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Purchaneering: Because Marketecture Grew Stale

Bridging a gap that is 25 years wide is like pulling a pick-up truck to the Grand Canyon with a bed full of lumber and a fistful of nails.

by David Mantey, Editor, PD&D


“Marketecture” never caught on with this editor — regardless of alleged shilling. I saw little reason to refer to marketing innovation as anything more provocative than innovative marketing. However, Tim Thomas, CEO of PartSolutions, has coined a term that I potentially could get on board with.


Purchasing and engineering are two silos of a company’s infrastructure. Engineering specifies a part, and it’s hucked over the wall to purchasing, which sources the part. Easy, right? Well, what happens when some user puts an old part number on the component and no vendor can be found for it? Enter “purchaneering,” and the associated gasps of shock and awe coupled with a dramatic 1950s radio show faint.


Thomas is trying to create strategic supplier initiatives in which purchasing and engineering work harmoniously to try and figure out which suppliers the company has traditionally used; how the company can mitigate or reduce its current number of suppliers; and which suppliers have negotiated purchasing agreements with the company. With Thomas’ solution, engineering can only specify from these particular part numbers. Consider the metaphorical wall between the two departments torn down.


“Purchasing goes off and implements a great ERP system that engineering isn’t tied into because they are using a PLM system, and there is strife within the organization because everybody has built their processes around their tools of choice,” says Thomas. “We’re trying to bridge that gap.”


But Thomas is bridging a gap that is 25 years wide; it’s the equivalent of pulling a pick-up truck to the Grand Canyon with a bed full of lumber and a fistful of nails.


“Why wouldn’t you want a better way to have your suppliers validate component models and make sure that their attributes are kept up-to-date in real time, in a subscription fashion?” Thomas asked.


As part of Thomas’ 3D-part management technology, companies subscribe to specific approved catalogs, and the vendor would notify the customer of any changes or obsoletions, in real-time.


With the solution, purchasing is already dovetailed into the equation when a design engineer specifies a component. The purchaser knows where to buy, has a negotiated purchase agreement, and the design engineer can have the part in a number of days.


“Purchasers generally don’t have a technical background,” says Thomas. “It’s not a stereotype; it’s what we see in general. They are business folks who know how to negotiate contracts and work with vendors.”


According to Thomas, PartSolutions is an overlapping technology that bolts on to PLM, ERP, and CAD infrastructure in a low IT-intensive way in which the content is running parallel to the current environments.


“Many of the PLM systems now have attribute and geometrics searching. We have our own component technology that operates outside of the PLM box to find parts quickly for design reuse and control,” says Thomas. “When the design engineer needs a part, they find it, export it into CAD, and a unique sku goes into the PLM system to be managed from a workflow perspective. Rather than have this pre-populated database that can become unwieldy — and unusable to the point in which users do whatever they can to circumvent that tool — we try to make a more harmonic application that’s not propagating terabytes of data.”


Purchasing departments are slowly adapting to the fact that they would like to have better control on engineering in a “harmonious” way.


“The challenge is that [purchasers] are trying to overcome the technical fear that they are not going to be able to use a tool, such as a 3D model. Purchasers don’t need interfaces to CAD systems, they probably can’t spell CAD,” says Thomas. “We’ve put in technology that is like an Etch-a-Sketch – a little 2D sketcher that can find 3D parts. They don’t need an engineering degree to figure this out.”


Purchaneering. I’m not sold on the term, but the solution perks my interest. The challenge is placing these tools in the hands of purchasing agents at an applicable comfort level — and fending off the ones slighted by the knock on his or her spelling abilities.


Noteworthy solution or one more marketing amalgamation to toss on the never-ending heap? Email me at [email protected].