London’s King’s College Hospital is a leading UK hospital with a worldwide reputation for teaching and research. It treats more than 500,000 patients a year and provides a full range of hospital services to the people of London. King’s is also recognised nationally and internationally for its research work in liver disease and transplantation, foetal medicine, neurosciences, cardiology and haemo-oncology.
Unlike many other UK hospitals, King’s College Hospital retains a centralised team responsible for procurement. King’s recently implemented RS Components’ online purchasing system, PurchasingManager, to slash order time for a defined range of non-medical products from days to hours and provides increased cost controls and manageability for the procurement team.
Following a review of hospital purchasing processes and systems by procurement systems manager Jackie Holder, King’s College implemented, as part of its e-procurement programme, a system to increase purchasing efficiency of defined range of non-medical products. This meant getting the order right first time, every time within the cost controls set and receiving the goods as quickly as possible to a number of off-site locations.
As King’s already used RS Components to source industrial items using a current paper-based mainframe linked system to place orders, it decided to look into supplier’s PurchasingManager solution, a Web-based procurement tool to speed up the processing time for placing and receiving orders from two to three weeks to next-day delivery.
Holder explains: “Many of the items which we were ordering from RS were “one-offs” or changed frequently, and the process involved in setting-up items on our purchasing system to create an order is extremely lengthy. We were therefore keen to order directly off the RS website but had to ensure that spend controls were in place. PurchasingManager provides all the necessary control functionality which we require.”
With one eye on the purse strings, as a publicly funded organisation under pressure to review and keep costs to minimum, it was vital for King’s to choose a cost-effective solution. RS immediately fulfilled the criteria as the PurchasingManager procurement tool holds no cost for the customer and, because it works comfortably alongside other internal systems, there was no need to ‘rip and replace’ existing technology investments.
In January 2002, King’s implemented the RS PurchasingManager, providing key staff at the hospital access to more than 135,000 industrial products online. Taking just four days to set up, the system was configured to mirror the hospital’s internal ordering process so that users could quickly familiarise themselves with it. King’s then arranged for an internal champion to work with RS on a three-month pilot roll-out.
Whereas staff previously had to rely on a slow and restrictive paper based system for ordering goods from RS, PurchasingManager now inputs the information at one point, improving order accuracy and reducing cumbersome duplications. The system notifies users immediately if the product is not available and searches for alternatives, which prevents costly delays and frustrating waits for essential equipment. Significantly King’s has been able to save considerable time in processing orders by using PurchasingManager and now take full advantage of the RS next-day service.
Staff also benefit from the system’s automatic correction of part numbers at source, putting an end to paperwork re-writes and product returns. In the same way the system also ensures that any commercial discounts the hospital has in place are automatically calculated on every order, preventing confusion and pricing errors by end users.
Ending maverick spending and ensuring pricing accuracy are vital to any purchasing department. King’s wanted a strategic solution that would give budget holders control over department spend while ensuring that technicians were not hindered in placing orders. The PurchasingManager system provides 100% visibility to all parts of the organisation, from department heads and procurement managers through to the finance department. All orders go through an online approval process which monitors order value. Orders which exceed spend limits are automatically emailed to nominated approvers within King’s for online authorisation.
Line managers also use PurchasingManager to create instant reports made up from detailed order information including product descriptions, order placed by and order value to make informed strategic purchasing decisions. The reports give a birds-eye view of the purchasing history of the department, and provide purchasing managers with an at-a-glance check on spend.
“The reporting function gives purchasing managers control over departmental spend, it means they can be smarter about using resources and make maximum use of efficiency savings,” comments Colin Davies, E-Commerce implementation manager at RS Components.
In addition to the ability to procure and receive goods quickly the number of invoices that have been received and processed have reduced by means of a monthly consolidated invoice from RS.
The success of the PurchasingManager trial meant that King’s was able to roll out the tool to other select departments as well. The scalability of the system ensures that new users can easily be added, deleted or moved between departments. Each department has the ability to set its own controls, configurations, spend limits and access rights. Change management is often a tricky process, and so RS supports King’s by providing full training to all new users, offering advice on how to streamline the order process across different departments and by providing access to a dedicated web helpline.
“RS Components have put a great deal of time and effort into developing their website. The site is extremely comprehensive and easy-to-use and we have had no problems since implementing the use thereof. The support provided has always been extremely effective and accessible. In all, a good trial and benchmark for implementing further e-procurement processes within King’s.”