Pandemic supplies keep flowing in Miami thanks to local vendors, cooperative buys and web platform
When the COVID-19 pandemic started, Miami’s city procurement team was working long hours purchasing personal protective equipment (PPE), testing labs, testing kits, supplies, services and everything else needed for city testing sites, and any other items needed to address the pandemic crisis.
“Even as procurement worked remotely, workloads grew as we had to manage the city’s Emergency Operations Center (EOC) logistics, regular job duties and adjusting to working remotely,” says Annie Perez, Miami’s procurement director. “Our staffing levels did not change, but many staff got additional responsibilities due to the EOC duties, and a portion of their workloads were shifted to other staff.” Perez also serves as the chief of logistics for Miami’s EOC.
Technology has played a role in pandemic buying for city departments, Perez explains. “In order to continue to procure in this new ‘remote world,’ we launched several online bidding platforms to receive bids, proposals and quotes electronically: BidSync for all formal competitive solicitations over $25,000 and GovQuote for all informal solicitations up to $25,000.”
To acquire needed COVID-19 supplies, Miami has worked with Amazon Business, Perez tells Co-op Solutions. “Especially at the beginning of the pandemic, we were able to secure supplies easily through our Amazon Business web platform. During the pandemic we also launched a partnership with the company that we had been working on for over a year called the ‘Amazon Local Seller Initiative,’ which is a new capability to seamlessly connect local and small Miami businesses with purchasers at the city of Miami seeking products to support their operations.”
Miami has worked with Amazon Business to offer government organizations the ability to search and purchase goods from local suppliers. The city is one of a small number of major municipalities across the United States to partner with Amazon Business on the initiative. “In an effort to distinguish local vendors and encourage city purchasers to buy local, Miami-based businesses appear in search results with a green checkmark next to their listing and are tagged as ‘Approved’ by Amazon Business,” Perez says.
During this time period when local enterprises have been financially stressed due to the pandemic, the city partnered with Amazon Business to host a series of webinars for local Miami small businesses to learn how to become sellers in the Amazon universe. “More than 230 attendees participated in the webinars and as a result, several are in the process of being on-boarded by Amazon Business as sellers,” Perez explains. This link offers details on how Amazon Business simplifies procurement for the public sector.
Perez says cooperative procurement contracts have helped save time and boost team efficiency in lean-staffed local government procurement departments such as Miami’s. “Absolutely, it is a form of strategic procurement management. We have done a good job of taking many of the major national cooperatives and local ones such as the Southeast Florida Coop to the city commission for approval and delegation of authority for use of their contracts in order to expedite procurements.”
Due to economies of scale, the cooperative agreements have achieved cost savings. Miami’s Department of Procurement has been the lead agency in several procurement contracts for the Southeast Florida Coop. “In one instance, we achieved lower prices than the State of Florida and it was due to the buying power of all the participating entities,” Perez adds.
Amazon Business has an OMNIA Partners cooperative agreement that enables public agencies to acquire needed supplies in response to COVID-19. Those agencies have a variety of items on their shopping lists, says Rob Green, general manager, public sector at Amazon Business. “Many public sector organizations have turned to Amazon Business to meet demands in PPE supplies, like surgical masks, face shields, medical transport ventilators, hand sanitizers and wipes. We created COVID-19 Supplies to directly connect PPE manufacturers with health care and government workers in need of inventory, streamlining the order and fulfillment process.” Green spotlights Perez’ department: “For example, the city of Miami is working with Amazon Business to acquire critical equipment and supplies for frontline staff, with the convenience of our dynamic store environment.”
Green says purchasing teams are adapting to the new reality. “Procurement departments have traditionally dedicated a significant amount of time to managing spend and researching suppliers. But this is no longer feasible for many government agencies that may be reducing staff due to budget austerity. Under the Amazon Business-OMNIA Partners cooperative contract, lean-staffed government procurement departments can conduct research from multiple suppliers in a single, consolidated and standardized view.” Click on the link for information on an Amazon Business-OMNIA Partners cooperative contract.
Public purchasers can simplify buys while maintaining control, Green adds. “Administrative tools on Amazon Business empower procurement professionals to provide the seamless Amazon buying experience to their end-users, while maintaining the ability to enforce procurement policies such as preferring or restricting selection and suppliers. For example, our online store features purchasing workflows, a tool to consolidate purchases and invoices into one system. This capability helps improve visibility, reduce paperwork and free up time.”
Government buyers want the same convenience they enjoy as consumers, Green says. “We are already seeing a trend in the business-to-business (B2B) ecommerce customer experience adopting business-to-consumer (B2C) practices, as government and institutional buyers increasingly expect the efficiency and convenience of online procurement. For example, B2B buyers can now receive exclusive discounts and faster shipping through a Business Prime membership, similar to how consumers benefit from Prime.”
Cooperative contracts and buying will continue to evolve, Green says. “Public sector agencies will continue to realize the advantages of cooperative purchase agreements as procurement moves to digital channels, and both the cost- and time-savings of buying through Amazon Business or other similar online stores become apparent.”
Michael Keating is senior editor for American City & County. Contact: [email protected]