Procurement of Office Chairs Part I


I don´t know why but the stories about procurement of office chairs tends to follow me everywhere I work. Long time ago I thought that anything with a base a padded seat and back rest will do for you to sit at a desk and do your work. I discovered that I was very wrong on that notion. When I joined a major oil and gas company, one of the mayor four, I found myself surrounded by a 9 position Steelcase chair at my desk. It was a market price $1,400.00 USD chair. To my surprise everybody had the same chair. After a few weeks of sitting at my desk I was delighted to see the difference a good chair does to your health and to your productivity. This was back in 2006 when I first became aware of HSSE (Health, safety, security and Environment). The company had a very hefty HSSE program with experts’ policy, procedures, etc. The HSSE program included wellness in your place of work including good ergonomic practice.

After a couple of years sitting at my desk and being the procurement professional in charge of Supply, distribution and professional services which included facilities management, the requisition for new chairs came across my desk. There was not much to do because a global negotiation was done and the chair model and price was set. We needed to change 300 chairs at our Guatemala Back office. I wondered how this model chair had been chosen, so I asked the global category manager. He explained to me that an in depth study was made of office productivity against good ergonomics. I was amazed to learn that productivity improves greatly when you have the right chair, amazing!

We order the chairs to the designated vendor at a very hefty discount of 43%, we bought several thousand chairs globally. At the time this happened, the Central America office was in a portfolio review process. The business was for sale and the future of this offices was pretty uncertain. We received the chairs ordered and replaced the old ones which the vender bought back. It was a great deal; that was until the chairs´ back lumbar adjustment base broke. First a chair or two, then there were several. We call the vendor and they checked the chairs. Indeed there was a defect in the back lumbar base. They held their word against the warranty and offer to change the part with defect. For this they needed to take the chairs to their shop, half of them at a time due to capacity, and the other half two weeks later. All agreed they will start in six weeks when the parts came from their factory in North America.

While waiting for the parts to arrive, the sale of the business was completed. A local group bought the Central American operation and in just a month the business was run by another people. There were rumors that the back office operation will be greatly reduced and a lot of staff will not be needed any more. I came across another opportunity and moved to another procurement department in another company and left.

While I was in my onboarding at the new company I received a phone call. It was from one of the managers from the back office. The office chair vendors upheld their promise and started the works to change the broken lumbar back base, even thought it was another company now the owner of the chairs. They came into the office and took half the chairs and left to the shop. At this time there were very few people that knew of this deal so chaos broke loose. Half of the staff had no chair to sit. All of the sudden they all thought that removing the chair had to do with removing the staff!!! “Are we out of our jobs?” “Does this mean that if I don´t have a chair I don´t have a job” “are we being terminated?” The manager that called me kind of remember something about the warranty change but was not sure. I told him all that the deal covered. He went back and informed everybody. I got the call around noon so you can imagine the whole morning of craziness and mayhem!!

After all settle all chairs got repaired and the staff from the back office was retained entirely. The new owners thought that it was an unnecessary expense and the chairs were too expensive for the application. Guess they still had a lot to learn about the business. I´m glad I did learned about good HSSE practice including your place of work. Now it is very clear to me that it was the right time to move on.

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