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Breaking Down Barriers to Collaborative Purchasing in Schools ...


A recent article in Supply Chain Management raised a number of issues schools are having with embracing collaborative purchasing. We'd like to share our experience of how these can be overcome by using a purchasing consortium.

Lack of Time

According to the article, 72% of respondents to the National School Procurement Survey identified lack of time as the chief barrier. To set up collaborative working arrangements with other schools does take an investment of time. However by using a purchasing consortium schools can take advantage of a collaborative purchasing power that is already established. The consortia will have been to the market with the power of its members purchasing spend behind it and secured discounts from suppliers based on anticipated aggregated volume of spend. In fact the collaborative procurement route offered by consortia is often an easier, less time consuming route to market. The vetting of suppliers, quote / tendering processes and terms and conditions have been completed up front and agreed on your behalf and there is no question that these suppliers support the collaborative purchasing route, a factor that 46% of respondents were reported to feel would encourage them to work with other schools.

Lack of expertise

Purchasing consortia are a good way for schools to tap into the expertise of professionally qualified procurement staff. Consortia are not just offering a list of approved suppliers, often they operate a helpdesk facility; provide template documentation, with contract management support and purchasing training to their members. A consortium that specialises in setting up framework agreements specific to your sector is in a good position to advise on the approach other schools are taking to purchasing and pass on lessons learnt when buying goods and services.

Collaborative approach to purchasing not a priority

Benchmarking the costs of goods and services to your school can …act as an incentive to drive improvements in the competitive positioning of all educational supplies the Department for Education comments in its Buying Collaboratively guide. Demonstrating the savings that could be achieved through collaboration should help to prioritise joint purchasing initiatives with school business managers, heads and governors. Purchasing consortia usually offer a benchmarking service to test the competitiveness of their agreements before you use them. For example CPC, as a consortium owned by and operated for the education sector, offers such a benchmarking service to its members with the results of benchmarking exercises published here on our website. Benchmarking exercises on CPC's cleaning chemicals and janitorial framework have shown an average saving of 36.74% and the Office Supplies framework agreement an average of 28.79% saving when compared to schools existing arrangements.

The Crescent Purchasing Consortium is passionate about developing collaborative purchasing within this sector and offers a number of initiatives to support our 2000+ academy and schools members to do so. We recognise the challenges currently facing the sector. With that in mind we aim to provide our members with a compliant, accessible route to market that achieves real savings across a wide variety of areas from office supplies to insurance and legal services.

To find out more about how to join CPC or if you would like to speak to one of our Regional Procurement Advisors, contact our Helpdesk on 0800 066 2188 or [email protected].

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