Procurement at the forefront of technology

The completion of the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) in autumn 2008, involving a vast international collaboration and a ten-fgure – yet extremely tight – budget, presented unprecedented obstacles. When the LHC project started in earnest in late 1994, many of the most important technologies, production methods and instruments necessary to build and operate a multi-TeV proton collider simply did not exist. CERN therefore had to navigate the risks of lowestbidder economics, and balance the need for innovation and creativity versus quality control and strict procurement procedures. The impact of long lead times for essential components and tooling, in addition to contingency for business failures, cost overruns and disputes, also had to be minimised. Procurement for the LHC demanded a new philosophy, especially regarding the management of risk, to keep the LHC close to budget. Excluding personnel costs, the total amount charged to the CERN budget for the LHC was 4.3 billion Swiss francs, which includes: a share of R&D expenses; machine construction, tests and pre-operation; LHC computing; and a contribution to the cost of the detectors. Associated procurement activities covered everything from orders for a few tens of Swiss francs to contracts exceeding 100 million Swiss francs each, from purchases of a single unit to the series manufacturing of hundreds of thousands of components delivered over periods of several years. To give some fgures, the construction of the LHC required: 1170 price enquiries and tender invitations to be issued; the negotiation, drafting and placing of 115,700 purchase orders and 1040 contracts; and the commitment of 6364 different suppliers and contractors, not including subcontractors.

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