10 Criteria for Gauging the Long-Term Compatibility of New Organometallic Suppliers

Even in the specifications-driven chemical commodity markets, price cannot be the sole deciding factor when selecting a new organometallic supplier: the stakes are simply too high.

Of course, price is a necessary qualifier. But the specifier is entering into a commitment that typically goes on for years — and decisions made early on become more tightly “locked in” at each development milestone.

This article is to help you enter into — with your eyes wide open — a highly productive relationship with a new chemical supplier. Here are 10 steps to qualify and access your new organometallics supply partner:

  1. Increasingly stringent purity standards

Needless to say, your purity specifications must be met — now and forever — no matter what. In the high purity fine and specialty chemicals markets, purity can be measured out to 3, 4, or even 5 decimal places. What are their metrology capabilities?

Ask how you new supplier handles requests for higher purity standards than they’ve previously delivered. And what programs they have in place to continuously manufacture to those new, higher standards.

  1. How to quantify their level of service?

Everyone says they have great service. So here are some pointed questions to ask a potential chemical supplier:

  1. How quickly can I expect your sales reps to respond to my inquiries?
  2. How knowledgeable is the sales staff about the R&D and production development process?
  3. How, specifically, will your company move from the R&D stage of the custom synthesis of metal-organics to the milestones for the required production quantities?
  4. How will any questions I have regarding compliance, accounting, packaging, and shipping be resolved?

All aspects of the business should be considered when creating an impression of the supplier: from the very first phone call to each subsequent interaction.

  1. Is the supplier ahead of the regulatory curve?

What procedures and practices does the supplier already have in place to ensure the company is up-to-date with the latest regulations? Specifically, how are they being proactive? For example, do they do early implementation of new regulations, in advance of the compliance deadlines?

Staying ahead of the regulatory curve is just smart business: It can uncover any unanticipated glitches and make the rollout of the new compliance procedures go smoother. It also reduces your company’s risk exposure when you partner with a company that’s a leader in environmental, health, safety & sustainability (EHS&S).

  1. Is in-depth technical expertise readily provided?

Conversations about sophisticated chemical compounds and their synthesis processes can quickly reach a point where neither the purchaser nor the sales person feels comfortable — the technology experts must be brought in.

How is the potential supplier able to connect your experts with their experts? Will this happen via email, Skype, or another means? For example, how quickly can their subject matter experts be scheduled for conference calls? Will your compound have a on-site project manager and do they have ready access to the same experts?

Note the reactions to your questions: Does your contact sound like they’re engaged with their technical experts? Or are they just a middle-man who knows only to “buy cheap and sell high”?

  1. Do your metal-organics come with a warranty?

Specifically:  what happens if your current shipment doesn’t pass your quality test? Is the supplier willing to work out a replacement or a return process? How long a timeframe is allowed for product testing? How quickly will replacement material be shipped?

  1. Exactly how flexible is your organization?

Find out if your potential supplier is flexible enough to meet your company’s changing needs:

  1. Can you adjust your requirements for purity, packaging, destination point, and delivery schedule? What if the order has already been placed?
  2. Are the suppliers’ employees empowered to make abrupt changes on-the-fly, or do such decisions have to be passed on to the executive level every time? Do you have access to this level?

Remember: a true partnership is tested not when everything goes smoothly, but when there are bumps in the road.

  1. How can the supplier demonstrate transparency?

This criterion is fundamental to developing trust in your relationships. The more you know about your suppliers, the more secure your relationships will be.

Issues such as the price structure (raw materials, transport costs, flexible/fixed costs, etc.), equipment utilization, manufacturing capacity, portfolio profitability, and preferences — are just a few aspects.

  1. Can you independently verify the supplier’s reputation?

There is nothing wrong with a brand new supplier offering high quality products at attractive prices, but it is good to know if you are their first customer for your type of compound.

Ask a few direct questions:

  1. Who are the supplier’s current customers?
  2. Can the supplier provide references from a non-competing industry?
  3. What are some examples of their success stories?

The risks associated with doing business with new suppliers can be greatly mitigated if you know that you are not a “trial balloon.”

  1. Researching Total Final Cost is worth the extra effort.

You want to drive down costs.

But only looking at the “bottom line” can end up costly you dearly when shopping for a new organometallics supplier:

  1. Where does the supplier source their materials? (No conflict areas!)
  2. How can they demonstrate that those sources are reliable?
  3. How can the supplier demonstrate their ability to rapidly scale-up to meet your best-case demand scenario and maintain comparable costs?
  4. How, exactly, will your newly synthesized compound go into production? Discuss every possible bottleneck with your potential supplier: raw materials availability, availability of expert technical personnel, the need for new or expanded production equipment.

  1. Does this supplier have the potential to be a highly valued, long-term, strategic partner?

This final criterion actually ties together the nine other (mostly tactical) criteria.

