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Case Study

Purchasing Department Strives to Get More Done in Less Time

For years, the Purchasing Department at Mesquite Independent School District (ISD) had been searching for a way to maximize staff time and budget dollars with technology. The procurement process at district campuses included a mix of manual and electronic processes, and some requisitions even had to be handwritten and routed to several team-members for approval. It was difficult for staff to obtain multiple quotes for compliance purposes, much less comparison shop for best values. 

eProcurement: The solution they were looking for.

In summer 2021, Mesquite ISD’s Purchasing Department leadership, made up of Director of Purchasing Darci Hooten, and Senior Buyer Kelly Burks, met with EqualLevel to discuss its procure-to-pay compliance platform. Mesquite ISD learned EqualLevel could create a platform that would offer them easy access digitally to approved vendor partners, as well as commodity codes at the product level, all in one location. They quickly saw how EqualLevel’s platform could potentially save the district thousands of dollars in both time and money. 

“Seeing maverick spending reigned in would be huge,” said Hooten. “With the current system being so tedious and labor intensive, the marketplace could potentially speed up everything for everybody.” 

Other features

The district was also excited to learn about other features of the marketplace:

  • Compliance: The marketplace would drive end-users to the district’s approved contracts.
  • Community Inclusion: The marketplace would give end-users the ability to shop from local vendors so more budget dollars remain in the community.
  • Savings: The marketplace’s AI-powered EqualLevel Savings Advisor (ELSA) would identify the best price among all district-approved suppliers for users while they shop. 

In February 2022, the initiative became critical when a new district policy mandated the use of commodity codes on all requisitions and purchase orders. In a typical month the district was processing between 2,200 and 2,500 purchase orders. Hooten and Burks quickly realized campus staff simply could not absorb the additional coding work and faced the reality that the task would likely fall to their own overtaxed department. They were relieved to hear EqualLevel could sync the district’s commodity codes, automating the task and eliminating the need for any manual intervention. Now it was time for a decision: either automate to sync the codes, or hire a new team member to take on the extra work. 

Mesquite Chooses EqualLevel

In mid-2022, Mesquite ISD chose EqualLevel to automate its procurement process, including full integration with its Munis ERP system. “The ability to lessen the load at the campus level and execute the commodity code project were critical points in getting buy-in from our CFO,” said Hooten. With the commodity code crosswalk, the savings that would be generated, and the flexibility and ease-of-use at the campus level, procurement would be able to deliver on multiple district initiatives in one program. “We conservatively estimate 10 to 15 percent savings just in hard dollars. That doesn’t include all the soft savings associated with the time our departments and campus staff will be saving,” said Hooten. “It’s going to be a major game changer.”

Update

In fall 2022 EqualLevel developers began building the commodity code crosswalk for Mesquite ISD. Unfortunately, they discovered the district’s financial system, Munis, would not support passing the code. EqualLevel was able to quickly create a custom solution for the district so their codes could be converted into their system. This work-around allowed Mesquite ISD to still meet its target go-live date. 

Case Study

Small Business Sees Yearly Sales Increases Since Creating Their Punchout Site

Midwest Technology Products

There are not many businesses today that can claim to have employed five generations of people from the same family but, after being in business for over 113 years, Midwest Technology Products can say just that. Located in Sioux City, Iowa, Midwest Technology Products is a small (just under 20 employees), woman and minority-owned business that offers 11,000 products from 700 vendors. They work exclusively with educators worldwide to provide them with quality products, furniture and supplies for makerspaces and fab labs, as well as Career & Tech Ed and STEM instructional spaces. Through their unmatched customer service, they have built relationships with a broad network of school purchasers including teachers, administrators, purchasing agents, and curriculum directors.

Unlike a lot of their competitors, Midwest goes the extra step of providing consulting for the layout and equipment requirements of their clients’ projects. They have designed and installed hundreds of specialty workspaces filled with durable, trade quality tools and equipment and their project management team can see a project through from specifications to coordinated delivery. They also offer kits so customers have everything they need to make labs or makerspaces on their own. In addition, their products are unique; many of the items in their catalog cannot be found anywhere else online.

Midwest Partners With EqualLevel to Create eCommerce Site

In 2013, in an effort to take their business to the next level, Midwest Technology Products partnered with EqualLevel to create a punchout system for their 500-page catalog. EqualLevel’s catalog management software, EqualLevel GO, offers small OEMs or distributors who may have limited IT capabilities the opportunity to establish a punchout catalog store, or punchout store, that integrates with ERPs. This allows the products from small companies to appear alongside those of their bigger competitors in the eProcurement marketplaces of large-scale buying organizations such as purchasing cooperatives and school districts. 

