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29 July 2013 | Will Green
The head of procurement at Newcastle University says he is confident the organisation will hit a target of £2.5 million in procurement savings this year.
The university has overhauled its purchasing department since 2009, bringing in computer-based systems and cutting paperwork by 75 per cent.
Neil Addison, head of procurement, said the changes came properly online in 2011 – delivering £1.7 million of savings in its first year – and they were set to hit a target of £2.5 million for the current financial year, which runs to 31 July. “We are very confident we will meet the target,” he told SM.
The university has an annual budget of around £160 million, which includes capital spend, and deals with 6,500 suppliers.
Addison said before changes were made the procurement system was “arcane” and bogged down with paperwork to the extent that suppliers would not do business with them.
“The university is not one organisation – it’s a collective of 80 independent schools,” he said. “It was very difficult for people to deal with us. There were suppliers that didn’t want to work with us. We were too much like hard work.
“Things went through an authorisation process. In some instances it could take up to a week from raising the requisition to the order going out the door.”
Now most things are done with computer software, with a simple process to raise orders and deal with invoices. Paper invoices are scanned and uploaded to the system by an outsourced company. “It has given us the ability to manage procurement, our suppliers and supply chain, rather than firefighting with operational issues,” said Addison.