The Fine Art of the Sabotage Spec

The Fine Art of the Sabotage Spec

Sabotage specs are written wholesale every day. Not much is written about why and how to write a sabotage spec.

The impetus for making a sabotage spec is obvious. The agendas of supplier and customer are at loggerheads. As soon as an project is developed to the point of solving a problem, purchasing is itching to shop and start the reverse auction. The path of least resistance is the sucker play – the ostensible need for a spec sheet. This saves the time and expense of reverse engineering.

Where’s the rational incentive to divulge the ingredients and know-how ?

Two things are often overlooked at this juncture:

  1. questioning the premise of the need to know. If there is no legitimate need to know how any ingredients might affect the customer’s plant or product, there is no need to know. It is naive to believe NDA’s will be honored.
  2. is the distinction between a typical property sheet / data sheet and a specification sheet. The latter is for the protection of the supplier to prevent arbitrary rejections. A properly crafted spec has a target and range for specific properties. The supplier has every incentive to keep proprietary how the properties are achieved. If it meets the criteria, the customer buys it. If not, the out-of-spec materials are returned to the vendor. In theory anyway. What usually happens is the full shipment is rejected if part of one pallet is defective. A typical property sheet is more generic public information.

In both cases, the description of raw materials and test methods is key. It makes total rational sense to throw the competition off the trail with misinformation about raw materials instead of showing one’s hand.

Two common tricks which nobody talks about are:

1.  proprietary test methods  Instead of abiding by standard test methods, simply state that your product exceeds with a proprietary test method.  For example, 3M states that their masking tape elongates more than everybody else’s with their black box test method.  I witnessed firsthand 3M winning a bid at a higher price from the state of Ohio because no other masking tape had 11% elongation. 

2. fake values   Simply enter values which if met will not work.  This is guaranteed to waste your competition’s time and give them a mental hotfoot.  The deck is stacked against the new candidate anyway because line personnel are an openly hostile audience.

Follow these simple tips and you will have a good chance of not getting shopped and putting sand in your competiton’s gears

Did you know ?  ” at loggerheads” is hundreds of years old.  A drink was made by combining rum and milk, then
heated by plunging a heated rod called a logger into the drink.  After a few too many, the logger was often used as a weapon.  The figure of speech connotes unresolvable conflict such as marriage and the middle east.

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