Do you, like me, ever get annoyed by those pesky, over used buzz words or phrases? “…on the same page”, “Think outside the box”, and “Core Competencies” come to mind. One that I frequently see rearing its syllables is “Robust”; i.e. a robust system, design, or part. In aviation we love and need specificity, and the use of that over-used term begs for definition when used…but it seldom is, thus the annoyance. So, just how robust is your Purchase Order system?
Among part suppliers such as distributors, a persistent root cause contributor of rejected parts by customers is failure to have listed known special requirements on the Purchase Order, and we’re not speaking about standard Terms and Conditions. Here’s a perfect example: You know that your customer will only accept Shelf-Life limited parts with a minimum of 85% Shelf Life remaining. You contact a supplier who assures you all their parts in stock meet that requirement. Thus assured, you issue a PO, and two weeks later the parts arrive. Your Receiving Inspector then, of course pulls up the PO information, and other than the boilerplate Terms and Conditions, see’s there is only quantity and part number information to cross check. The Inspector then completes the visual check of the parts and serviceability documentation, and satisfied, proceeds to ship the parts to the customer who promptly rejects them because there is less than 85% remaining shelf life. The Inspector did not know to check for this because the person issuing the PO did not take the time to enter this information.
To the best of your knowledge, this is the only customer you have with this peculiar requirement, and then it only applies to those instances when they purchase Shelf-Life Limited parts. So why didn’t the person issuing the PO put this requirement in? After all, the system has the capability to enter free text if needed. No doubt those of you with accredited or certified quality systems already have procedures which require the purchaser to list such special requirements on the PO. Published procedures aside, here are the three primary reasons to list those peculiar requirements on your PO:
- Once on the PO, your Receiving Inspector will check for its presence (giving you peace of mind)
- Your supplier’s shipping inspector should be checking for compliance before sending it to you
- In case your supplier does not comply with what was supplied, you have a basis for contractual remedy
Unquestionably, when Purchasing Organisations start to consistently adhere to this requirement, there is a corresponding drop in customer rejects. Unfortunately, when root cause analysis is performed on customer rejects, this causal factor is frequently overlooked or hid by the offending party. If your organization is prone to “round up the usual suspects” behavior rather than sincere root cause analysis, the lowly supplier will get the blame. There, I said it and I meant it.
Some of the customer special requirements I frequently observe being overlooked on PO’s include this short list:
- Peculiar acceptable Trace requirements such as trace to certain types of airlines or repair stations
- Acceptable serviceability documentation
- Paint, color, build configurations, and finish
- Required Service Bulletins
As I write this and sip my robust- tasting coffee (supposedly meaning full-bodied, but I don’t know what that means either), I want to comment on your boilerplate PO language, variously called Terms and Conditions. There is the temptation to add such rare requirements (such as the 85% shelf life example) to every PO just to forget about the detail. The problem with that is you’ll eventually end up having a 5 page PO with 4 point font language no one reads; you dilute its effectiveness.
So, just how robust (meaning vigorous; meaning energetically performed) is your system? Can you enter this information as free text, or perhaps pull-down descriptors? Those all require manual intervention and discipline, the lack of which leads me to pen this blog. The best solution is one where every customer requirement is seamlessly (there’s another one of those overused terms) integrated and reflected on PO’s for parts destined to that customer. This solution requires a higher level of automation and the discipline to exhaustively put in the details and keep up with revisions so your purchasing does not have to.
If you’re the purchasing person, hopefully no one knows your customer like you do. Take the time to put in those known unique special requirements; make them conspicuous on your PO.
In corporations where a sales person deals with the customer and a separate person does the purchasing for that customer, hopefully there is no disconnect in transmitting the special requirement to the purchaser for inclusion on the PO. Hmmmm…
I know many of you have developed best practices or have great software programs to mitigate these occurrences. If so, feel free to leave a comment on this blog site. You can do anonymously if desired.
By the way, I prefer Arabica bean coffee over robusta (meaning Coffea canephora) beans.
Over ‘n out
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