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Shortsighted Purchasing Steals Research Dollars, Not Second Base

baseball

In Early February I took a walk through the Global Center for Health Innovation, part of the Cleveland Convention Center. This facility is one of its kind in the world, an interactive showroom of healthcare innovation, technology, education and commerce, all supported with wide open spaces, hands-on programs, virtual presentations and an epic view of the Cleveland skyline. While on-site I met a technician who was sprucing up a display area in advance of a film shoot over the weekend.

I’m not sure what the movie will be about or who will be starring in it; perhaps a futuristic tale in a glass walled emporium, Terminal Tower in the background, with the Cleveland Indians battling evil and the curve ball with light sabers while sausage mascots race about the room.

During the course of our discussion the technician was wiping down a European-manufactured fume hood. Great piece of equipment, he said, real classy engineering, like a Mercedes. More expensive on the front end, but a real bargain overall.

How so, I asked?

Well, he said, one of the leading USA brands next to it sells for about ten grand. This European version is thirteen. But this cheaper American hood sucks more air out of the lab, which means more heating and air conditioning wasted into outer space (where the light sabers actually function, I thought). The European product costs less to operate, he added. Way less.

I know there are some wonderful, high-efficiency hoods produced here in the USA; this wasn't one of them. So, I asked, reaching deep and righteously into my sustainability suitcase, the difference should be easy to measure and the payback should be easy to calculate. An easy sell to a smart architect or lab planner, yes?

No, he said. That’s what’s so pathetic. We showed them the numbers; payback on the purchase cost differential was a little over a year based on their own HVAC calculations. But they wouldn’t budge. They bought the cheap ones, a hundred of them, saved three hundred grand on the acquisition price and stuck the facility managers with an operating cost differential of more than a million and a half dollars over the next six years. The folks paying the bills down the road are in for a rude awakening. It’s a disconnect and a waste.

Who made the decision, I asked. The architect, he said. Didn’t you make the case for total life cycle cost differences, I asked? Sure, but you know what they told me? They said it “wasn’t their job”. Their job was to bring the project in on time and on budget, nothing more.

This conversation irritated me like a blown save after a two run lead.

Not their job, I questioned? Whose job is it to save a research institution a mil and a half over six years?

Hell if I know, he said, but until these research folks here in the USA start managing resources like the Europeans, we’ll continue to see ignorant purchasing decisions made by smart people who simply don’t talk to one another. In this case, that million and a half should have been plowed back into research instead of exhausted through the roof. It’s like – you know – they’re not even thinking.

This wasn’t news to me. But hearing it from a dude wiping down a piece of sheet metal in advance of a photo shoot reinforced a reality – again – that marketing is about building and communicating a value proposition far beyond the obvious, far beyond the purchase price, and deep into the ninth inning.

For me, marketing is education. One of the greatest assets we can create for a client is a smart customer. Conversely, smart customers make our clients better.

Consider this. From home to first base is a 90-foot sprint. For those of you who dress in pink shirts and run the 10k and feel good about it, perhaps it’s time to send a message to the folks who spend your money. Research is not a sprint to first, it’s a marathon. We expect you to work together and invest wisely. This is the key to efficiency in the marketplace.

Efficiency means that over time one obscure product that sucks too much heating and air conditioning into the ozone layer will suck less. The Americans are getting more efficient every day and leading the way in innovation. Over time the Europeans will find a way to reduce their price. Over time those research dollars we drip like sweat into medical research through 10k’s, marathons and baseball promotions with pink bats and sausage races will end up where they belong. And where is that, you ask? Well, it’s not such a good place in baseball but in the lab, it’s golden – on the bench.

I won't disclose the architect, the facility or the state where this project occurred. My thoughts are directed to the lab managers, facility managers, service technicians, architects, specifiers, contractors, CFOs, researchers and others who want a piece of our pink ribbon contributions but think they live in silos: Cut it out.

Talk to one another. Have some meetings. Find a perch high enough, even if it’s in the cheap seats, so you can see the big picture, shift the defense, define the problem, sniff out some rebates, identify the savings and map the solution. Do the right thing. Let’s find the cure.

You can make a great save. Don’t blow it.

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