Roburt Boguski
Navigating the Big Corporation supplier partner program is a test in itself.

Welcome to the supply chain portal of Big Behemoth Aerospace Technologies (BBAT). The fact that you have gained access to this portal means you are vetted as not posing a credible threat and, therefore, considered a worthy and valued supplier partner to BBAT. It also means you have acknowledged and accepted BBAT’s corporate-mandated net 180 payment terms, without which you would have been expelled and permanently denied access to this portal, with no follow-up right of appeal. With willing and compliant partners like you, BBAT can be successful in its ongoing mission of supporting the US defense and worldwide aerospace community. After all, it is partnerships like ours that built this country and continue to keep it strong and vigilant against all enemies, both foreign and domestic. Be proud as we are proud.

They wanted a test fixture. One simple ICT fixture and accompanying program. They approached us in July 2013. Unhappy with their current supply chain. Wonder why. Locked into 30-year-old technology, not to mention 60-year-old mindsets. We dutifully quoted it, expecting nothing, which for a while is exactly what we got. (Blessed is the one who expects nothing, for they shall never be disappointed.) We waited over a year. Fourteen months to be exact. Not a word. Suddenly, out of the blue, an electronic notification appears. No prior warning. An order is pending. Of course they want it next month. Your country needs you, Prospective Supplier Partner, so snap to it!

First we have to navigate the damn portal to retrieve the purchase order and set ourselves up as a vendor, the latter before the former. For a $5,000 order.

But first a few preliminaries.

As a valued supplier partner to BBAT, and to familiarize your company with BBAT’s business practices, you are invited to participate in a supply chain portal training session, to be held in the following high-technology centers in the coming weeks: Waco, Texas; Harrisburg, Pennsylvania; Tallahassee, Florida; Duluth, Minnesota; Rapid City, South Dakota; and Bannockburn, Illinois. Cost to participate is $250, plus travel expenses. All costs will be borne by the supplier partner and are not the responsibility of BBAT. Additionally, please be advised participation in BBAT supply chain portal proficiency training (SCHAPPOT) comes with no assurance of award of future BBAT business. Please be further advised BBAT updates its portal at a minimum annually. Updates require mandatory SCHAPPOT on the part of the entire registered BBAT supply base.

Can’t justify the training for one order. Gonna try to do this intuitively. Figure it out on our own. Improvise if necessary. Additional gray hairs a small price to pay for avoiding a trip to one of those garden spots. First circle of hell. Where greed overcomes common sense. Why are we doing this?

Greetings! You have been assigned a temporary login name and password. Please access the portal to retrieve your temporary credentials, following which you may change your password and login.

Sigh. Here goes. Deep breath.

You neglected to acknowledge and agree to BBAT’s standard 180-day payment terms. Please acknowledge payment terms in order to proceed with retrieving temporary login and password.

Suck it up and press the “acknowledge and agree” button. Hopefully we can talk some sense into them later. Try the “Big Business depends on small business, and small business depends on other small businesses” argument. Not exactly heartstrings, but it’s logical as arguments go. Worst case, we can put the project on ship hold when ready and play some good old American hardball. Where do they think the real innovation and business initiative in this country comes from anyway? 180 days? Do they ever stop to consider that our suppliers and employees can’t possibly wait 180 days? Don’t they have bright young MBAs who can explain cash flow?

Congratulations! You have successfully accessed the BBAT Supplier Portal. You may now change your password to a robust combination of alphanumeric characters. Robustness is ultimately judged by BBAT, but password should consist, at a minimum, of six letters (at least one of them upper- and one of them lower-case), six numbers, and six characters, such as $, %, or !. There are no length restrictions to passwords.

Fair enough. How about this:        Ih8tEp@$$w0000RD$!1!!!!>

Thank you. Your (highly robust) password has been accepted by the BBAT Supplier Portal.

Another hurdle:

You are required to maintain current registration in our system, by means of our portal, on an annual basis. This requirement shall remain in force irrespective of whether you receive actual orders from BBAT during the calendar year or not. Responsible vendor parties shall be electronically reminded of re-registration and update requirements 30 calendar days prior to end of calendar year. Failure to provide timely updates shall be grounds for automatic disqualification and ineligibility to receive future orders, with no right of further appeal.

