In Part I, we discussed how BravoSolution, realizing the limitations in their original, ground-breaking business center solution, enhanced the solution to be a complete solution for certain verticals that have standardized, predictable workflow-driven processes at the heart of their categories. We discussed how they transformed a solution that was a complete category management solution for nine (9) somewhat disparate categories, to a complete vertical solution for five different verticals (with more coming in the future) that was based on the collective decades of experience of their global sourcing team (working out of ten offices in four continents) in those verticals.
MRO, short for Maintenance, Repair and Operations, is a vertical that’s almost tailor-made for a business center solution. Even though, as a category, it is one of the broadest categories imaginable as it has to deal with whatever is required to keep any and all electrical, mechanical, hydraulic, telecommunication, or other physical system operating at normal levels — be it a production line, telecommunication backbone, power center, water plant, ventilation system, or office building — from both an (emergency) repair perspective and preventative maintenance perspective. As a result, depending on the company in question, the category could include just about any product or service under the sun. However, unlike CPG categories, the organization is generally not sourcing in volume and not looking for production capabilities, innovation capabilities, partnerships, or other value-adds that are required for success in those CPG categories.
As a result, MRO success often depends not on identifying the supplier who can give you the best price at the best service level on a part, but on identifying the supplier who can give you the best average price at the best average service level over a large market basket of parts, or the supplier who can bundle the services associated with installing a related market basket of parts (as part of preventative maintenance) at a competitive rate (which not only reduces the direct costs of having to deal with two different suppliers for parts and services, but the indirect administration and communication costs).
In addition, MRO suppliers tend to quote differently than volume-based manufacturing production facilities. Manufacturers will often quote based on production tiers, or give flat discounts or rebates based on production volumes for a single product, whereas MRO providers provide list pricing, and then quote discounts based on total dollar commitments across a market basket (as individual volumes for most categories aren’t enough to merit much of a discount).
Other complexities with MRO revolve around the sheer amount of data that needs to be captured, the creation of the right market basets, defining the qualitative metrics to appropriately capture the service levels of interest, defining the equations that appropriately trade off cost vs. quality vs. service level, and defining the cost drivers for the high-priced categories that will define when costs can change in a multi-year contract.
At a large MRO company, there will be thousands of products and services that need to be quoted from dozens, if not hundreds, of suppliers. Just creating all of the required data sheets that need to be distributed to the suppliers will be a challenge, breaking them down into baskets, sub-baskets, or items with alternate specifications for the sub-set of suppliers who will only bid on a sub-set of the RFX a nightmare. For some categories, service metrics are more important than cost. For example, if an automotive production line goes down, that can cost a large automotive manufacturer seven figures a day. In this case, spending an extra $10 an hour for a service provider with a guaranteed on-site service time of 4 hours vs 8 hours is a no-brainer. Even if their cost is substantially lower, service providers who cannot guarantee a required response time can not be considered for an award in some categories. In other categories, service levels, while important, can be traded off against cost. Consider warranty repairs. A five day turnaround vs. a seven day turnaround for a returned consumer item makes very little difference to a consumer that is out of a provided product for almost a week anyway, and trade-offs can be made in cost and service level. However, these trade-offs need to be evaluated in an appropriately defined equation. While a five day vs. seven day turnaround is almost equal, a five day vs. a twenty-one day is not. Unless the twenty-one day repair cost was high double-digit percentage cheaper than the five day, an organization wouldn’t risk the customer animosity that could result. And, in some categories, costs are driven by market conditions. If the service provider is supplying mostly steel parts (of 50% or more purity) that it has to source every year, and the steel index rises 10%, then the supplier will have to raise its prices (by at least 5%) to break even. Such a supplier cannot enter into a multi-year contract and give you it’s absolute best price today unless there is a cost-correction built-into the pricing model (as it would have to eat the loss otherwise).
In other words, the MRO category has some unique peculiarities that can make using a traditional sourcing solution a royal pain in the backside as the huge amount of set-up alone can be daunting. And if the solution doesn’t allow at least some of the work to be templated and re-used, the buyers will soon revert to the classic three-bids-and-a-buy through an auction just to “git-r-done“. But with BravoSolution’s Business Center, the basic templates are ready to go and once an organization uploads its item list, market baskets, list pricing for each supplier (and current / previous bid discounts), and current contracts; defines it’s service level equations and cost-vs-service level trade-offs; and defines its bidding guidelines and key milestones, a basic event is ready to go — and incumbent suppliers don’t even have to provide a price list (if the current price list in the system is still accurate), just their discounts for being awarded certain market baskets or dollar levels. In tomorrow’s post, we will dive into the BravoSolution MRO Business Center.