"What are the main criteria for selecting the right lubricant supplier for a company with a large fleet of turbines, centrifugal compressors, hydraulic systems and gearboxes?"

Many of today’s lubricant suppliers offer an a la carte program of goods and services. Some provide full service, while others serve niche-specific markets, each with varying value propositions. There are many differentiating factors among lubricant suppliers. For this reason, matching the product/services mix to real applications and business needs is the challenge at hand.

You must decide whether you want to strictly buy lubricants or if you want to purchase lubrication with services bundled in. If your intention is to just buy lubricants, you could be paying extra for unwanted services like oil analysis and technical support. If your desire is to buy lubrication, be sure you’ve optimized the content of your value package, taking no more or no less than you want.

Often lubrication services go unclaimed due to a lack of execution by the supplier or lack of understanding by the customer. Sometimes the customer is simply unaware of the availability or importance of strategic program elements.

The main criteria that must be assessed are the product application match, performance and quality, and service and support.

The following 10-step process can be helpful when selecting a lubricant supplier.

1. Assemble a representative group of stakeholders and technical advisors.

2. Explain and discuss the objectives and selection process.

3. Through the leadership of a knowledgeable and objective facilitator, brainstorm to identify what criteria are important to the organization.

4. Review the criteria and combine them into the smallest number of factors without compromising content. Refrain from comment about the value or importance of any criteria.

5. Have each stakeholder secretly rate the condensed criteria list using a value scale. No discussion about the value or importance of the criteria should occur. The secret ballot helps to limit group bias.

6. Have the facilitator gather the rating information and present the mean, median and range for each criterion to the group. Again, no discussion about the results is allowed.

7. Team members are then given a chance to re-rate the criteria using secret ballots.

8. The results are again presented to the group. Usually, the distribution tightens at this point.

9. Open the floor for discussion about the criteria.

10. Accept the group’s decision. Proceed with the structured evaluation of lubricant suppliers with confidence. The process is carried out by interviewing candidate supplier representatives, studying their proposals in detail and talking to references. Score the information that is gained for each supplier using the system of weighted value factors.