Friday, July 22, 2005

More on LANL Procurement System

From the 7/22/2005 LANL NewsBulletin Letters to the Editor Section:

Purchasing process

Albert Jiron completely missed, or ignored, the point that Steve Ashworth made in his recent letter to the Reader's Forum.

Jiron's July 7 letter says:

Over the last several months, statistics show that almost 90 percent of all purchase requests (PRs) are incomplete when received by SUP procurement. A review of the data and direct discussions with requesters shows that a large number of requesters are not aware of institutionally imposed requirements that must accompany a purchase request.

When 90 percent of purchase requests submitted by thousands of intelligent, competent people are incomplete, it says that there is something profoundly wrong with the purchasing process. Perhaps some form of training will help, but I suspect that dedicating FTE's to this is not the answer.

I suggest that if the procurement process, instructions, forms, etc. were clear and concise, these same "requesters" should be able to get it right at least 90 percent of the time. Rather than devote time and resources to training people to use a complicated and convoluted system with partially hidden requirements and poorly communicated rules, SUP should be devoting those resources to attacking the process.

--Bruce McReynolds


Response to purchasing process

In a July 20 letter to the Reader’s Forum, Bruce McReynolds highlights exactly the type of issues we are investigating and fixing as we endeavor to improve procurement. As I stated in my previous letter, “Supply Chain Management (SUP) Division readily acknowledges that we have weaknesses in our procurement processes. We are in the process of mitigating identified weaknesses …” Indeed, we currently are determining how best to improve and streamline numerous aspects of our processes, including instructions, forms, etc. like McReynolds mentioned.

But there is another crucial aspect to improvement. As pointed out in my July 8 master management memo, “A review of the data and direct discussions with requesters shows that a large number of requesters are not aware of institutionally imposed requirements that must accompany a [purchase request].” Because of the nature of Laboratory operations, we are obliged to build complexities and requirements from multiple sources into our purchasing systems. These complexities probably never will be reduced to a merely rote process.

However, systems improvements coupled with training are an effective, cost-efficient way to rectify procurement difficulties arising from a misunderstanding of institutionally imposed requirements. It is important to note that the target audience for training is designated individuals within organizations who have been or will be assigned specific authority to generate purchase requests. We do not intend to bog down bench scientists with training that they might not benefit from.

We are taking a systems approach to improving procurement. That means we are focusing on improving our processes, such as simplifying paperwork and instructions, enhancing requester awareness of institutionally imposed requirements through training, and improving the efficiency and effectiveness of procurement staff, among other improvements.

These improvements, when taken in the aggregate, will help improve our acquisition capabilities and reduce our acquisition costs. Reduced costs can mean more available funding for programs, while improved acquisition capabilities can mean fewer delays to programmatic work. I believe these are outcomes we can all support.

--Albert Jiron, acting Supply Chain Management (SUP) Division leader

Bruce McReynolds has it right. If the procurement process is sufficiently complex that 90% of procurements have errors and people need training to use it, then there is something wrong with the procurement process. If the procurement managers (SUP DL, GLs, etc) cannot come up with a better process, then we should get new managers. It really does not have to be this complex! Maybe we should bring back Bretzke?
This is the sort of BS that NNSA is disgusted with. Remember "Best commercial practices?" That's why we need LM/UT.
Give it up Jiron. Go back to being a chief of staff!
Bring back Bretzke. There was a perfectly excellent DDL by the name of Edward Lundeen. He didn't even last a year!
Actually it is best business practices. It is unfortunate, but LANL can no longer be run like a University campus, and must be run, and held accountable, like a business.
Was it also "best practice" for the ENTIRE procurement department to take off last Friday for picnicing???
...what do you mean last Friday? They're always out to lunch.
I went by Urban Park during last Friday's SUP summer picnic. It was truly
amazing. They seemed to have hired a professional DJ to run the show!
I've never seen ANY other lab division put on a shin-dig like this one.
Constant lottery prizes where being announced throughout the event. What
did this "Las-Vegas style" shin-dig cost the lab? Anyone know. From the
looks of it, I'd guess the costs must have been quite high.

I wish my division had the money to treat our staff in this luxury fashion.
All we get are hamburgers, hot-dogs, and face time with our managers. What's
on tap for next year, SUP? A summer cruise to the Caribbean? I hope the
auditors take a close look at just what this Friday extravaganza cost.
Several years ago, when funding was tight, you couldn't get a new PC
in my tech group unless you had your own funding available to pay for it,
so we all made do with pitifully old equipment. Over at the Otowi building,
however, the support (BUS) workers were all sitting in front of the fastest
new PCs. Of course, the technical staff was helping to pay for all those
new PCs with the high taxation rate on their funding. Looks like things
haven't changed much over the years at LANL. The prime cuts still go to
the Support division, even if it's only a summer afternoon picnic.
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