Purchasing frameworks: providing choice and flexibility

Mike Haslin, COO of TUCO, discusses benefits and savings that can be made through using specialist purchasing framework agreements

The key to driving value with any procurement is understanding the products and the market in which they are sourced. And that is absolutely true for universities looking to form partnerships with procurement groups – it’s not just about hard savings (although that is important) – by choosing the right partner, it is a proven fact that universities can secure real added value. 

Of course, whilst that may sound simple, choosing the right buying framework is not always easy. While some procurement groups focus purely on cost or simplifying the buying process, others provide niche services that are fundamental to a particular sector. In universities, for example, catering professionals operate on notoriously tight margins. Being part of a procurement framework that provides flexibility and bespoke services can help to maximise profits, concentrate on services and retain customers – obtaining the maximum benefits from the agreement. 

Indeed, this is why the TUCO frameworks have received such acclaim – because they are designed BY universities FOR universities and reflect a deep understanding of the service offer and need.

Reading University Wessex Bar

TUCO frameworks lead in university buying 

TUCO’s frameworks lead in this sector for good reason. Firstly, we have established core pricing based on the aggregated value of our members and that means that even the largest members are able to make significant savings. And, it’s not just an empty claim – all our supplier agreements are independently benchmarked with average savings of 10%.

Every university requires regular, high-volume purchases of everyday commodities and these collective procurement arrangements can help to make notable savings by enabling economies of scale to be easily leveraged. 

There are other advantages of equal importance, for example, up-to-the-minute support in complicated matters such as regulation and supply chain compliance. 

By centralising these tasks via a procurement framework it can free up valuable local management time that is better spent elsewhere – rather than worrying about the complexities of compliance.

Keeping up with current trends

Universities, like any other catering business, need to be able to respond to consumer trends. It’s a competitive world and students will vote with their feet – and their wallets. 

Sustainability is important and part of that sustainability aspiration is around the growing preference for locally-grown and supplied ingredients. Many university sites are keen to support local produce but it can sometimes come at a premium cost and involve multiple agreements with suppliers. We need to dispel the myth that procurement frameworks can’t accommodate this desire for local provenance. Take TUCO frameworks, where 75% of our suppliers are SMEs (many on a regional basis), and we have built-in flexibility to allow our members to work with local producers, whether that’s for a short-term agreement or on a more permanent scale.

Reading University catering

What should you be looking for?

As this case shows, each university has its own complex needs, it should not and cannot be a one-size-fits-all approach. As a guide, below are other elements that should stand out when considering the procurement framework approach that will deliver your university great savings and value for money:

  • Choose a procurement partner which has deep understanding of university needs and proven heritage.
  • Explore the aggregate spending power and prices that frameworks offer and don’t forget the cost of engagement with a partner. 
  • Member feedback and collaboration should be invited – it is the members that benefit from the framework so it is important that their individual needs are taken into account
  • Built-in flexibility is a must, if a framework is going to take the complexities out of procurement, it needs to work across the board, not just for a set number of items or certain type of product
  • Products should be independently benchmarked to ensure that there is a real saving and not just a perceived one
  • Quality assurance of all suppliers is key, the framework should be responsible for ensuring that this is the case
  • Customer service has to be first-class, support to guarantee that the best deal is being achieved through regular contract review is invaluable.

If done well, this type of agreement can save organisations time, money, and administration headaches, while also positively impacting the bottom line. However, decision-makers need to take the time to understand the business benefits and which option is best for them. 

How does TUCO work?

As part of our offering, we help our members and other organisations in the public sector to secure the best deals. TUCO is a not-for-profit organisation solely owned by its public sector members and we pride ourselves on transparency and to free access to framework agreements. As such, users can be sure that their framework will work for them and their company before deciding whether to go ahead on a longer-term basis. We also have a dedicated team of category managers, who work with our members and provide expert advice to get the greatest arrangement possible for their individual requirements. At TUCO’s core is a commitment to openness about all our practices – a quality which has led to us to becoming a leader in our field and a driving force of best practice across the industry. 

TUCO’s leading and advantageous frameworks are open to the public sector – not just TUCO members. For more information please visit: www.tuco.org or follow the organisation on Twitter @TUCOltd.

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