Buying into digital

Online procurement platforms can benefit school caterers still struggling with pen and paper methods, says Andy Badger

The majority of us have a connection to the internet in the palm of our hands and as the average smartphone user picks up their mobile phone more than 1,500 times a week to check emails, update social media, check the weather, read the news and shop, it’s clear that large parts of our lives are now lived online. So why is it that, when it comes to our professional lives, there is still some hesitation about making the cross-over into the digital world, particularly when it comes to processes which are steeped in tradition, such as procurement?

It would be hard to disagree with the argument that the online world offers a better way of operating compared to traditional methods. It’s more efficient, it’s accessible from anywhere and it’s available 24/7, making it ideal for a busy school.

With an increasing focus on schools offering healthy meals, it is key that independent schools work with the right procurement partner to ensure they are able to deliver nutritious food at a price which meets or betters their budget. It’s true that a few years ago sophisticated web-based systems were only for large-scale universities and colleges, but now such systems are completely inclusive and available to all size and types of educational institutions, including those in the private sector. 

Cost needn’t be a factor for school caterers. While such systems have a high perceived value, many, including Acquire’s recently launched Green10 software, are cost-effective, especially when considering the savings they can make.

There are numerous benefits to be reaped from an online environment. Using e-platforms not only helps school kitchens buy more effectively, it also centralises transactions so they can be easily tracked and monitored, streamlining the buying process. They can also help re-shape supply chains, improve green credentials and save time and money.

‘Buying better’ doesn’t just mean getting the best price, it’s about school caterers working with a buying partner who truly understands their buying dilemmas and works on their behalf to connect them with the suppliers providing an appropriate breadth of product choice.

Harnessing the power of fully integrated online procurement tools is now a reality    

In the past, most traditional collective buying schemes tended to offer a standard model for purchasing, lumping a single commodity into one contract, something that greatly reduced the choice of supplier to a caterer. This is where working with an online buying platform is ahead of traditional methods. Acquire Services, for example, offer a variety of suppliers, from niche independent producers to global suppliers, meaning that school caterers have greater choice and buying power.

Procurement is also about considering the minefield of allergies school caterers need to navigate. Nutrient content, allergen content, fat content, salt levels, sugar and the origin of the product information can all be accessed within integrated systems – which makes abiding by the government’s new allergen laws easy. All food accreditations including Red Tractor, RSPCA and Fairtrade can also be linked to products, making the selection process much simpler.

In-depth software can also aid school caterers and help them understand responsible sourcing and develop a CSR strategy that also aligns to school targets. Green10, for example, can provide an online dashboard and real-time metrics for 10 specific ‘pillars’, each relating to responsible sourcing, purchasing and sustainability: food mileage, local sourcing, environmental profile, seasonality, renewable, culture, animal welfare, wellbeing, packaging and food waste. Gone are the days when caterers have to sift through paperwork or pick up the phone to their supplier to ask all of these questions.

Harnessing the power of fully integrated online procurement tools which bring all of the information together in one place along with the input of hundreds of suppliers, accreditation bodies and distributors is now a reality. This level of integration just couldn’t be achieved without digital access.

Andy Badger is managing director of Acquire Services Limited

www.acquireservices.com    

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