Florida department saves millions using cooperative and alternative-source contracts
Dianna White, senior buyer at the University of North Florida’s (UNF) Procurement Services department, is proud of her team’s recent achievements. “We rolled out a contract management system to the campus and an updated version of our procurement system. We have revamped our website to better educate the public and internal customers,” White tells Co-op Solutions. She is an 18-year public procurement veteran. Previously, White spent 20 years in private sector supply chain management.
Procurement Services awarded 19 bids totaling $5.1 million, saving the campus nearly $1 million in costs. By using cooperative and alternative-source contracts, the department has saved at least $6.5 million. It staged its first Doing Business Breakfast in 2019. At the breakfast, the department introduced 13 representatives from eight vendors to best-approach business opportunities at the university.
There are 15 staffers, including four buyers, one strategic analyst, one p-card administrator, two procurement assistants, two administrators and two part-timers. The group also includes a receiving office with a staff of three.
White believes procurement teams will have to produce satisfactory results with fewer personnel in 2020. ”I would venture to say they are shrinking for staffing. I believe they are increasing slightly for supplementary technological resources [software] to further allow departments to stretch their existing resources.”
White says traditional procurement methods can be a drag on time and staff. ”The formal solicitation process takes time and resources away that could be spent handling the day-to-day procurement and customer service needs.” She believes cooperative purchasing agreements can potentially save time for public procurement departments, but the agreements need to have some key characteristics and be properly structured.
To aid time-pressed purchasing staffers, White says cooperative agreements need to be easy to analyze, implement and use. In addition, public buyers need ready access to the cooperative solicitation documents, contracts, addenda and discounting structure. That comprehensive access would help procurement teams quickly evaluate the various agreements, White tells Co-op Solutions. “Most cooperative organizations require a request for this information which takes time which is in short supply,” White says.
White encourages entities and cooperative organizations to adopt best practices, such as:
–Putting cooperative language in all formal solicitations to allow other state and local agencies to take advantage of the bid results;
–Making the pricing or discount structure of each agreement easily accessible to all government agencies; and
–Entities need to analyze all available cooperative contracts to assess the best value for the individual agency.
White predicts we will see cooperative purchasing tools coming online that will enable more powerful searching and the ability to precisely determine best value among contracts. Down the road, she believes more agreements will be available with more discounts and revenue-producing opportunities. These opportunities can often come in the form of rebates on a quarterly, biannual or annual basis based on spend with the entity or with specific manufacturers on these agreements.
White encourages public procurement departments to use the following tools and techniques to become more efficient and boost customer satisfaction:
–Create more cost-effective multi-year service and commodity contracts;
–Utilize state/municipal contracts where it makes sense;
–Analyze all available cooperative contracts for the best overall value; and,
–Increase end-user involvement in the process to be sure solutions provided are effective.
On the sustainability front, UNF has a committee that continuously evaluates opportunities to incorporate more sustainable products/services to campus as well as energy-saving projects with lighting, water utilization and HVAC. Major renovations on the campus are geared towards LEED standards. UNF has had an active recycling program for decades.
UNF has 11 buildings that are LEED-certified and is retrofitting its campus with LED lighting. It operates two electric vehicle (EV) charging stations, maintains the 382-acre Sawmill Slough Preserve and manages the Ogier Organic Gardens.
Michael Keating is senior editor for American City & County and the GPN web site. Contact: [email protected]