From the archive: Help from suppliers? Don't hold your breath

20 August 2007

Back in August 2002, we reported on London Fire Brigade’s search for breathing apparatus that would allow orthodox Sikhs to join the service.

Standard face-masks could not be used by anyone with a lot of facial hair and there were no suppliers able to meet the challenge of providing a suitable alternative.

Terry Brewer, then head of procurement at the London Fire Brigade, said: "The fire service has missed a big trick in maximising purchasing power and getting manufacturers to provide us with what we want."

Indeed, suppliers said there was too little demand to design an appropriate device.

So, with hindsight and experience, how do buyers act now if they need unusual supplies?

Have buyers fully realised the purchasing power they have, with suppliers falling over themselves to meet such challenges in return for lucrative contracts? Or have relationships between buyers and suppliers progressed to a stage where such obstacles are shared and addressed as a joint problem?

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