Chalk One Up for Process

In one of my jobs as a raw materials buyer for a cGMP culture media manufacturer, I was tasked to purchase a particular chemical compound that, historically, was cost prohibitive.  Because it was the only vendor that carried this product, I didn’t have a negotiating leg to stand on, except to buy in bulk, which was not feasible.  Matters worse was that due to this material cost, our client, a non-profit hospital could not afford the expensive cultured media plate.  
I sent blind inquiries on the Internet, and to my surprise, one vendor, an out-of-country company, responded and introduced a range of products, one, of which, matched this particular compound and CAS. I asked for a price list to include landed cost.  An hour later, I received his list that was not only competitive but with prices surprisingly low.

I followed the company's QMS procedure to approve the supplier.  In the meantime, I ordered a small sample to test in one of our batches.  The supplier package came in complete with a Quality Manual, ISO Certificate, shipping policies, insurance documents and so forth.  The quality department reviewed the documents and approved the vendor as “preferred.”

The quality control department tested the small batch and said the product passed within acceptable limits.  I notified the high costing vendor that I’ll be placing future orders elsewhere.  Immediately, he asked what he could do to win our business back.  I told him he could start by dropping his prices.  He asked how much lower.  I told him to submit his best price, not revealing what I paid from his competitor.

Weeks later, a full order was received from the secondary vendor. 

Unfortunately, we used the compound in a large batch run, and, to my dismay, it failed.

Quality assurance tested the material and included the main ingredient I purchased from the secondary vendor, and it passed.  How and why it failed, it didn’t make sense. 

At this time, fortunately, I had enough inventory from the first and expensive vendor to re-run the batch, this time passing with no glitches.

In the final Root Cause Analysis (RCA), the QA Director decided that the material from the secondary and less expensive vendor, through equal on all regards, was to blame, and I was instructed to order from the initial vendor despite the cost.

Bottom line, we could not afford scrapping batch runs, in this case about 20,000 plates.

So with tail between my legs, I called vendor number one to make a replacement order. Minutes before I picked up the phone, I received an email with an attachment showing a modified price list, values as low as his competitor.


There is a saying, “if you don’t buy a lottery ticket, you'll never win.” 

Take it to the next level: if you do not continually work to improve, you'll never get a chance to receive.  

It might not be the winning lottery ticket, but it chalked one up for the process.

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