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networking - eProcurement impact highlighted

Campus Review, 10 July 2002

THE TAFE South Australia case study highlights the impact of eProcurement within an educational organisation as the impact is not only felt within the ordering and stores section, but also can have a beneficial ripple effect on other back office functions.

John Mitchell says that besides saving time and money, eProcurement can lead to the release of valuable human resources, such as personnel in stores and finance that can be redirected to more value-added student-related activities.

"But eProcurement is not straightforward, involving extensive collaboration and careful planning," he cautions.

The Douglas Mawson Institute Technology volunteered to be the trial site for implementing "E-Purchase SA" in 2001 and 2002 and the furnishing store at the Marleston campus was the focal point of the trial.

The distributed structure of the institute's four campuses across metropolitan Adelaide presented a challenge to the corporate services division which supplies back office functions such as IT, accounts, stores and HR.

Implementing eProcurement at Douglas Mawson Institute affected the three managers involved in the trial quite differently. Gary McPhee, the contracts and procurement manager and key driver of the project, noted that the auditor was worried about mismanagement of stores once they arrive on site. He views eProcurement as a just-in-time way to minimise inventory and to remove opportunities for theft.

eProcurement also frees stores people from menial tasks, helps the institute achieve the best price and stops stockpiling of bargains that may never be used.

Manager of the furnishing school, Chris Dunbar, is sceptical about whether the system will result in lower prices and believes the stores and finance divisions will derive the main benefits.

His concerns relate to how long it will take for the institute's suppliers to come online (just one was at the start of the trial), but in the long-term Dunbar believes eProcurement will result in quicker servicing of orders and greater simplicity by knowing that when the button is pressed, the order process is initiated.

Gess Carbone, the manager of corporate services, supports the pilot provided the software can be integrated with accounts as she is looking to increase productivity and lower overheads in the back office.

Corporate services is hoping to exploit technology to eliminate labour-intensive processing with spare capacity directed towards value-adding activities to support education.

"Everything we do in the back office has a direct roll-on effect to the provision of education by the institute," she said.

Mitchell outlines the challenges of the project as the following:

  • To demonstrate savings
  • To reduce inventory
  • To link to the accounts system
  • To free staff from paper-based form filling
  • To persuade suppliers to participate
  • To convince staff of the benefits

The trial has now been underway for 12 months and many of the challenges are being addressed, according to Mitchell.

For example, to prepare staff, two full-day seminars were conducted, suppliers are being offered help to prepare their online catalogues and software is being developed to link the eProcurement system to the institute's account system.