You might decide, wisely, to first “test” the new supplier with small, non-critical orders for commodity metal-organics. On those orders, carefully observe them for quality, overall service, flexibility, and the supplier’s ability to “do what they said they would do.”

Looking for a reliable, long-term partner? Let’s talk.

Such a step may take a different form in each case: developing a new synthesis for your pilot projects, signing a strategic long-term deal, setting up a line at your factory – to name just a few valued-added possibilities.

The point is that, from the beginning, when you consider a new supplier, you should raise your expectations to the highest level and assess your nurturing relationship through the prism of a strategic partnership. In other words, be ready for this strategic question #10 from the start!

Trading Pitfalls to Avoid when Negotiating an International Hazmat Purchase

Trading Pitfalls to Avoid when Negotiating an International Hazmat Purchase

When engaging with a new business partner in the international hazmat industry, discrepancies might arise between you and your partner’s expectations regarding specific terms of your contract. Here are 9 items for you to consider as you’re forming a new relationship and negotiating an international hazmat purchase.

Quoting and Terms

  1. Vendor quotes a price without specifying the shipping terms. If both parties assume that the shipping is covered by the other side, this will clearly be a source of frustration. The easiest and standard way to discuss shipping is to choose one of the INCOTERMS definitions: these define, on a very fine-grain level, who pays for what phases of delivery, including loading, packaging and insurance.
  2. Vendor provides a quote without product specification. In the world of chemistry, even a single digit after the point in a purity designation can make a huge difference in pricing. Same goes for packaging terms and conditions. To avoid surprises later, make sure product specifications, packaging terms and conditions are all listed in your contract or PO.
  3. Financial terms are defined loosely. Terms of payments define when the payment is run. But the tricky part is to agree from what event to count them from: The PO signing date? The shipping date? The invoice date? The receiving date? The acceptance date, etc. Also, for international transactions, the specified currency is obviously critical: to avoid exposure to exchange rate fluctuations, it’s usually best for the buyer to specify their own country’s currency. Lastly, list the method of payment and the associated fees in your contract or PO.

Compliance and Import

  1. Labeling – Product labeling should be compliant with the latest GHS standards. This is a US rule — very few international suppliers are compliant to GHS standards when they ship to the US. You can still receive the products, but before shipping them to your customers (or, indeed, shipping them anywhere) you have to update their labels to GHS specifications.
  2. Safety Data Sheets – the GHS standards also apply for SDSs. Many large international vendors will have a SDS developed specifically for US, but most of the smaller suppliers will not. You cannot ship or sell product without a SDS standardized for the US.
  3. TSCA regulations – Toxic Substances Control Act is another US law that applies to every importer of hazmat products. TSCA compliance is not the responsibility of the overseas vendor; it is the sole responsibility of the importer. In a nutshell: chemicals listed on the TSCA inventory list can be imported without additional restrictions. Chemicals which are not on the TSCA inventory list can only be imported either for R&D purposes or after receiving a special exemption for unlimited or limited volumes.


  1. Although packaging should be defined upfront at the time of quoting, sometimes this obvious step carries surprises. Just a couple of things to add for your consideration: Could your product potentially be delayed during shipping and therefore require extra packaging precautions (special caps/rings, vaxing, additional containers)? Would your product be better protected using cold containers and/or dry ice? Does the time of year (e.g., temperature, climate) limit your shipping? (For example, we have products that we don’t ship during summer.)
  2. Customer’s bubblers or packaging – Frequently hazmat compounds need to be pre-packaged in a bubbler or cylinder so they can be used with existing equipment; for example, ALD machines. If the compound vendor is doing the pre-packaging, then the specifications for the valves and connectors must be approved by the technical people from both sides. If you, the compound buyer, are providing the container, you’ll need to factor in both the export costs and opportunity costs of having those empty containers temporarily at the compound vendor. One caveat for the “empty containers”: containers must be completely cleaned prior to shipping to the compound vendor. If residual amounts of the previous hazmat material are still in the container, it must then ship following all the regulations for that hazmat material.
  3. Extra hiccup prevention steps – It’s a good idea to ask your compound vendor to take photos of shipments before they are packaged. These photos should include the product labels, serial numbers of the containers, and in case of grouped items, a “group picture.” Make sure you and your supplier are on the same page in terms of (shipping?) insurance and product warranty. Lastly, have the compound vendor keep a retaining sample; this is very helpful if you have a quality-related disagreement that requires the vendor to run a comparable analysis for the batch.

Establishing all of the above steps in a systematic method will make taking on new international suppliers that much easier. Alternatively, if you can purchase the same compounds domestically, you obviously eliminate the issues specific to international importing and can focus better on the remaining product terms and conditions.

Looking for a reliable, long-term partner? Let’s talk.