Supply Chain Secrets Higher Ed Procurement Officers Need to Know

Over the past year, supply chains have more or less stabilized with fewer disruptions and more available inventory. Still, costs remain high for goods and services and remain challenging for higher education institutions that are operating under budgetary constraints.

How do schools improve supply chain procurement and reduce costs? By relying on their procurement teams, the unsung heroes that keep higher ed running smoothly, and empowering them to work more strategically.

Transitioning Buyers to Business Analysts

Leading institutions today are evolving toward a more strategic procurement process, and that starts with procurement teams.

Team members are no longer just buyers. They are business analysts empowered to optimize costs and make decisions to benefit the organization, so now the title fits the role. While this may seem like just a change in title or semantics, it elevates the importance of procurement team members and values their knowledge and contribution at a higher level.

This transition has significant benefits, not the least of which is more engaged procurement teams. It also strengthens long-term procurement and supply chain management.

Long-term Planning

Higher ed runs on cycles, so there are strategic advantages to working through schedules to build a thorough process for procurement and supply chain management. Planning ahead to take advantage of cyclical procurement and looking for opportunities to positively impact purchasing can increase efficiencies.

Long-term planning also moves beyond buying for today’s needs. By including your business analysts in big-picture conversations, you can help set goals for supply chain management. For example, you may be focused on sourcing textbooks for certain courses, but planning now for a transition to digital sources may make more sense. Current priorities might focus on ordering lab equipment, but by adding a focus on sustainability, you might source more energy-efficient replacements for the next round.

Instead of thinking transactionally, supply chain procurement strategies take into account long-term goals.

Building Stronger Relationships

Unlike some sectors, higher education institutions often have supplier relationships that can span years and decades. Investing in strong supplier relationships is more important than ever in an era where much of the sourcing and procurement happens online. Making and managing connections can go a long way in differentiating yourself from other institutions.

At the same time, regular discussions with suppliers can help to focus efforts in areas where there is alignment. For example, with today’s emphasis on sustainability initiatives to reduce waste and minimize environmental impact, open conversations with key suppliers may produce opportunities for partnerships, such as reducing packaging waste or promoting more sustainable food offerings for dining services.

Strategic Spend Assessment

Another way you can optimize supply chain procurement is by conducting a strategic spend analysis to review spending data and uncover opportunities to reduce costs, such as:

  • Bringing more spending under contract and identifying off-contract spend
  • Finding areas where consolidating spending can produce additional savings
  • Ensuring contract portfolios align with goals, objectives, and initiatives
  • Uncovering spend variances that do not meet policies
  • Benchmarking best-in-class pricing for future supplier negotiations

With a business analyst mindset, procurement teams can affect significant change.

Cross-Functional Collaboration

In higher education, end users, like administrators, department heads, and faculty, often have significant influence over purchases. Promoting cross-functional collaboration between these groups and procurement teams helps in making smarter business decisions. This can avoid procurement mistakes like renewing software licenses that are outdated or no longer needed due to changing requirements or downsizing.

Consolidating Buying Through E-Procurement

Strategic sourcing can produce significant savings, but only if campus-wide buying follows sourcing recommendations. Consolidating buying with a comprehensive e-procurement platform limits maverick spending while still providing line-item buying decisions for departments.

Procurement teams can source and negotiate contracts, then allow approved buyers to make selections from pre-approved suppliers at more favorable rates.

Leveraging Cooperative Contracts

Leading institutions are embracing cooperative contracts to accelerate procurement and reduce costs. By leveraging the group buying power of thousands of educational institutions, E&I Cooperative Services aggregates members’ combined spending power to achieve lower rates and terms that are more favorable to educational institutions.

E&I is a non-profit and member-owned organization. Focused solely on education, E&I negotiates contracts on behalf of its 6,000 members to help them lower costs. Members have the option to use the Cooperative’s competitively solicited contracts with top nationwide and local suppliers, although there is no obligation or pre-set spending minimums. Membership in E&I is free.

Contact E&I Cooperative Services today to view available contracts for sourcing and procurement solutions that save time and money.


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