Emory Report
November 6, 2006
Volume 59, Number 10


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November 6 , 2006
New procurement system will offer one-stop shopping on goods, services

BY kim urquhart

A new procurement system will save both time and money for the University and its employees. The Emory Marketplace, set to roll out next year, will offer one-stop shopping on goods and services for departmental purchases, as well as a new online ordering system.

David Thurston, associate vice president for financial operations, said the Emory Marketplace will lay the foundation for a “new way of buying” at Emory. “Our goal is to make the procurement process efficient and easy so faculty and staff can spend their time on the mission and goals of the University,” Thurston said.

Emory Marketplace will provide a single, simplified process and a network of preferred vendors. The new ordering system, which will eventually replace the current EPIC Requisition System, will streamline the procurement process by eliminating duplicate efforts while offering improved internal controls and online approvals.

The Marketplace and order process, when fully implemented, will translate into annual savings of $5 million, Thurston said. Saving that money over 10 years could be the equivalent of a $50 million endowment, he added.

Beta testing will begin in January with a select group of departments. The procurement services team will meet with all other departments during 2007 to assess the business requirements of each and schedule training times that best meet each department’s needs.

Campus phase-in will begin in March 2007 and continue until December, with all departments trained and transitioned from EPIC to the new system by the end of calendar year 2007.

One of the major changes from the current system is that orders will originate from one point: the intuitive
Emory Marketplace portal on the Emory Finance Web site. From there, users can search for hundreds of goods and services from a wide range of preferred vendors. A powerful search function of the catalog tool allows the user to compare products and prices and save favorites.

Using the Marketplace to select a catering company, for example, will produce a list of preferred companies as well as helpful tips such as factors to consider when choosing a caterer. In addition to familiar large suppliers, women- and minority-owned businesses will be among the vendors available in the Emory Marketplace.

The Emory Marketplace will allow users to buy with confidence; all vendors will have been pre-screened, selected and verified based on Emory criteria. Marketplace policies will require the use of preferred strategic vendors, which helps strengthen vendor relationships, increases discounts to Emory and eliminates departmental contracts and bidding.

“The marketplace is more than just a new ordering system,” Thurston said. The new technology in the system allows for the collection of data on each purchase and can provide detailed information on that purchase. It tracks the University’s buying habits, which results in more negotiating power with vendors. “The goal is to rationalize our vendor base to achieve savings and more efficiency,” he said.

The Emory Marketplace “allows us to strategically source our purchases,” Thurston said. Strategic sourcing builds a deeper, more valuable relationship with vendors to obtain more favorable pricing and services, he explained.

Understanding exactly what is being purchased on campus is critical for managing Emory’s diverse commodity list, he said. The system can also help with safety and compliance; it features robust technology for tracking the amount and locations of all supplies on campus.

The new procurement process, which addresses users’ requests for more automated approval processes and better technology when purchasing goods and services, has been validated by consultants and is in line with best practices at other universities. Other institutions are already following Emory’s lead, Thurston added.

The technology will continue to grow and evolve as it moves past the design phase into implementation mode. The procurement department encourages requests and feedback from users to help build the Marketplace, Thurston said.

“2007 will be all about laying the foundation and creating structure,” he explained. “The real impact of sourcing, technology and better processes will be felt in 2008 and beyond.”