Are you still only buying parts directly from the OEM? If you are, you missing out on a great opportunity to save your facility money and show value for your department. It does take time to learn what to do but if you follow a few guidelines you can easily save thousands a month.
Before doing anything, build customer trust by informing them on your intentions. I try to dispel any rumors that the OEM may have told my customers about second source parts. Service reps like to give the equipment users just enough information to arouse suspicion about the quality of second sourced replacement parts. For instance, I had a customer tell me that he did not approve of me utilizing “used parts” in his equipment. I told him I thought that was interesting because the boards I purchased from the OEM were refurbished/used boards also. I then explained to him the exchange process the OEM uses to supply boards to its customers. After I educated him, he clearly saw the benefits of purchasing the parts from another supplier. Another creative claim from OEMs is “all our parts are quality assurance tested and meet our stringent specifications.” I have personally witnessed one of my technicians physically calibrating (hit with hammer, throw against wall) one of those inspected parts. It seems his frustration got the best of him after three hours of additional trouble shooting time. The OEM had sent us a new “tested” defective part. For my customers, my goal is to be up front about what I am doing and to educate them on using second sourced parts.
Next, establish criteria and guidelines to follow before spending time trying to find a second source for a replacement part. The first question you should ask is how long can the customer be without the equipment. Finding other sources for parts requires some extra time for researching and phone calls. If the second source part company is new to your facility an account may need to be set up. These activities require extra time. The customer is always first. If the equipment is mission critical, it may be best and faster to order from the OEM. An other consideration is the clinical function of the device. It is prudent to assess the function of the part and patient impact on the main systems of life support equipment, because if something bad happens others may not understand the reasoning for selecting a non-OEM part. However many other opportunities exist that are not as risky. Next, purchase components that meet or exceed the OEM’s specifications. Try to purchase parts directly from the manufacturer of the particular part. This skips the OEM as the middleman. Lastly always document and log your successes. This will help you later if you should need the part again or if your position is up for renewal and you need to promote your worthiness. For instance, when looking for components like, valves, motors, and switches, try to acquire the part direct from the company that manufactured it. Lets face it, OEMs do not manufacture their own general electronic parts. They may make their own specialty items but common items are purchased through companies that specialize in common items. I have a three Volume book set that is called the Electronic Engineers Master Catalog (EEM) also at http://www.eem.com/. They have essentially every company that fabricates any widget for the electronic industry. I find it to be an invaluable tool.
Other sources for parts are third party refurbishers and servicers. Medical Dealer magazine is a good place to start when looking for those resources. You can also search the Internet too. The money you will save by spending the extra time researching will pay for itself ten fold with each success you have.
Here is just one experience I have had. We owned a spec table that was in need of a power supply, the OEM wanted around $4,000 for this part. We pulled the part and contacted the actual manufacturer of the power supply and were able to buy it for $279! I didn’t forget a zero there either. Can you believe that mark up? That is just one instance of many experiences I could tell you about. It may not happen like this every time but sooner or later your efforts will be rewarded.
It takes time and energy to source your parts but OEMs are charging double and triple for the same part. The keys are to gain your customer’s confidence, give yourself time to research, and develop resources to help you find the parts you need. Always keep a log so you can build on your experiences.
Jim Fedele, CBET has been with the Medical Dealer magazine for over ten years. He is currently the Director of Clinical Engineering for Susquehanna Health Systems in Williamsport, PA. He can be reached for questions/comments at email@example.com.