To transfer their catalog, Robin Peterson, former President, was tasked with creating the line item data for Midwest’s 11,000 products including creating key words, sourcing images, and writing short- and long-form descriptions. The information was then sent to EqualLevel and through EqualLevel GO, they were able to create Midwest’s punchout system.

The punchout store has opened doors for Midwest that were previously closed to them due to their lack of eCommerce capabilities. They have been able to get in front of public sector organizations as well as other markets previously inaccessible to them. It has also improved their bottom line in other ways. Just through having all the specifications of their 11,000 products online, they have been able to reach more customers and make more sales. “Even when people don’t order through the website, and call in an order instead, our eProcurement marketplace has still served a purpose as a marketing tool. Most of the time the client will have used the site to learn and discover first, before picking up the phone to order.” 

Since engaging with EqualLevel to make the move to eCommerce, Midwest has not looked back. “Every year since creating our punchout system we have seen sales increase,” said Peterson. By utilizing EqualLevel GO to facilitate the creation of their eCommerce site, they now reach more customers in their target market than ever before.

Blog

5 Myths About eProcurement Systems (And Why They Aren’t True)

While the benefits of eProcurement are well known, there are still a number of agencies that continue to utilize outdated and inefficient systems for purchasing. From increased transparency and productivity, to proven hard dollar savings, eProcurement offers a solution for many of the challenges organizations face. The question remains then, why hasn’t eProcurement become more ubiquitous in agencies?  

Even in those organizations that have adopted online bidding and purchasing procedures, many still have not addressed the administrative inefficiencies that exist. As such, even fewer local organizations have been able to achieve total automation and extensive supplier enablement, which are paramount to harnessing the full power of eProcurement technologies.

Five Common eProcurement Myths

Low adoption rates can be attributed to several pervasive myths surrounding eProcurement. Most of these myths continue to persist despite advancements in technology rendering them moot today. 

MYTH 1:

With upfront costs for hardware as well as licensing fees, the price tag for implementation can easily stretch into the six figures. 

FACT: Today’s cloud computing offerings cost much less than their predecessors. Without hardware or licensing fees required, only subscription fees, eProcurement is much more financially accessible than it once was.

MYTH 2:

It is costly and complicated to integrate with an organization’s ERP system.

FACT: Advancements in technology have made integrating with an organization’s ERP easier than ever. In an American City & County article titled Removing The Obstacles To E-Procurement Adoption they report, “The availability (and low cost) of new technology standards such as XML have largely alleviated concerns about integrating e-procurement with back-end financial systems.” In fact, the syncing with an organization’s ERP allows items purchased to be assigned appropriate commodity codes to ensure transactions are posted appropriately for accounting purposes.

MYTH 3:

For organizations with small or non-existent IT departments, management of an eProcurement platform is a drain on resources. 

FACT: Cloud-based systems that offer a multi-vendor marketplace should only need to engage an organization’s IT department at initial ERP integration. eProcurement providers can easily manage supplier enablement, even for those vendors without existing punchout sites, eliminating the strain on buyer procurement and IT departments.

MYTH 4:

Due to additional costs to suppliers and complex onboarding processes, large suppliers will stop selling to local governments that adopt eProcurement measures. 

FACT: Today’s eProcurement marketplaces integrate all of an organization’s current suppliers at no extra cost to the supplier. What’s more, they can seamlessly incorporate suppliers regardless of technological capabilities or chosen platforms. In fact, eProcurement can streamline supplier engagement with the agency and help reduce operating costs for all parties involved. 

MYTH 5:

eProcurement systems prohibit organizations from working with small local businesses because it is either too costly for them, or just not feasible. 

FACT: eProcurement systems now have the ability to integrate suppliers regardless of their size or technological capabilities. In fact, the creation of fully-featured eCommerce stores for local businesses, specifically designed to support punchout commerce, have been responsible for propelling countless local suppliers into the world of eProcurement.

About EqualLevel’s eProcurement Marketplace

EqualLevel’s mission is to enable more effective and efficient public sector spend management that helps agencies streamline operations and optimize spending. EqualLevel combines the best eProcurement marketplace and eInvoicing capabilities into a seamless solution that is easier-to-use, faster to configure and deploy, and more cost-effective than any other procure-to-pay platform available today. With deep domain knowledge in procurement, a best- in-class cloud platform, a fast-growing network of public sector buyers and sellers, and industry-first innovations like ELSA (an AI-powered savings advisor), EqualLevel is leading the way in helping the public sector to increase the value of every dollar spent.   

