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Imagine being responsible for purchasing at CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research, with its Large Hadron Collider, an underground 27-kilometre ring of superconducting magnets, in which two high-energy particle beams travel at close to the speed of light before they are made to collide.
This not involves sourcing specialist scientific products, many of which don’t exist ‘off the shelf’, but also working to tight deadlines and even tighter financial constraints and it is the suppliers who cause the biggest headaches.
Welcome to the world of Thierry Lagrange, head of finance, procurement and knowledge transfer at CERN.
When one supplier was asked to price for one particular prototype, it came out so far below other quotes that the strategy the team had employed to find suppliers was thrown out the window.
So the supplier was contracted but it soon became clear that this particular supplier wasn’t all it was cracked up to be.
The team discovered that everything was being subcontracted out, even the contract itself. Worse than that, the supplier changed a key material of one of the products it was contracted to build, but it was discovered that this didn’t actually work and had to be dismantled after it had been installed.
Costs rocketed, just what the team had been looking to avoid.
Lagrange’s advice? Make sure you have inspectors.