Five key areas to improve procurement

You can save your school or academy valuable time and money by reviewing your procurement process. Joanna Frost, regional procurement advisor at Crescent Purchasing Consortium explains how

There is significant opportunity to reduce administration and cost by reviewing your procurement process, helping you to get the most out of your budget and free up time to focus on your school’s priorities.

Using a purchasing consortium’s purchasing tools, such as the Crescent Purchasing Consortium (CPC) Quote Tool, delivers a quick win without needing to complete a full procurement exercise and they are completely safe to use. Online quote tools are really easy to use and are designed to allow you access to the very best deals that public buying organisations establish with suppliers.

Purchasing consortiums complete a thorough background check on all suppliers before they can be added to a deal. Each supplier agrees to rigid terms and conditions which ensure complete safety for all users.

Each deal sets out the terms of the agreement under which the purchases are made with a focus on price and quality. These online tools are quick, easy and completely safe to use, saving time and money. Within just a few minutes your purchase request is added to the tool and sent to recommended suppliers, removing the need to contact individual suppliers to get multiple quotes. The suppliers will respond with their prices and proposal, allowing you to choose the offer that best suits your needs.

Should you wish to complete a full purchasing review, the five key areas detailed below can help you to refine your procurement procedures. A review will take an initial outlay of time and resource but it will reward you in both reduced administration time and cost savings throughout the year.

Review your spending

A good place to start is to evaluate who your suppliers are, what you are buying from them and how much you are spending.

Aim to reduce the number of suppliers to your school or trust; less suppliers means a reduction in the number of purchase orders raised and invoices received. Reducing your supplier base may produce economies of scale as usually suppliers will give you discounts for larger quantities, this is especially important for multi academy trusts.

Benchmarking – identifies potential savings

Comparing your suppliers will identify if there is scope for doing things better both in terms of efficiency and savings. Benchmarking data can be obtained from a range of resources including CPC who can offer free of charge benchmarking on goods such as paper, toner, stationery, cleaning supplies, food supplies and corporate wear. Also consider sharing spend analysis data with other schools or trusts and make use of the DfE Performance tables on areas such as catering, premises, and energy. Extensive savings can be achieved by undertaking benchmarking.

Competition – enables you to realise savings

Instead of purchasing from the same supplier(s) – introduce competition. Plan your competition by first conducting some market research. This includes identifying potential deals, using the internet and/or other schools to identify new suppliers, and talking to suppliers prior to the competition to understand the range of options available.

You should also ensure you involve all stakeholders in the competition, especially in the writing of your specification and describe your requirements in terms of the outcomes needed. And steer clear of brand names to avoid limiting your options.

You should also conduct a request for quote or tender exercise ensuring you use your school’s standard terms and conditions to avoid signing up to unfavourable terms, as well as evaluate the quotes on a whole life costs basis using award criteria that reflects what is important to you.

Finally, you should ensure you conduct due diligence on suppliers before awarding a contract.

Alternatively use an online Quick Quote Tool and it will do all of this for you.

Deals – provide an easier purchasing process

Deals set out the terms (particularly relating to price and quality) under which individual purchases can be made by schools.

The purchasing method varies depending on what you are buying but can often be as simple as comparing price lists and selecting the cheapest, or for bigger purchases, running a competition amongst the suppliers, evaluating them on quality, service and price in relation to your specific requirements.

Deals can generally be used either to buy one off purchases or to establish a contract with a supplier over a period of time.

The benefits of deals are numerous not least because they can help schools save money. By harnessing the collective spending power of its members, purchasing consortia like the CPC drive down costs from suppliers, delivering savings that couldn’t often be obtained by individual schools.

Deals are safe to use and the risks of getting tied into contracts more favourable to the supplier are also mitigated as deals come with a set of pre-agreed terms and conditions.

Schools can benefit from support and assistance from the organisation that set up the deal. Deals will often come with template tender documentation giving the school a head start in setting out its requirements in a way to get the best response from suppliers. CPC have a team of procurement professionals on hand to provide advice and guidance to members.

Build a relationship with your supplier

Now that you’ve put all of the hard work in to ensure you have procured effectively, it’s important to build a relationship with your supplier. This will not only help maintain performance and avoid disputes but it also gives the opportunity to identify areas of continuous improvement. Developing an open and constructive relationship with your suppliers will provide them with a greater understanding of your needs and style, providing the opportunity to discuss improvements to the contract that could bring savings and mutual benefit.

Crescent Purchasing Consortium

Crescent Purchasing Consortium (CPC) is owned and run by the education sector and provide specialist advice to members on how to obtain best value for money. They produce deals (EU compliant purchasing frameworks) covering a wide variety of products and services. CPC membership is free of charge to schools, academies and the FE sector.

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