Ah yassss. Specs — or specifically (no pun intended) material specifications. Those requirements that material must meet before I can even think of inspecting and receiving into inventory. Those tweaks of temperature in heat treating, those transverse and inverse charpy requirements and that hardness requirement that makes the audience of the market (and sales) sing praises of buyers and producing mills (a very rare occurrence, just so ya know, it doesn’t happen).
Today, I had a very past due invoice in my inbox awaiting to join me for coffee this morning. And the world within my organization was in copy. Those are always fun emails to read. Really gets the day off to a phenom start. By the time I finished reading several “chimed in” and added to the growing email string.
Let me start out by saying — This would have been avoided if almost two years ago, I had ordered the material to include a “spec” callout.
Material specifications, for lack of better words, are the recipe of how material is bought, and what requirements the material must meet. The requirements serve to protect the integrity of the inventory. There’s exceptions, sure but for the most part, not so much.
When I ordered this material, there’s not really a spec, and that material had to meet a min yield strength of 130 (more on MYS later). I called a few of the mills that I knew could produce it, and went on my merry way. I gave sales pricing and ex mill (when the material would leave the mill). I was so freaking efficient, I got this done and done in a short time. Sales offered the customer and bagged the sale.
I ordered the material. 18,000 lbs of material. Long, pretty shiny bars were delivered about four and half months later. I’m looking at the MTR (material test report — more on that later) and a pretty important test is missing off the MTR! I mean, I’m talking so important that this can’t be sold without it — the freaking American Express of testing!! All I can think is “Did I ask for this on the quote? Was it on the inquiry when it was sent back to me? Please oh please tell me its there!!”
No. It was not. I didn’t ask for it. What a rookie mistake. But I wasn’t a rookie. I’ve been doing this ordering steel stuff for about eighteen years.
This specific testing had to be performed at the producing mill or the material cannot be sold. I have the equivalent of paperweights. Hmmm. Yeah. Paperweights.
I ordered and received 18,000 lbs of worthless material, worth approximately $225,000.00 USD. I tellya, I was over the moon excited to call my reporting supervisor and clue him in on my super huge mistake. Fortunately for me, I was able to negotiate sending the material back to the mill for the testing, but at an additional cost.
So those that are new to buying steel — when you are told you need a quote for material and “there’s no spec”– argue with them. While I was able to get the testing completed, it added another three months on the delivery to our customer. Real positive move there. And this time, it WAS the buyer’s fault.
In my world, there’s at least these:
I leave you with this —
“Have you ever found anything that gives you relief? Yes, a drink.” EB White, The Second Tree from the Corner