Ultimate Orange: Procurement and Supply Chain Lessons From Weight Lifting Supplements (Part 2)

procurement Andriy Petrenko/Adobe Stock

Some people say weightlifting is not the sport for intellectuals. We’ve also heard the same thing said of procurement, mind you. But anyone who would dismiss either in such a manner has clearly not done her homework, or clearly has a chip on his shoulder. (His atrophied, miniscule deltoids, that is.)

External criticisms aside, there are more commonalities between the activity and the profession than not. This includes how to “juice” performance at the expense of longer-term horizons. Yes, as economists like to say, we all die anyway, but how fast we accelerate the decline of our vital signs — let alone balance sheets — or harm P&L performance is really up to us.

As we embark on our highly rigorous holiday season analysis — yes, that was a joke — on how to juice performance of both the muscular and procurement sort with supplements, we will start our discussion with a true throwback enhancer: Ultimate Orange, from the 80s and 90s.


Ultimate Orange

Used by powerlifters and gym rats alike, Ultimate Orange was Red Bull before Red Bull. A serving had three to five times the caffeine of a cup of coffee, was chock full of various amino acids and the now banned ephedra. Back in the day, every professional and recreational athlete drank it like Kool-Aid until less physically inclined baseball pitchers started having heart-attacks during spring training.  

I (Richard) drank this stuff — and it tasted nothing like an orange — before every workout, every match, and I remember it all like the clarity of zeroing in on a P&L cost savings line at quarter close. I could lift 10% to 20% more weights, play pissed-off (at the world) and didn't feel pain. I loved it so much, when rumors of an FDA ban surfaced, citing health concerns, I made the trek to my local pusher to go stock up. It turns out GNC sold out of its entire inventory in a matter of hours following the announcement. (Kinda like Twinkies when the news of bankruptcy surfaced. Yes, we participated in that melee, too.)

Ultimate Procurement

So what are the comparisons here and lessons for procurement to Ultimate Orange? It’s actually a simple one — arguably the easiest. Ultimate Orange is the ultimate short-term fix, regardless of how pumped (i.e., sophisticated, in purchasing terms) you are before quaffing it. Given this, it’s clearly the reverse auction of the supplement world.

Reverse auctions, as a procurement tool, can truly juice performance in the near-term and might actually be appropriate in certain cases. But they’re overused and can give an organization the equivalent of a P&L heart attack if forecast savings don’t actually materialize after it becomes clear that the top-three bids in a given event or lot will be costly or impossible to implement (and the incumbent supplier did not budge).

Smart lifters can get away with an Ultimate Orange-like drug on occasion — although we hope a legal one! The same is true of smart procurement organizations that apply reverse auctions to the right sets of categories and events — and that understand the broader implications and messages sent in using them. For example, one appropriate use use would be in proving to a fat, incumbent supplier in a competitive market that its 50% net margin is not sustainable and that you will in fact switch 80% of the spend to another vendor.

In the meantime, since Ultimate Orange is no longer available, you’ll have to take our word for it that such a supplement, like reverse auctions, is best used sparingly rather than before every trip to go pound iron — or your suppliers.  

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First Voice

  1. Anya @MarketDojo:

    What a fab article. A comparison between Procurement and weightlifting. As an Olympic weight-lifter, I very much appreciate the idea behind this article.

    As I understand it, you’re suggesting that Pre-workout supplements for increasing energy levels before a workout are akin to reverse auctions in that they are okay to use, but only sparingly?

    It is a very interesting comparison, although as with every analogy, how true does this hold to reality and where does it break down.

    Let me explain…

    Pre-workout is not something to be condoned. They increase your heart rate to dangerous levels, leave you feeling angry beyond control when the ‘high’ kicks in and incredibly miserable and sad once the ‘high’ has worn off.

    Having ignored the ‘black box warning’ and spent a portion of 2012 getting overly-acquainted with JACK3D, I know first hand how AWFUL these supplements can be.

    The only supplements that I would personally recommend would be a pint of milk, a carton of eggs and some BCAAs to help with muscle growth.

    In terms of things to use for a quick hit- find your inner motivation, train with others and do not get involved in these chemicals.

    It would be challenging to equate this when considering a reverse auction…

    We have seen thousands of auctions run through our platform on wide range of categories from simple stationary products to complex services. But are eAuctions the one trick pony to be used sparingly? They certainly can not be used all the time but is it fair to equate them to the high intensity , potentially dangerous pre work out?

    Most recently, we’ve been working with a temporary power generation company who have run a number of spot auctions for delivery of power generators. Run daily across our platform, they’re a great example of how eAuctions can be used frequently. Spot buying on other areas like chemicals is also a favourite.

    Another way would be to evolve the auction (if repeatedly running auction on a specific category) so the auction became less price-focussed and more cost-focussed using simple weighted criteria.

    We understand that an eAuction is just a tool in the procurement arsenal, although maybe unfair to put it in so limited a box.

    Great concept! I’d love to hear more of your weightlifting tales. If you ever need a spot when you’re next in the UK- let me know! 🙂


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