that we received an RFQ for something that was not really in our industry. We were told government regulations required them to get a quote from a certain number of vendors before they were allowed to actually contract anything. The problem being there were fewer known actual vendors than legally required, so they would send RFQs to random companies just to satisfy regulations.


  • :belt_onion:

    @dkf said:

    “Well, what other criteria would you propose we use? Colour of logo? Number of ‘R’s in the month?”

    I love your purchasing manager.



  • @Rhywden said:

    The problem with the 2nd requirement: "Comparable" meant "identical to the last detail". Which means that if Phywe offered a coil of 1 meter length with 400 windings and Leybold offered a coil of 1.2 meter length with 450 windings, the quotations wouldn't be comparable anymore. Even if they were functionally identical. (Just one example. In essence, even if both quotes allowed for the exact same experiments, about 90% of the stuff wouldn't be "comparable")

    You don't specify functional and performance requirements and evaluate based on that baseline? (Complies/does not comply).

    Because delving into implementation details at that stage, and discriminating based on them is literally insane (which is kinda what you're getting at).



  • Yep, its got electrons alright!



  • At one time, I wrote an proposal for a BMBF (government research funding society) project.
    We had to specifiy every last item, we wanted to use in the project, which was planned for three years and involved ten people.
    It was so much fun to guess how much money would be needed to buy books, pens or even wages. Even worse, it is impossible to change the "destination" afterwards, e.g. you have spend less on pens but you want to go to that conference, which was established in year 2? No luck, the money can only be used for pens.
    Project controlling is a great idea, but the german research funding system is redicolous.
    oh I forgot: We could not buy computers, because that should be done by the university. But the university had no money to do so - so we had to use ~10 year old computers with 15 crts....nice



  • Sounds like the waterfall budgeting model.

    Also, never mind that company X went out of business 2 months ago. The money must be paid to them anyway!


  • Grade A Premium Asshole

    @mott555 said:

    The problem being there were fewer known actual vendors than legally required, so they would send RFQs to random companies just to satisfy regulations.

    I have run in to something similar. I have had RFPs sent to me and when I respond, "I cannot bid this, we are too busy to get it done in a timely manner" I have had them get back to me and say something like, "Would you care to send me a high quote just so I can fulfill my quota on estimates?"

    This happens often enough that I have a spreadsheet just for it, and on one occasion we won the bid because others backed out. This is what silly procedural guidelines gets you.



  • @Intercourse said:

    on one occasion we won the bid because others backed out.

    Ouch. Hope it was something you guys kinda sorta actually knew how to do!


  • Grade A Premium Asshole

    @mott555 said:

    Ouch. Hope it was something you guys kinda sorta actually knew how to do!

    Yeah. It was early in the days of me starting the business and it was a network cabling job. I think we ended up doing it for ~$250/drop when an honest bid would have been more like ~$135/drop. At those prices, we got it done. ;)



  • Well, due to bureaucratic shenanigans we had to go through a different department. The "normal" department already had been bludgeoned into submission by science teachers from other schools. This department however didn't have the faintest of clues about the requirements for Physics and probably thought that it'd be the same as ordering a stack of printer paper or something.
    Luckily, my vice principal came to the rescue and told them in no uncertain terms that they were stupid. The requirements thusly shrank rapidly to the number one(1) - I mean, there are only two sources and we still had some older, partly repairable equipment from one vendor which made that particular one more cost-efficient.

    But, yes, functional and performance requirements would be a good idea - however, it's still a bit of a nightmare when you're talking about equipment for school Physics. Because one single set of equipment is usually good for a double-digit number of experiments. And I was buying 20+ of such sets :wink:
    Not to mention that the combination of sets is also possible and yields yet different experiment possibilities...


  • Discourse touched me in a no-no place

    @mratt said:

    Because delving into implementation details at that stage, and discriminating based on them is literally insane (which is kinda what you're getting at).

    Not to disagree, but sometimes it's even deliberate. The US Army is supposedly well-known for specifying RFQs so that the only company that can meet the requirements is the one they want. It's not quite "we need handguns that have a "G" on them", but close.


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