17 March 2010 | Jake Kanter
A procurement transformation project at one of the country’s largest social care providers, Care UK, is helping pioneer change across the company.
The purchasing team is midway through a three-year overhaul, which aims to deliver maximum savings at minimum cost.
The programme, led by group procurement director Christoph Marr has adopted an unusual working model. This consists of a small central team of three buyers and 14 “procurement champions” across the organisation.
These champions work in their own business divisions – of which there are now two, health and social care – and are not procurement professionals but have “embraced” purchasing and are using best practice to buy goods and services. They are also responsible for promoting procurement and encouraging others to use formal processes.
Care UK chief executive Mike Parish said the approach has become a catalyst for change across the organisation.
“We are gradually reducing the number of operating divisions [from five to two] and are seeking to encourage and facilitate a business-wide identity and culture, as well as cross-divisional working.
“To avoid any sense of ‘head office v division’ we have deliberately kept the central [procurement] resource to a minimum to necessitate close working with divisions. Procurement is absolutely in the vanguard of organisation and cultural change and this is to the credit of Christoph Marr’s leadership.”
Purchasing hopes to save £4.6 million by October, after already cutting costs on categories including print, insurance and fleet by wielding greater buying power. The department also has a voice in 23 spend and risk management projects this year, compared with just five in late 2008.
Marr aims to increase the number of procurement champions and continue to boost the department’s internal profile. He told SM that savings and success will create an “infectious enthusiasm” for best practice purchasing.
Care UK was acquired by private equity firm Bridgepoint for £281 million earlier this month. The senior management team will remain in place and the procurement transformation will continue.