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Reengineering team finds surfeit of suppliers

With 14,000-plus suppliers, MIT has more providers than personnel.

That surprising statistic greeted Diane Devlin, assistant director of purchasing, as she and the Supplier Consolidation team began their work as part of the Institute-wide reengineering effort.

The goal of the team is to analyze buying patterns across product groups and to consolidate the commodities or procedures wherever improvements may be effected.

Of the 14,000 annual vendors, about half are involved in one transaction only, Ms. Devlin said, largely because of the specialized-often unique-needs of Institute researchers.

But that leaves several thousand vendors who are providing standard goods and services to MIT. A more unified purchasing approach should offer both savings and better service to the Institute.

Another area that looks promising for improvement, she said, is that of relatively small purchases. Purchases of under $500 represent only three percent of MIT's business but 80 percent of the paperwork required. A team objective is to design a way to minimize that paperwork.

Three product areas have now been selected for further investigation: 1) desk-top devices, 2) temporary help, and 3) office supplies and furniture, chemicals and lab equipment.

The next step will be to involve the community through a series of focus groups and individual interviews to gather more information on the strengths and weaknesses of present practices.

Anyone with questions, comments, concerns or suggestions is invited to send them along to . Working on the team with Ms. Devlin is Peter Roden of Distributed Computing and Network Services. Both welcome telephone calls as well. Ms. Devlin is at x3-8380; Mr. Roden is at x3-0147.

A version of this article appeared in the October 19, 1994 issue of MIT Tech Talk (Volume 39, Number 8).

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