Real Life Stories
Southern Universities Purchasing Consortium
The Southern Universities Purchasing Consortium (SUPC) works with universities and further education colleges, across the South of England, that spend around a staggering £3 billion every year on products and services.
In this issue of Work-It, SUPC, reveals how they establish framework agreements with all types of suppliers to ensure that members continually receive value for money and only buy the best products and services possible from reputable suppliers.
How and when was the SUPC set up?
SUPC was established in 1974 when three universities decided to jointly appoint a stationery supplier. They quickly found that working together gave them access to better prices and they decided to extend this way of working into other commodity areas. We now operate a central office to support all the work and our portfolio of collaborative agreements and services has continued growing. We are now one of the largest regional purchasing consortia in the UK and continue to attract new members.
Other than having access to the tender agreements, what additional key benefits do your members receive?
We work closely with members offering expert advice on how best to use our framework agreements and our contract managers provide a huge amount of procurement advice. We have also just established a procurement shared service that undertakes procurement maturity assessments and provides a report and action plan on how an institution should further develop its procurement operation. The shared service provides external procurement support to institutions; it has provided support on procurement strategy and organisation, spend analysis, and e-procurement implementation as well as managing tenders.
We also proactively manage our suppliers’ performance to ensure that they are meeting their contractual service and price requirements. In addition, SUPC provides an ideal forum for both the full time procurement officer as well as specialist technical buyers to network in interest groups and share best practice.
How many people work at SUPC?
SUPC is a team of nine people – five procurement professionals, three administrative professionals and a communications manager.
What types of products and services does SUPC negotiate tenders for?
SUPC delivers frameworks across a huge range of commodities and services and we work with a wide range of suppliers including Slingsby. All companies on SUPC framework agreements must prove their credentials and skills as well as their ability to supply requested products or services at a competitive price. This is done through a series of questions, supplier evidence, product tests and comparison in the market.
Do you consider a supplier’s green credentials?
Absolutely. SUPC has an in-depth sustainability policy that incorporates environmental, social and product-specific questions within our tenders.
How has the recession affected your activities?
Our members spending patterns are mostly affected by government funding policy and student recruitment. However the recession has affected some supply markets more than others. We have seen a reduction of potential suppliers in some markets and some suppliers have ceased trading. A recession is also a good catalyst for innovation and we hope in the longer term to benefit from some new supplier efficiencies.
What are the key challenges facing the SUPC and how will you overcome them?
In the procurement of science supplies and services, the key challenge is the uncharted territory of laboratory supplies. There are still many research departments and groups of which we are unaware – if we don’t know what’s out there, we don’t know where to start. A huge exercise has begun across the UK Purchasing Consortia, led by SUPC, to map this gap in procurement and to address this in partnership with the procurement teams of universities, so watch this space!
Of course, SUPC also faces the sector-wide broader challenges of helping members work with tighter budgets to demonstrate value through their procurement activities. We’re working hard as a consortium to offer more collaborative agreements that support our members in achieving the higher education target in England of 30% of non-pay spend going through effective collaborative agreements.
What are the biggest growth opportunities for SUPC and how will you maximise them?
We are looking to refine what we offer members in the area of laboratories, but we’re also looking at setting up new agreements in the areas of professional services, marketing and recruitment and print services. We identified these areas for growth after analysing our members spend patterns and after member consultation.