The scenario is familiar enough: client not happy with current provider for one reason or another, goes to market to explore alternatives, and selects new supplier. This happens all the time - it's why the RFx process exists - and it's used to find everything from a new provider of MRO supplies to capital equipment. The process has traditionally been used to identify cost savings, but it has been used more and more, as of late, to identify suppliers offering better value to the organization as a whole. But you know this. 

Industries do it all the time Monday through Friday, so it's interesting when an example emerges that 1) doesn't concern a business and 2) only happens on Saturdays. Yep. College football. Specifically Notre Dame.

Notre Dame has a rich history and a thick list of traditions, among them the leprechaun mascot, the "Irish Guard" leading the band to the field, and invisible girlfriends getting absolutely destroyed in BCS bowl games. The team's greatest tradition, however, are its iconic gold helmets. Helmets that were, until recently, painted in-house.

Photo courtesy of
Notre Dame's new helmet designed gleamed in the lights in its loss to
Alabama in the 2013 BCS Championship Game 

Notre Dame's equipment managers -- the group responsible for making sure the football team has all the equipment and clothing necessary to play its games -- used to paint the iconic gold helmets themselves before every football game. The paint was finicky to mix and difficult to match, color-wise, from week to week -- meaning that any scuff or ding often required a full re-spray --  and the paint process was time consuming, especially as the cure rates lengthened during the winter months. The University needed to improve its helmet painting processes.

So, they took the operation to market in 2011. The school identified a number of companies and tested them all before locating a provider, Hydro Graphics Inc. (HGI), that, in their words, "got it right". The new helmets aren't painted at all, but instead use a coating applied after the helmet is submerged in water. Any scuffs or dings no longer require lengthy resprays, but now get patched up with special stickers. HGI notes that they went back and forth with Notre Dame more than 25 times to get the school happy. 

In the end, cost savings were not a concern of Notre Dame in this initiative. They were looking for a better, more reliable solution and they found it by outsourcing their helmet painting to a third party.
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Nicholas Hamner

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