Procurement and Supply Chain Lessons From Weight Lifting Supplements: Creatine (part 4)

Jason Busch and Richard Lee

As we continue our series comparing weight lifting supplements to procurement and supply chain strategies, we take a happier turn from our last installment on diuretic pills. (See also the previous Ultimate Orange and introductory posts on the topic.) Today we come to creatine, a weight lifting supplement Richard succinctly describes as a miracle: “this stuff is absolutely G-D-sent.”

Richard equates a scoop of creatine with a good, 12 ounce steak — with all of the benefits of pure protein extract without the downside, such as fat or cholesterol. Of course, chiming in here as the vegan of the two of us, I might suggest another benefit, as well: creatine, at least when the formulation does not include other substances, is not animal-based.

Our body naturally creates creatine, but by taking an artificial dose, you recover faster. Specifically, it enables more blood to pump to recovering muscle cells, which in turn creates a virtuous cycle. Since repaired muscle cells possess greater increases in volume/capacity than prior to the “tear down” process, they retain glucose (or glycogen) longer. This means you don’t have that depleted feeling after a kickass workout, which helps you get back in the gym the very next day versus taking a day or two off afterwards. (Or weeks, as we’re already getting lazy around the holidays.)

We’ve not seen any clinical studies on long-term, adverse reactions or health risks from creatine, but don’t take our word for it at face value. (We’re just amateurs at this thing, after all.) Still, it definitely appears safer than the other supplements we’ve covered so far. But consult a professional trainer, doctor or dietician before trying it.

<h2>Procurement Connection</h2>

The best comparison we can think of for creatine in procurement is good supplier management data that informs a range of processes — from analytics (more complete datasets) to sourcing (a better understanding of the total cost of relationships) to transactional buying (more informed end-users, such as around sustainability or diversity).

Creatine, like good supplier management data, creates a cycle of better performance. And as with better information, it doesn’t target any one part of the body but rather improves the whole.

So what are you waiting for this holiday season? Put your plan in place for January to not just hit the procurement and supply chain gym and take off some excess pounds (spend) but also to pump up your performance by putting better supplier data at the heart of key procurement and supply chain processes.

And as for the creatine? We’ll leave that to you.

Caption: Hanz and Franz Owe It All To Good Supplier Data

Diuretic Pills: Procurement and Supply Chain Lessons From Weight Lifting Supplements (Part 3)

In the spirit of Santa’s fast approaching all-night ride and the training he must endure before setting out on the round the world trek — it’s amazing he was able to do it before supplements — we continue our series of comparing weight lifting supplements to procurement and supply chain strategies. If you’re just finding this write-up now, please see our introductory and Ultimate Orange installments from earlier in the month. Today, we cut right to the chase — or rather, cut the excess liquid in our bodies as we come to our next supplement, diuretic pills.


Diuretic pills have a long and disreputable history in weightlifting. (And no, we won’t admit to using these bad boys, unlike Ultimate Orange.) Bodybuilders took these synthetic compounds to essentially show up  “ripped” or “shredded” at different events until contestants literally keeled over during shows. (Superstar and fan favorite Mohammed Benaziza was one who died from using them.) They literally sucked the lifeblood — water, actually — out of one’s system at the expense of showing a near-term “pump.” Dehydration and electrolyte imbalances can be deadly, despite superficial appearances.

So they got banned.

RIP: Mohammed Benaziza

Now there are more tamed, natural supplements that basically flush excess water and other stuff from muscle and cells to appear leaner. But theoretically even these less dangerous supplements still bring the potential to put an enormous amount of stress on the heart and the body overall.

There are numerous comparisons we can think of between diuretic pills and procurement and supply chain tactics. But perhaps the easiest comparison is the near-term pump one can achieve through tactics that unfairly beat up suppliers by challenging their cash flow (while benefiting ours) on dictatorial terms — sort of like ordering all of the water out of your body.

One tactic here is GM’s now famous “we’ll pay all invoices at a discount” edict under Ignacio Lopez. (That really helped cement strategic supply relationships.) But a much more common tactic that is nearly as bad is extending payment terms out to a certain level (e.g., moving from 30 or 45 to 90-day terms). This causes supply chain pain that will come back in the form of suppliers needing (or wanting) to cut corners as payback. Of course, procurement and accounts payable organizations that put in place an early payment discount program at reasonable terms while extending DPO get a pass here, but few do it effectively at scale today.

So next time you’re thinking of putting on the working capital “pump” for a balance sheet competition, do consider the implications of doing it — or at least doing it without thinking about overall supply chain supply chain health. As for us, we’re just saying no to this one and these tactics.

As our series continues, we’ll move to a happier note with one of our favorite (and legal) substances: creatine.

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

Jason Busch and Richard Lee

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 their homework, or clearly has a chip on their shoulder. (Their 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 80’s and 90’s.

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 matter of hours following the announcement. (Kinda like Twinkies when the new 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 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 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, given the fact 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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