Daily Archives: March 9, 2015

Just what is “Best Value”?

In a recent edition of Purchasing Tips over on Next Level Purchasing, Charles Dominick asked What is Best Value Procurement? In the article, he notes that many people use the term “best value procurement” to describe purchasing decisions where factors other than price are used in determining the supplier and/or product to select for purchase and states that he believes that this is “weighted average supplier/product scarring”, which it is.

In his view, value should be measurable in financial terms and expressed in units of currency. I tend to agree, but there are issues with trying to assign a(n exact) hard dollar revenue increase or cost decrease to an event that has not yet happened.

In his illustrative example of choosing between machine A and machine B to automate a production line and reduce the labour needed to keep it running (in an effort to, hopefully, allow the organization to either redeploy the personnel on higher-value tasks or, if not possible, replace those jobs with jobs that could generate more value for the organization down the road), it seems cut-and-dry. Just compute the value-to-cost ratio (where the value, as defined by the estimated labour savings, is divided by the cost of the new machine, which should include purchase, installation, and additional maintenance costs over the expected lifetime). In this case, one machine will generate a higher value-to-cost ratio and that is the machine you should purchase for the organization.

Assuming, of course, that you are sure the machine will have the indicated lifespan and will be useful to you for that lifespan. For example, what happens if you stop making the product in three years but your value calculations are for five years, the expected lifetime of the machine. The value-to-cost calculations will still rank the machines in relative order (as only the value changes), but the return might not look so enticing. And what about the situation where you can instead lease one of the machines from a third party (instead of buying it) and, because that machine in particular is made to a higher quality standard, get an annual lease that is only 1/10th, and not 1/5th, of the purchase cost? In this situation, a machine that cost twice as much would not only have the same value-to-cost ratio but, if you had to sell the machine you bought after three years, the leased machine would have a higher value-to-cost ratio since you’d likely not get the full undepreciated book value for the machine you bought.

And this is just a “best value” calculation on a simple piece of machinery. Consider the difficulty when trying to compute a “best value” on a technology platform purchase, where such platform is intended to improve your sourcing, procurement, supplier relationship management, or similar supply management process. It’s not just up-front cost. It’s implementation. It’s maintenance. It’s operational manpower savings on tactical tasks. It’s efficiency improvements (which have a value in terms of more events or throughput, which translates into generated value) and it’s additional cost reductions identified through the platform (which can be estimated based on benchmarks, but not predicted). How do you do that “best value” calculation? What number do you use? Do you compute a range and use the middle? Do you identify all platforms with a minimum acceptable value-to-cost ratio in terms of guaranteed hard-dollar savings and then select the best-value using the platform with the maximum value-to-cost potential?

There are no easy answers and costs alone don’t always tell the whole story.