The concept of total cost of ownership or “TCO” is to determine a product’s true cost not just based on the price but on all the costs it takes to purchase and maintain the product during the entire time it is owned. This is hardly a new concept and most of us apply it in our personal lives, knowingly or not, each time we make a major purchase. For example, when we buy a car we want to know the price of the new car, the trade in allowance on our old car, the taxes at time of purchase, ongoing taxes and insurance, gas mileage, maintenance costs, and maybe even the amount we can sell it for when we are ready for another. In fact, almost all of the on-line car research sites (Edmunds, Kelly Blue Book, and Consumer Reports to name a few) calculate the expected TCO for about every model out there. There is little doubt that TCO is an effective tool when making a purchase decision on a major, long-lived asset…but is the concept equally effective when comparing competing offers from material suppliers?