End the practice of awarding business solely on the basis of price tag. Instead require meaningful measures of quality along with price. Reduce the number of suppliers for the same item by eliminating those that do not qualify with statistical and other evidence of quality. The aim is to minimize total cost, not merely initial cost, by minimizing variation. This may be achieved by moving toward a single supplier for any one item, on a long term relationship of loyalty and trust. Purchasing managers have a new job, and must learn it.
Dr. W Edward Deming
We all do it. We go to a grocery store and will but the item that costs a few pennies less. Our perception is “they’re all the same”, but are they?
A very long time ago, before generics dominated the market, a major pharmaceutical manufacturer hired me as an engineer. Generics dominated conversations. Should they be allowed to replace brand name products? A well respected television news program did a segment on the subject. They stood in front of our plant, held up a generic pill and made the statement the pill was the same as anything made in our plant, the only difference was our pill cost a dollar and the generic cost a dime. What they didn’t know, or didn’t say, was our pills held the effective ingredient content to plus or minus 1% while the generic held the effective ingredient to plus or minus 25%. Generics took over the market and now if you want a name brand product, the doctor must write the prescription as “no substitutes” and some pharmacies will try very hard to get the patient to allow them to substitute. They insist, generics are exactly the same as name brands, they just cost less.
We look at suppliers the same way. They have to be the lowest price item coming through the door or we won’t buy. The companies that do research and could give us the next breakthrough product are competing with off-shore elements that copy the researching facilities products in violation of patent and copyright laws. And we support the theft by purchasing the cheapest initial product.
A bolt manufacturer can produce excellent product that never needs sorting or inspection. It goes direct to the lines and never causes a problem. A new supplier comes in a fraction of a cent cheaper in initial cost and we jump on the deal. Of course every tenth bolt has damaged threads and can’t be used but we buy from them and pat the purchasing agent on the back for our great savings.
How do we turn this around?
Look at your suppliers. When you go to evaluate the cost, look who helped you solve a problem with an innovative idea. Put a dollar figure to the increased sales or saved customer sales. Adjust the purchase price to reflect what the supplier did for you. Go talk to the line workers and look at the supplier costs on the cost of quality report. Adjust the supplier price accordingly. Point out to all the companies making an effort to quote how this information impacted your purchasing decision. Word will get around. Your suppliers will be watching what they do and looking to help you build your business and how can you beat that?