Manufacturing guy-at-large.

You're buying services

Added on by Spencer Wright.

A thought occurred to me this morning:

As you move up the value stream - away from on-the-shelf packaged goods and towards raw materials - the fundamental nature of what you're buying changes dramatically.

At the retail level, it's relatively easy to infer the correlation between price and brand language (which may or may not be true product features). 

The next step up - buying commodity manufactured parts - is in many ways the most transparent. Here the brand language has been removed, and price correlates with product features themselves. Parts that require more, more complex features are more expensive to purchase.

But as you move up higher still - to the point where custom designed parts are being converted from raw material - pricing moves away from features and towards services. Whether or not you're cognizant of it, the price that you pay has moved to a time-and-materials model. Even though you may ask for a part count: You're buying services.