Inflation, supply chain disruptions, product and labor shortages, the list goes on and on. We could talk about the challenges K-12 educators are facing all day if we wanted to. Due to these major hurdles and the need for admin approval, it is becoming more common for school systems to pull in procurement and sourcing professionals for assistance.
Known by procurement leaders as a common best practice, cooperative purchasing brings the opportunity for major time and cost savings, risk mitigation, stronger supplier relationships and immediate access to industry leading solutions. The leverage and buying power gained from a cooperative can be used as a gateway to the next level of leadership for procurement professionals.
We spoke with Procurement Agent Sara Rowe from Harford County Public Schools (HCPS), and she shared how her team meets unique student needs with the help of cooperative purchasing.
Follow along as we outline how the school district is leveraging cooperative purchasing to streamline their procurement process and set students up for success.
Strategic Procurement Process
Rowe and the district procurement team serve 38,000 students and 54 schools within the county. She and her team are tasked with making purchases that are compliant with HCPS procedures to ensure stakeholder needs are met. Utilizing a cooperative purchasing organization streamlines the entire purchasing process, freeing up time and resources for her team to focus on other strategic initiatives.
“Cooperative purchasing has helped me reduce the processing time and paperwork that would be required if I had to process a solicitation on my own,” says Rowe. “The more I can use cooperative contracts, the more time I am able to save which allows me to be more efficient and process more requests.”
Cooperative purchasing provides an opportunity for procurement teams to take advantage of contracts that have already been publicly solicitated and awarded by another public agency through the lead agency model. Schools and government agencies across the country can use cooperative contracts obtained through an RFP process performed by some of the most elite procurement teams in the nation, including Harford County Public Schools, an OMNIA Partners lead agency.
Major Projects Become More Seamless
Building a brand-new school is a significant undertaking with high-priority steps and meticulous budgeting. To execute a successful implementation with several moving parts, Harford County Public Schools’ procurement department works with administrators on major construction projects for the district and most recently, supplied and furnished the new Havre de Grace Middle School/High School.
As Rowe and her team started planning for this two-year project, they met with end users in different departments to identify preferences and figure out how to best help students succeed.
“It required many items to furnish the new school and utilizing these contracts saved our staff a lot of time they would have otherwise needed to use to source these materials if we did not have these contracts available,” says Rowe.
Knowing they would receive quality and quantity, HCPS used multiple cooperative contracts in different categories including athletic supplies and sporting goods, laboratory supplies, furnishings and storage and classroom supplies.
“Utilizing OMNIA Partners cooperative contracts to supply and furnish the new Havre de Grace Middle/ High school saved time and money our staff would have needed to solicit IFBs and RFPs of our own,” says Rowe. “They also provide a greater economy of scale to achieve greater discounts than we could leverage on our own. Purchases made from a cooperative contract are typically placed with a PCard which saves HCPS an estimated $105.97 versus a PO process, and we receive rebates on purchases made when using a PCard.”
Student Success with Cooperative Purchasing
Harford County Public Schools continues to explore strategic opportunities to increase cost and time savings while meeting stakeholders’ unique needs faster and more efficiently.
“Working with cooperative contracts has allowed me to become more agile and strategic by reducing the time needed for administrative tasks and now I can shift my time to work more directly with our stakeholders to create greater outcomes and cost savings,” says Rowe.
As a leader in procurement looking ahead to the future, Rowe and her team can tap into knowledge from their cooperative’s category experts, market analysis and strong supplier relationships.
“Procurement is constantly evolving and changing along with the needs of our stakeholders and market conditions,” says Rowe. “Due to this changing environment, it’s important to remain agile and constantly look for cost saving methodologies. Additionally, it’s key to maintain a great network of resources to help meet stakeholder’s ever-changing needs.”
Whether the needs are innovative education products or better support overall, a cooperative purchasing organization can enhance procurement’s relationship with stakeholders as they strive to provide effective learning spaces for students. Agility and adaptability are key characteristics of a successful organization, especially during this time in history, and a cooperative proves to be a powerful partner and trusted advisor focused on each district’s individual spend needs.