For Manufacturers Only
Right to Reply
By Richard Rowe
As expected, our April column looking at the theme of "Coping with Price Pressures" caused quite a stir. You may remember that a guest writer presented his view of why the buyer/seller interface has broken down in the past and offered one or two possible solutions. The column generated its fair share of phone calls and several excellent written responses. You will find two of the latter below--one representing an airline point of view, and one from the vendor side of the fence.
I have just read the article, "For Manufacturers
Only: Coping with Price Pressures" in the April issue, and I was most pleased
that someone else had the same beliefs as I. Having been directly involved with
GSE at Air Canada for the last 33 years--21 with GSE specifications and evaluations
and prior to that, GSE maintenance--I wholeheartedly support the views and recommendations.
GSE acquisitions and evaluations cannot be made in isolation. The choice must have the involvement of all the involved parties--the user, maintainer, engineering, purchasing and, of course, at the appropriate time, the vendor(s). To this end, these participants (excluding the vendors) were part of Air Canada’s GSE Steering Committee of which I was Chair for the last 18 years.
First, the user must know the basics of what it wants or wishes for to meet its operational requirements. Then, the maintainer must share its data and experience re unit quality, reliability and vendor support, and the impact new equipment and/or vendors might have on their operations.
Then there is engineering, which should concentrate on the technical specifications. I was responsible for this element and over the years changed the venue as it became obvious from the early days that you could not specify a Ford and expect GM to properly quote or build it.
It was also obvious that some vendors either didn't read,
or indeed misread, those multi page documents. I can recall one of which was
42 pages long specifying the requirements for a 400 Hz, 90 kVA GPU.
Those were the days when there was a large staff (more workers than work) in the department that with time became diluted to one.
Obviously, reduced resources dictated change. In the last few years I had, in most cases, condensed the technical requirements for GSE to a single page document. Why be long winded if the prior situation was indeed fact? The proviso being that quoting vendors must submit their specifications and their available options with their quotations. I would certainly read and question the same.
The Purchaser must solicit the quotations and be aware of all potential vendors, negotiate the best price, terms, delivery, and action the legalities of the acquisitions based on the directions of what we referred to
as the Ordering Information. This sheet, prepared by the Steering Committee Chair, was based on the input of the participants, referenced our initial requirements, the vendors quotation and specifications and the agreed to variances. Most importantly it stated the exact vendor, model and required options. If, for some reason, the criteria could not be met then it was back to the committee and another Ordering Info was prepared.
During the selection process and when deemed appropriate, Steering Committee participants, and/or their delegates, participated in factory visits to see first hand the vendor's product, their facilities and support capabilities. I've had many surprises, both positive and negative, regarding what I had initially perceived or had been led to believe.
Such visits were of great benefit through the resulting "buy in" and/or support of the participants. Unfortunately there have been disappointments but they have been the exception and we all learn accordingly.
My involvement with IATA in the 900 section of the Ground Handling Manual and the SAE with AGE 2C committees exposed me in part to the various workings of other airlines, and I was able to build on that knowledge.
Yes, price is and always will be a major part of the acquisition equation, but when the prescribed process has been followed the best decision can be made and be defendable.
Of course, and it does happen, the product deemed the best can also be the least expensive. You can imagine then the great sigh of relief.