Materials Management in an R & D set up

In a typical R & D set up, the following characteristics are easily visible w.r.t. an R&D (research) project:


# a particular project is pursued only once or rarely more than once

# the project duration is small enough to provide the results at the earliest for use

# project conceiving may or may not be predetermined. It may be sudden and resultant of the brain wave of a scientist

# Project findings may get early implementation for commercial production

# Projects ,mostly, are of pilot nature i.e. of

low value and less time duration. Many projects may need materials as tools for diagnosis , tests and trials. Obviously, based on the above characteristics which are essentially a way of working for any industrial R & D set up, the material requirement too is peculiar with the following characteristics:

# Item is not repetitive, it may be required only once

# Purchase function should ensure speedy procurement

# Element of proper planning w.r.t. timely raising of indent , exact specification, correct estimated price may be missing

# Quantity of items to be purchased is small

# Sourcing may not be easy as items are developmental in nature, mostly new
Often, the requirement of materials and the nature of purchases are at cross purpose.

For example, an item is required urgently but the exact specification is not available, quantity is too small for the vendors to show interest, item is new and the sources are not known etc.

These and other situations eventually become the limiting factors for the purchase man who wants to reduce the Lead time in purchasing.

It is a fact of life for the Purchase man that the delivery gets delayed, sometimes enormously, as despite of the agreed


delivery schedule the vendor could not complete the job solely because the item was of developmental nature and the time it took for completion could not be assessed precisely in the begining.


R & D purchases, therefore, are significantly different from those done in a manufacturing unit where there is enough control on the variables. At least, specification of an item , that determines the item to be purchased is frozen. Sources, to a great extent, are also known and therefore constant in nature. The only variables can be price and delivery schedule. As against it, in an R&D set up there is lack of adequate information on sources, likely price and a justified delivery schedule. Specification often remains a variable until just prior to placement of order.

Considering that urgent need to procure the material that too on , say short notices at times is of primary concern in an R & D set up what should be the procurement system or put in other words, can there be a procurement system that can take care of urgent needs where exact specification, sources and likely delivery schedule are difficult propositions ??