Emory University Emory University

Emory University

Prestigious Atlanta-based institution streamlines its procurement process to optimize purchasing

Overview

In the rapidly evolving landscape of procurement and supply chain management, higher education institutions face unique challenges that demand innovative solutions. Christopher Stokes and Kesha Hammock Reid, procurement system administrators at Emory University, shared insights into the transformational strategy the university implemented to streamline their procurement process through smart business buying solutions and collaboration with Amazon Business. Established in 1836 by Methodist Bishop John Emory, the prestigious Atlanta-based institution recognized the need to modernize its procurement operations amidst growing complications.

 

Consolidating purchasing accounts

Previously, the fragmentation of purchasing processes across over a hundred separate Amazon accounts drastically reduced transparency and control, hindering the efficiency of procurement strategies at the university. The lack of visibility into purchasing behaviors and the inability to enforce procurement policies across departments underscored the urgency for a consolidated system. The relationship with Amazon Business promised a cohesive solution to these challenges, leveraging technology to reclaim oversight and optimize purchasing workflows.

 

Kesha explains, "The discovery of Amazon business was a direct effort on the part of Emory University. We saw a very healthy spend on our P-Card side and figured it would be a good opportunity to move forward understanding there would be financial savings and administrative benefits with creating an account for Emory University."

 

As Christopher explains, "Our P-Card and purchasing departments noticed there was a sizable spend with Amazon, even though at the time that we weren't officially doing business with them. We had over a hundred different Amazon Business accounts associated with Emory University for which the purchasing department had no visibility into what users were buying. Everything was being done on the P-Card and therefore, had to be reconciled on the back-end which was a huge administrative burden which frustrated end-users. We knew that consolidating the accounts would definitely be a big [cost] saver for us. Having more control over what our end users were buying, being able to make sure that the purchases were conforming with our policies, and making sure that the carts our purchasers were creating would go through our purchasing system and conform with our workflows were the things that really drove us to working with Amazon [Business]." 

 

Gaining clear insights into savings

Key among the solutions was Business Prime as Emory University immediately experienced measurable savings on shipping and gained clear insights into their savings progress through pre-built dashboards. "Business Prime really gave us immediate quantifiable savings. Amazon has a dashboard that displays those savings and our higher-ups look at that dashboard which is very helpful for them to see the progress that we're making and the savings that we're getting," Christopher said. By also enrolling in the Amazon Tax Exempt Program (ATEP), they were able to apply their institution's tax exemption status on eligible purchases, resulting in more cost savings. Additionally, tools such as Guided Buying and Integrated Search empowered the university to adhere more closely to procurement policies, while simultaneously providing users the flexibility to conduct effective price comparisons and make informed purchasing decisions directly within the university's purchasing system. "We're also using the Guided Buying feature," Christopher said. We have a lot of categories that we have certain [compliance] warnings on. We want to give our end-users warnings that what they are buying may not be conforming with our purchasing policies, but it doesn't stop them from actually creating that cart and sending it to the system, which is great." 

 

"We noticed right away that we were saving lots of money on shipping and handling and on sales tax. It helped justify our move to consolidation."

— Christopher Stokes, Procurement System Administrator, Emory University

Streamlining the buying process

The success stories shared by Christopher highlight the tangible benefits from moving to Amazon Business. Amazon Business's commitment to tailoring its offerings to meet the unique challenges faced by the university, facilitating seamless, policy-compliant purchases. Another benefit of the move was increased procurement efficiencies from using Punchout, a purchasing integration which streamlined the buying process for Emory University. It allowed users to access Amazon Business' extensive inventory through their own procurement application, simplifying the purchasing pathway while maintaining adherence to institutional policies and workflows. This integration not only enhanced efficiency but also ensured that procurement processes were seamlessly integrated with Emory's existing purchasing protocols.

 

Christopher explained, "With Punchout, our end-users are able to go to our purchasing system and create a cart seamlessly on the Amazon Business website. That cart is transferred back into our purchasing system. The cart can then go through our portfolios that we've already built out and determine if the cart conforms with our policies. We also use integrated search which is a good way for users to compare items from Amazon with our other catalog suppliers. They don't have to go into the punch out, which is great, it saves them a lot of time." Kesha elaborated, "The types of items that we are ordering [through this system] are laboratory equipment, IT technology equipment and furniture. We're bulk ordering Similac for the primate center, which is pretty amazing."

 

The introduction of Punchout and Guided Buying features has not only streamlined the procurement process at Emory University but has also led to significant cost savings, demonstrating the financial prudence of integrating these advanced tools into their purchasing system. As Kesha elaborated, "Growth figures with Amazon [Business] for the past 12 months would have been a total savings of $63,000, which has broken down into shipping savings of $33,000. I believe the business discount was $13,000. So pretty, pretty hefty savings on our end.”

 

Christopher also emphasized the strategic importance of spend analytics and the ability to enforce procurement policies directly within the Amazon Business solution , marking a significant stride towards achieving procurement efficiency and policy compliance.

 

Leveraging a strategic partner

“Our relationship with Amazon Business will be evolving into more of a partnership supplier management relationship," Kesha said. "The Amazon Business team has been extremely helpful for us in our journey," Christopher said. "They've provided us with a lot of spend analysis which has been really helpful in determining what products we want to feature on the Amazon Business website. It's been helpful to our purchasing department in determining what items need to be sourced out. Extremely helpful, in fact. On the supplier management front, just being able to send local diverse suppliers who may just be one-time suppliers with Emory and having them set up with Amazon not only reduced the administrative burden on our end by not having to set them up in our supplier management system, it also gave them the benefit of having a wider audience on Amazon and not just having to rely on Emory University for spend." 

 

Our goal is to help our local suppliers, which will help them have more customers outside of just Emory University. It would help us with maintaining our supplier setup and overall system maintenance, as well as it being easier to order on both sides.”

— Kesha Hammock Reid, Procurement System Administrator, Emory University

In conclusion, the strategic buying partnership between Emory University and Amazon Business exemplifies the evolution of procurement practices within higher education. By addressing complex challenges through technological solutions, the university has achieved considerable cost savings and operational efficiencies. The implementation of Business Prime, Guided Buying, and Punchout demonstrates a model of innovative procurement that could serve as a blueprint for other higher education institutions grappling with similar procurement and supply chain management issues. Through this collaboration, Emory University has set a precedent in leveraging technology to enhance institutional procurement strategy which underscores the potential of collaborative innovation to transform traditional procurement frameworks, achieving greater transparency, efficiency, and policy compliance for higher education purchasing.

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