Who’s on your purchasing team

By Dan Hounsell  

HOW STRATEGIC ARE you when it comes to specifying and purchasing products and services? Do you approach the process with the same preparation and zeal with which you approach maintenance? Probably not, if you’re like many managers. But there’s a case to be made for taking a more strategic approach to the process.

The amount of money involved in purchasing products and services for maintenance departments is immense. And the potential impact of managers’ decisions on facility operations and the bottom line can be just as large.

But managers often struggle to devote enough time to purchasing decisions as they juggle their daily responsibilities.

That’s understandable. The process can seem overwhelming, given the number of service providers and manufacturers, the ever-evolving lineup of products and features, and the need for products ranging from run of the mill to the highest of the high-tech. No wonder managers struggle to develop a strategy for product specification.

But look at the process a different way. Traditionally, managers tend to get product information from a relatively small number of resources. While limiting the information gathered on a product, technology or service might streamline the process in the short term, what are the long-term costs? What if talking with just one more person resulted in purchasing a product with a longer performance life or lower life-cycle cost?

Maybe it would help to think of the process as a team effort instead of a solo venture. By bringing other people inside and outside the organization into the process, managers might not feel as though they have to do it all themselves.

Purchasing teams are nothing new. Purchasing departments have used them for years in an effort to manage the process more effectively, hold down costs, and make smarter purchasing decisions.

Starting the process involves answering one important question: Who’s on your purchasing team? Which members of your department, including front-line technicians, might have insights that can help you make better decisions?

Many managers also use peers in other organizations as sounding boards and sources of first-hand information. But could your network of peers expand to help you tap into new information?

Finally, consider the role manufacturers and service providers can play on your team. They don’t offer unbiased information, but they know the technology behind the product better than anyone.

The list could go on, but it’s your team. Make it work for you — and your department.

* * *

This issue of the Buyer’s Resource Guide features a few important changes designed to make it even more valuable when researching and specifying products. The opening page of each product section now features a brief update on news and trends related to the section’s products and technology. Accompanying the article is a list of related associations and essential resources, designed to provide further avenues for research.

Take a read through the issue and let me know what you think of the changes we’ve made, as well as suggestions for making the Buyer’s Resource Guide an even more valuable management tool.

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  posted on 5/1/2008   Article Use Policy

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