Friday, July 15, 2005

More Training Madness

From the July 15 LANL NewsBulliten:

July 13, 2005

Purchase request

I notice that I am going to have to attend a training course if I wish to continue writing my own purchase requests (Training sessions begin this month for Lab purchasers). An employee from Supply Chain Management (SUP) Division is quoted as justifying this new training by explaining that “Earlier in the year procurement statistics showed that as many as 90 percent of all purchase requests received by procurement were incomplete in one form or another…”

We have a diverse population here at the Lab; some of the best and brightest scientists and engineers in the world, professional administrators from all over the U.S. and presumably the best in the area for the locally advertised posts .…. and collectively we still get 90 percent of our purchase requests incorrect?

Doesn’t this imply that the fault lies with the purchase request system rather than the people trying to use it?

It costs my sponsor (DOE) about $1,200 a day to employ a scientist at the Lab; a half day course for all the PR initiators in my group alone is going to cost DOE about $10,000. Has anybody estimated how much it will cost to train some thousands of people across the Lab? I suspect we have just handed DOE a multi-million dollar increase in the cost of doing business with the Lab. How about we spend that money fixing the system?

--Steve Ashworth

Indeed, if the LANL procurement system requires a half-day of training for people to initiate a procurement then there is very definitely something very wrong with our procurement system. Of course, the SUP Division Director has no procurement experience whatsoever.
"best in the area for the locally advertised posts" Mr. Ashworth open your eyes and take a good long look around, if this is the best we are in real trouble.
Over the past few months, we have had multiple incidents where the new diversified SUP groups have been unable to place orders for needed components to support our program. This was not because the PR was incorrectly filled out, but because SUP lost so many people in late June that they are totally swamped with backlog. We had one order that was just not ordered, for no reason, the buyer never told us he couldn't handle it, and 10 weeks passed. We should have paid more attention and followed the process through, but we have technical mission work that must be done, and left the details to the service org, SUP. They floundered on this and other oders. The seem to have lost the ability to purchase things.I have heard that because so many orders are backlogged or not placed in time for this year, that our overhead rates may need changing again, to be able to SUPport them. Also, the year end budgets may be impacted due to the missed materials and committments.

Yes, something is definitly wrong in procurements right now. Pointing blame at the rest of the lab, and requiring training of us all, is deflecting the problem - from where it should be obvious now. I hope that the new partner will improve our purchasing/procurement. Right now, it can't get much worse.
Apparently some of you people still don't get it. We exist at LANL to provide attendance at training classes. All this training has a quantifiable outcome: they can count how many person-hours were spent in training and that then becomes the means the justifies that end.
For a long time, LANL had a very good procurement department. My organization did work for other DOE labs and they were always pleased to have LANL do the procurements (and gladly paid our procurement taxes) because they felt that the LANL procurement function was superior to that of their own lab.

Now, things have changed. Between SUP and CFO, they made a total mess of the purchase card system. They proudly eliminated the Local Vendor Agreements. They made a mess of the Just In Time System. Navigating the "Total Procurement System" is an adventure even for the Procurement staff. Don't bet that the Enterprise System will be an improvement!

Along with this, we do not pay our senior buyers very well. Certainly, we pay them very poorly relative to the chief of staff bunch who are mostly glorified administrative assistants with basically no accountability. In addition, these people get abuse from their line management in the form of audits and they often receive the frustrations of the requestors who can't get their orders placed. So, first, we have not been able to hire sufficient senior-level procurement staff and second, those that can, leave the buying function to take other positions within SUP or elsewhere in the lab.

Of course, the remedy for all of this is for the requestors to take more training!
It would be interesting to build a list of all the innane, redundant, unnecessary, and just plain stupid training LANL staff are required to waste time on.

Here's my contribution to the list: Ergonomic Self Assessment.
The more things change....

When I worked for EG&G (now Bechtel) in the 1980's, we got a DOE cost savings award for the improvements to our purchasing system.

Stay with me on this. They fired a fully competent purchasing clerk who knew her way around the system and could phone up the buyers in Las Vegas to expedite things if you were in a hurry because she had a personal working relationship with them.

She was replaced with an on-line computer-based purchasing system so that all the exempt people could be their own data entry clerks. This system was totally user-agressive - any typo cleared the form and booted you out to start over. There were no help screens. There was no way to save a PR as a work in progress and come back to it later. Instead of paying a clerk to do the job well, we paid expensive engineers and managers to do it badly. We went from a PR being a five minute process (fill out a form and hand it to the clerk) to a frustrating 40 minute ordeal. Some productivity improvement!

Then there was the "Purchasing Manger" who would come in in the morning, log into the system, and have a clerk use his account all day while he did crossword puzzles. If he was ever audited the computer records would show he was at his workstation all day long working very hard for the taxpayer. Talk about waste, fraud, and abuse.
7/15/2005 at 04:41:22 PM tells us a success story.

This is where we are going at LANL.
Regarding Anonymous at 7/15/2005 04:41:22 PM: The way that Bechtel and soon LANL gets the award for reducing costs in procurement is to shift all of the work to the requestors. Their time in taking the necessary training and schlepping thru the procurement process is charged to programs and therefore is NOT accountable to the cost of procurments. Yet another shell game.
I'd like to be just a bit more hopeful than 6:02:27pm.

In the distant past, the badge off at SNL was an adventure worthy of an Eastern European Soviet-spinoff bureaucracy. Slow. Inefficient. Costly. Damaging to productivity.

Now every (I do mean every--more than a few times) I've been to SNL to get a gate pin, etc., I've literally sailed through the badge office, even when there was a line when I arrived or when I arrived with a large group.

I think LM realizes that when people are dorking around with the bureaucracy that's supposed to be facilitating the mission, they're not doing what they're paid to do, and therefore the institution is not doing what it's paid to do.

Should LM win, I suspect things will change (I hope, too) toward streamlined, efficient, expertly staffed and paid business services that facilitate the mission.

If UC/Bechtel wins, I expect we'll see the "self-service" bureaucracy 6:02pm has seen and the "purchasing" training bodes for us.

The record is so abundandly clear that UC has no idea how to respond to oppresive regulation with efficient management, and Bechtel has no idea how to do anything but demolish buildings to save space-tax at NTS.
Another Marquez triumph.
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