Source: https://www.americancityandcounty.com/2011/08/01/removing-the-obstacles-to-e-procurement-adoption/

Blog

How EqualLevel GO “Levels the Playing Field” for Small/Disadvantaged Businesses

When making purchases, procurement professionals expect the same functionality they experience as consumers shopping online at home. They want a seamless experience between their purchasing or Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system, and their approved vendors’ most up-to-date product and pricing information. Because setting up a connection between a vendor site and an organization’s financial system can be a complex undertaking, public sector organizations often inadvertently favor larger, more sophisticated vendors. They usually have just a few catalogs from large vendors integrated with their organization’s ERP and those businesses get the bulk of their dollars.

HOW CAN SMALL/DISADVANTAGED VENDORS COMPETE AGAINST THE BIG GUYS, ESPECIALLY IF THEY DON’T HAVE AN ONLINE PRESENCE ALREADY?

EqualLevel GO gives small OEMs or distributors, who may have limited IT capabilities, the opportunity to establish a punchout catalog store, or punchout store, that integrates with ERPs. This allows small companies to appear alongside their larger competitors.

A punchout store is a web-based, supplier-managed catalog storefront. The punchout store can be custom built on top of an existing eCommerce site or, more commonly, managed for the supplier by a third-party solution provider. Buying organization employees can access the supplier’s punchout store directly from their eProcurement marketplace, also known as “punching out” to the supplier’s site, or “punchout.” Punchout allows the organization to maintain full control over order approval and payment.

HOW PUNCHOUT WORKS

The customer connects, or “punches out,” from their company’s system to a supplier’s eCommerce site. The punchout site identifies the buying organization and displays the appropriate products and prices. The shopper searches and selects goods they wish to purchase and adds them to their cart on the punchout site. At the end of the shopping session, the shopper checks out, which sends descriptions and prices of the goods placed in their cart to their ERP system.

BENEFITS OF EQUALLEVELGO

EqualLevel GO’s punchout commerce site is scalable, easy-to-use and administer, and  is provided at no charge to sellers when combined with EqualLevel’s buy-side eProcurement Marketplace solution. EqualLevel GO customers experience tangible benefits, such as:

Increased Average Order Value

A punchout catalog store, combined with up-selling and cross-selling, is a powerful combination that increases total and average order value. Suppliers can show related and complementary products in their punchout store shopping cart and can anticipate and make adjustments that will increase the average sale.

Greater Ability to Attract Big Customers

When it comes to gaining large customers, a punchout catalog store is a win-win. Big enterprises are often on the lookout for suppliers who can allow them to order directly through their ERP procurement system. For many large organizations, punchout is a ”must-have” for engagement.

Improved Sales Productivity

A punchout catalog store streamlines the sales process because it produces more accurate orders. This means less time is spent correcting orders, which improves response times and overall productivity.

Improved Customer Relationships

By simplifying the purchasing process, suppliers strengthen customer relationships by receiving and responding to orders more quickly.

Small/disadvantaged customers like Midwest Technology Products, GBEX, and El Paso Office Supply have implemented, or are in the process of implementing, EqualLevel GO to ensure their products are showing up in the search results of big buyers. “Every year since creating our punchout store, sales have increased. Even when a customer doesn’t end up placing an order online, more often than not they’ve visited the site beforehand to learn and discover, before picking up the phone to order,” said Robin Peterson of Midwest Technology Products.

Blog

McKinsey Endorses Digitizing Procurement and Payables to Optimize Public Sector Savings

By Orville Bailey, CEO, EqualLevel.

Every year the state, local and education (SLED) procurement market spends a staggering $1.5 trillion dollars annually on goods and services. In 2018, after analyzing more than 700 procurement efforts, management consulting firm McKinsey & Company concluded that at 28 percent, the public sector has the greatest potential for savings of any other sector (How smarter purchasing can improve public-sector performance).  In round dollars this adds up to the public sector potentially being able to save $400 billion through optimizing procurement. 

