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15 Ways the Procurement Department Can Stimulate Reuse

Procurement, Policy


 

This article has been written for procurement managers who want to show leadership from the procurement department.  It is also aimed at those who are leading on reuse in an organisation. 

 

You might be thinking? 

"How do I reduce procurement demand?"

"What aims should I include in my sustainable procurement strategy?"

One thing you can do is maximise reuse of surplus assets!

What can procurement and purchasing departments do to increase the adoption of reuse practises?

 

A purchasing or procurement department is one of the main players when it comes to encouraging reuse across an estate. If they are not involved with your reuse system, they need to be, because it can really help in maximising the positive impact. In some places, we see the procurement lead on reuse. In other places, they're only slightly involved, and in other places, they're not involved at all. However, get it right and the procurement department can really make the reuse system sing and have a great impact.

You can download our guide at the bottom of this article where we give you 15 ways the procurement department can stimulate reuse. 

 

Why is the procurement function interested in reuse?

 

You might ask; "How do I reduce procurement demand?". The easiest way to do this is to implement reuse.  If you create an efficient, well-used reuse platform, it stops the procurement of assets, furniture, and equipment that the organisation already owns- or are available from friends.

The first point of purchasing anything should be "do I need to purchase this in the first place?”, “can I borrow it”, or “can I have it second hand from somebody else?"

This is in all standard procurement guidelines. Knowing this, immediately you are able to link it to high standards, good practice and quality operating procedures within procurement.


Stop buying stuff you already have- and reduce procurement demand.

 

Now, if your procurement department is successful or wants to be successful, they will always be looking to improve things. They will always be looking for ways to do things better. But a procurement officer/manager/director is trained to procure. They are trained to buy things. Ultimately, reusing assets might actually be counterintuitive to them.

A good procurer will seek to minimise procurement. This should be one of the main motivations of a procurement officer or manager. If it isn't, that's a red flag. They need to go back to procurement 101 and look at the first rule, which states, pursue procurement at source, if possible. This is just another way of saying ‘reuse’.

 

Reuse will save procurement costs across the organisation, and whilst those savings might not be directly linked to the procurement department, at least the procurement department is facilitating those savings within the decentralised budgets across your estate.


Time saving activity

 

A third, hidden interest for the procurement department is: if you set up a reuse system, you will see a drop of purchasing orders coming in to the department. When people are trading on the reuse system, they do not need to make purchase orders, preventing the associated processing and admin costs, which the procurement department usually incurs.


Whenever you ask anybody, anywhere, how they're doing and how the work's going, they always say, "busy, busy, too busy. I'm overwhelmed with jobs." If you can take away some of that administration of purchase orders, you're helping the purchase admin, you're helping the purchase manager and you're helping the purchase department.  You're removing that administration task so that the person can then be redirected to do other things that have more impact, like helping the department with their sustainable procurement policy or waste and procurement contracts.

 

I think we all agree the whole purchase order system can be labourious at times. Think about it: When you reuse an item

  • There is no raising of a purchase order.
  • There is no signing off of a purchase order.
  • There is no invoice.
  • There no supplier chasing up for an invoice to be paid.
  • There is no need for the person to look where they filled the invoice.
  • Etc etc etc!! 
That whole process takes a lot of time and effort for the purchasing admin. Reusing assets will cut out all of this.
   
 

How the purchasing department can really help to maximise the reuse of surplus assets furniture and equipment.

 

The procurement department are a filter for all purchasing across the estate. The idea of implementing a reuse platform is to give staff an easy way to get visibility on surplus assets across the estate in the hope that they don't buy new ones. What percentage of staff would try and buy new assets if they could, over the option of acquiring something 2nd hand?

If you can reduce just 1% of your purchasing, you will be getting high fived off your CEO/ Chief Exec at the end of the financial year!

   
   
   
 

There are a number of policy fixes that can be implemented quite easily.

 

A policy change that you can consider with regards to procurement is as follows:

In the procurement policy it should say, ‘before buying, staff should consider whether that asset is available to borrow, loan or acquire second-hand using our reuse system’, with a link to the reuse system provided. The logic behind encouraging staff to pursue second-hand items is obviously that the asset might be available already within the estate or through partners, so we can save procurement costs and procurement admin, as well as getting a new item a lot quicker.

 

This should really be quite an easy thing to implement in a policy change, because the savings are massive and obvious. If your department is in a crisis with regards to savings, you can leverage this  to change policy on a big scale, because it's much easier to get a new policy through in crisis. If you are struggling to implement change during a crisis, then you will have to to look for evidence that will help you. Take evidence from your reuse system or from others who are using reuse systems and quantify (See here for the savings our customers are making) it so that others can see the savings in different time frames. This gives you proof of the regular savings that can be made and will be effective in forcing policy changes.

   
 

Rapport building and collaboration between departments

In some areas, there is often no link between the reuse of surplus assets and procurement. And, if there is a link, this usually only has to do with the sales of surplus assets. The opportunity we are talking about here is the internal redistribution of surplus assets. If your organisation doesn’t actually recognise the internal reuse of surplus assets, but is selling assets on the open market,  there is a real opportunity to reuse assets internally.


It's all about breaking down the barriers about what's possible and what others are already doing successfully. You need to have a meeting with procurement and with the main players from facilities management, logistics, sustainability and waste, and you've got to make that link to procurement and paint the vision for them. The vision is that the better use and value of assets will not be found by selling them, but by reusing them internally first.

 

Then, when that asset has finished being used in its first life, at the touch of a button, it is put up for reuse and the rest of the estate will have access to it. This means it can have a second life, third life, and maybe many more lives before it eventually gets disposed of to a third party. 

 

Conclusion of procurement mechanisms

 

In summary, we've discussed a few of the technical mechanisms that procurement strategy can put in place to encourage reuse. 


Then we explained the policy changes that procurement can make to encourage reuse and also how to build rapport with silo smashing collaboration activities that can really have a lasting effect and help to make the changes embed deeper.

 

If you have any questions regarding this topic, get in touch and we can talk about the ideas in greater detail.

If you are ready to take these ideas to your procurement team or higher up the business ladder, take a look at our guide below.

reduce procurement demand

 

PS Since writing this article we have had one more tip on how the procurement department can stimulate reuse. This comes from KIrsty Hughes, Procurement Manager at Heriot Watt University:

"In furniture and equipment contracts specify that items should have design features which means they either: Last a long time, so reuse is maximized or that they can be easily repaired, refurbished and upgraded. This means if something breaks it can easily fixed and the asset remains of value"

About the Author..

Daniel O'Connor

Daniel O'Connor

My goal is where reuse & repair is so convenient and desirable, that organisations do not throw anything away or buy anything new.. Where reusable items are redistributed for their 2nd and 3rd useful lives and when the items fail, they are diverted into repair.

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