You Can Only Get That S#%T So Shiny...


The Greatest Cowpunk Band in the World, the Supersuckers penned the iconic “Juicy Pureballs” in 1997. The song contains the lyrics “But you can only get that shit so shiny, when you polish a turd”.

You may find it surprising that I find an elegant parallel between the Supersuckers’ poetic lyrics and our work providing back end engineering vendor development and sourcing services around the world. But I do…

About one third of our projects involve suppliers that our customers identified and developed on their own. We’re often called in to take over management of production, quality assurance, final inspection and logistics, usually when the manufacturing ship has run aground.

We certainly don’t mind taking on these projects. They’re a challenge for our team and it’s very rewarding when we can help to extract our customers from a mess. And the suppliers are usually very appreciative of our help as well.

Having said that, some of these vendors really aren’t worth saving. If we can check off 4/5 elements on the list below, it’s generally time to move on:

  1. No discernible Quality Management System in place.
  2. No clearly written Standard Operating Plans (SOPs) at major work stations.
  3. Only informal sub-supplier qualification and audit procedures in play.
  4. Lack of a clearly defined process to make changes to the specified BOM.
  5. A management team that doesn’t have the wherewithal to accept our road map to process improvement.

Check off three or less, it may be worth the time, effort and cost to fix the vendor. More than that, no amount of polishing that we do, even with a chamois and soft brush will put a shine on this class of supplier.

As painful as it is to change horses, it’s better to stop shining and move on.


Jack Daniels

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