What? Is BBAT prepared to pay all or part of the salary of our person designated to maintain these records? (The question was rhetorical. Most definitely not. It’s a cost of doing business, bub, and we at BBAT enforce the rule because we can. We don’t need any other reason. It’s good to be big.) I suppose we are expected once again to absorb the hassle and consider doing business with them an honor and a privilege while we contribute to our nation’s security. Regardless of cost, which is clearly no concern of theirs.

Yet another hurdle:

As an Approved Supplier and Vendor Partner to BBAT, you are required upon request to provide objective evidence of ongoing certification, maintenance, and internal and external audit of your company’s quality management system (QMS). Evidence may take the form of QMS documents requested for review, such as quality manuals, written procedures, work instructions, training records, as well as preventive and corrective actions; third-party audit reports (e.g., AS9100C certification or surveillance audits); or customer audit reports. BBAT also reserves the right to conduct onsite inspections and QMS audits at the time and place of its choosing, given adequate notice. BBAT reserves the right to determine adequate notice. Failure to comply with these requirements shall be grounds for automatic disqualification as a BBAT supplier with no right of appeal.

Please complete the attached 47-page Vendor Qualification form prior to proceeding further in this portal. Upon completion, kindly attach current copies of all pertinent certifications, such as ISO 9001, DTSC (ITAR), AS9100, ISO 13485, and ISO 14001. Note carefully that all pages of the form must be completed and that ISO 9001 or AS9100 certification does not excuse this requirement. Provide as much case-specific evidence (as opposed to generic replies) to support your answers to these 535 questions as you are able.

Please provide a list of your company’s 10 largest customers, with business concentration levels and areas of industry sector specialization. Also provide length of each business relationship, as well as detailed descriptions of any quality-related problems that have occurred in the past five years. Failure to disclose business relationships governed by nondisclosure agreements (NDAs) shall not be acceptable.

In addition, please sign the enclosed affidavit that states you will report any change in process, personnel, domicile, management, corporate entity, ownership, or customer base and customer concentration ratios to cognizant BBAT personnel immediately. Failure to report such changes shall be cause for immediate disqualification as a BBAT Supplier Partner.

Please also enclose a W-9 form and two years’ audited financial statements. Additionally, please sign the attached NDA. It will be returned in due time once review of all documents is completed by BBAT Legal Department. Expected turnaround time for legal review is 3-6 months. Expect lengthier delays during summer months and major religious festivals.

Other than that, they’re the very model of user-friendliness. Funny, all we want is to retrieve a lousy purchase order to build a test fixture. We should have quoted more money. Enough to fill a Nimitz-class aircraft carrier.

Good lord, it took hours to read this and complete these forms. And they still want this test fixture in one month. The clock is ticking.

You have been timed out of the BBAT Supplier Portal. Please log in and repeat the initiation process. For security reasons you will be asked to change your password.

*&)**&()8%M(&`5V)_)*(&FI4&!!!!    (Editor’s note: Not a password.)

Extra costs and cost overruns on individual projects, once quoted and reflected in a BBAT purchase order, shall be sole responsibility of the BBAT Supplier Partner and not BBAT. Revised quotations reflecting these changes are not acceptable and will not be approved and could lead to order cancellation.

Like costs of learning to navigate supplier portals?

Well, at least it’s done and we’re all set up. Won’t have to do this again. Which is good because when we started we were single, and now we have grandchildren. All that’s left to do is press “submit.”

We regret to inform you that the BBAT supply chain portal is currently disabled and inaccessible due to quarterly maintenance. All prior data entered to the portal will not be saved. Please attempt access again when the supply chain portal is reactivated for service in fifteen working days. We apologize for any inconvenience, and thank you for your patience.

Before logging out, we kindly request that you go to the Comments Section of the BBAT Supplier Portal and offer any suggestion you have for improvement of service. Failure to fill out the Comments Section could result in supplier/partner disqualification.

My helpful suggestion involves explosives.

Thank you for your concern and for being a valued Supplier Partner to BBAT.

Robert Boguski is president of Datest Corp., (datest.com); rboguski@datest.com. His column runs bimonthly.

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