Williams Scotsman

Focus on Education: Cooperative Purchasing Streamlines the Procurement Process

Educational institutions have many procurement needs, ranging from textbooks and technology to vendors and suppliers able to handle a wide variety of necessary projects onsite – including providing modular buildings and storage units. With federal and state education funding cuts, educational institutions are under pressure to strategically source products and services to align with strict budgets and tight timeframes. 

Procuring necessary products and services requires purchasers to navigate a complicated process. That’s why many purchasers in the education sector use cooperative purchasing programs. There are many cooperative purchasing organizations that work with K-12 public and private schools, community colleges and higher education institutions to help them save money and time. 

What is a Cooperative Purchasing Model?

A cooperative purchasing model allows a group of buyers with a common interest to leverage their collective buying power to negotiate a favorable price on products and services. Such cooperatives also save purchasers time because the entire buying process is efficient and streamlined.

Designated public agencies are authorized to competitively solicit contracts from vendors and suppliers according to public purchasing rules.

How does the cooperative contract process work?

The steps are as follows:

The lead agency prepares the competitive solicitation. The agreement is accessible nationwide by state agencies that allow intergovernmental contracting 
The lead agency issues the solicitation as well as amendments and notifications if necessary
Any interested vendors and suppliers may respond to the solicitation
The lead agency evaluates all responses and awards the master agreement after final terms and conditions are negotiated
All documentation regarding the solicitation and award are posted online for the public to access 
Educational institutions are then able to “piggyback” on the contracts, working in tandem with cooperative purchasing organizations (such as the National Intergovernmental Purchasing Alliance Company (National IPA) and The Cooperative Purchasing Network (TCPN) – two entities which recently merged)

With so many cooperative contracts available to meet your procurement needs, how do you determine which contracts provide the best value for your organization?

Four key considerations when researching a cooperative purchasing contract:

According to National IPA-TCPN, 

1. Process:

Cooperative contracts should be competitively solicited, evaluated, awarded and administered by a public agency recognized for procurement excellence

2. Competitiveness:

To encourage maximum competition, cooperative contracts should have limited multiple awards and also should have resulted from a solicitation that received more than one responding proposal

3. Transparency:

Cooperative contracts and all related solicitation and award documentation should be readily available for public review online

4. Experience:

Cooperative purchasing organizations that employ experienced public procurement professionals – including those with certifications – and tenured cooperative purchasing team members are preferable

Purchasers in the education sector can take advantage of the money- and time-saving benefits cooperative purchasing contracts provide. Although due diligence is still required, you can be confident that the process will be much more efficient than navigating the procurement process on your own.

Note: In June 2016, Williams Scotsman was awarded a three-year Region 4 Contract available through National IPA to provide modular buildings, portable storage and relocatable walkways at favorable prices to member educational institutions in 47 of the 48 contiguous states (excluding NJ). The contract enables all schools and government agencies within the National IPA network to benefit from a rigorous competitive bid and best value negotiation process. Read the Press Release.

National IPA members interested in learning more about working with Williams Scotsman can access the company’s vendor profile here.

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