According to McKinsey, online tools can reduce administrative burdens. And there’s no question just the streamlining of operations alone could save hundreds of millions in non value-added time. Procure-to-pay automation improves the efficiency and effectiveness of the procurement and payables processes by digitizing manual tasks and leveraging transparency to improve decision-making. The public sector has long been plagued by the inefficiencies and costs associated with manual requisitioning, ordering, invoice reconciliation, and payment processing.

Innovating with a best-of-breed eProcurement and eInvoicing platform optimizes execution across all processes associated with the rec-order-pay transaction. A well-designed solution helps procurement and finance to streamline operations. The benefits of eProcurement and eInvoicing are numerous:

Efficiency: Automating leads to faster cycle times and improved productivity. The elimination of paper and manual steps frees up time for employees to focus on more critical initiatives.

Cost Savings: With all approved vendors housed in one centralized location, best value products can be easily identified.

Compliance: By automating the three-bid process and showing only contracted vendors, an eProcurement marketplace helps organizations comply with state and federal regulations.

Transparency: Robust reporting capabilities help ensure purchases conform to established policies. Real-time visibility into purchasing activities discourages maverick spending and provides leadership with valuable insights.

There is no doubt “the use of modern technology can take a big chunk off of public-sector bills” (Now is the Time for Procurement to Lead Value Capture) and the time to automate procure-to-pay is now. By improving efficiencies, the SLED market has the opportunity to generate savings that can help to offset the impact of COVID-19 and other budget pressures they are facing. 

Blog

Time is Money: Learn How to Save Both with an eProcurement Marketplace

If there’s one thing the COVID-19 pandemic has taught us in the business world, it’s that so much of what was traditionally done manually can more quickly and easily be accomplished online. This includes the manual, paper-based procurement process which has been plagued with inefficiencies in requisitioning, ordering, invoice reconciliation, and payment processing. Outdated, inflexible, and costly purchasing systems also restrict the ability to conduct broad-based procurement with the supply community.

What if there was an “easy” button for the procurement process? Over the last two decades, eCommerce has exploded in the consumer world with companies like Amazon making buying almost anything as easy as 1-2-3. By digitizing the procurement process, the shopping experience for businesses can be just as simple and can lead to increased savings and operational efficiency.

EqualLevel’s eProcurement marketplace allows organizations to quickly implement a cloud-based, multi-vendor, procure-to-pay marketplace that ensures compliance and can be accessed anywhere, at any time. Increasing transparency, efficiency, and compliance, the marketplace enables organizations to conduct business in the office or remotely, and it provides greater access into an approved, fully digital supply network.

The marketplace seamlessly integrates with existing enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems so that all approved suppliers/vendors and all goods and services managed by procurement are located in one easy-to-use, easy-to-administer system. It spans the entire procurement lifecycle, from punch-out commerce solutions to shopping for goods or services, approval workflow, catalog and contract pricing, purchase order automation,and receipt-invoice matching.

Organizations that have implemented an eProcurement marketplace have quickly recognized the many benefits of digitizing the procurement process. To list a few:

Efficiency: By automating a significant portion of the procurement process, an eProcurement marketplace leads to faster cycle times and improved productivity. The elimination of paper and manual steps also frees up time for employees to focus on more value-added activities.

Cost Saving: Cost-saving with an eProcurement system comes not only from ordering through preferred vendors but also from increased spend visibility. The EqualLevel Savings Advisor (ELSA) analyzes quotes to ensure the best value and uses machine learning to become smarter with every purchase. Utilizing a real-time, federated search across punchout sites, similar to Travelocity or Orbitz, data is collected from distributed sources and artificial intelligence (AI) technology uses this data to identify savings opportunities.

Compliance: Implementing a one-stop, multi-vendor punchout marketplace of all approved suppliers and contracts ensures compliance with state and federal regulations. The system automatically creates a three-bid process to determine product price, select the supplier (among approved vendors), and create the requisition or shopping cart for approval.

Transparency: eProcurement also makes it easier to conduct and analyze reports on procurement systems in order to ensure that the procedures conform to established policies. Real-time visibility into what supplies employees are purchasing and from which vendors provides valuable business insight and eliminates maverick spending.

Innovating an outdated procurement process with an online eProcurement marketplace provides a single, seamless platform to facilitate the shop-order-pay transaction. It provides employees with a more streamlined and efficient experience so they can optimize every dollar spent and every moment doing so.

When it comes to procurement, time is money. Neither time nor money should be wasted. Isn’t it time for your organization to hit the easy button and jump in?

Learn more about the EqualLevel eProcurement marketplace at https://equallevel.com/marketplace.