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Creating a One-Stop-Shop for Research

IT & Informatics
Winner: The Scripps Research Institute nominated by SciQuest
Project: Procurement Transformation

July 29, 2010 | The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI) boasts 534 faculty, 735 post doctoral researchers, 218 graduate students and 1,445 lab and supporting employees in its two locations in California and Florida, and keeping all of those researchers busy and equipped means a huge procure-to-pay process. Automating that process with SciQuest’s eProcurement product has saved TSRI over 8,000 man hours and won Bio•IT World’s Best Practices Award in IT & Informatics.

Before the SciQuest rollout, labs searched through numerous paper catalogs and on suppliers’ Web sites. They filled out the required paperwork and requisitions. Written approval was required to make purchases of more than $1,000 or that included regulated materials. The process could take up to two weeks or more and required 17 people to touch the necessary paperwork – all before the order could be placed.

June Lombardi, director of procurement, and Dennis Gilliland, senior sourcing manager for IT liked that the SciQuest shopping platform allowed TSRI to create its own online marketplace—Amazon for their researchers’ needs, Lombardi says—representing 1080 catalogs. “Prior to the SciQuest model of searching, researchers would have to pull off the manufacturer’s catalogs one by one and some are 200, 300, 400 pages thick,” explains Lombardi. “[SciQuest] allows researchers to search by chemical attribute, by description, and compare across product lines and look for a particular item.”

The new process not only streamlined the process of finding supplies and reagents, but it dramatically improved the actual ordering process. “Before SciQuest our entire procurement system was a paper process,” says Gilliland. This proved particularly cumbersome when TSRI opened a new facility in Florida, but all procurement was still done in La Jolla. “With the deployment of the SciQuest system throughout the organization, not only has that been able to speed up processing time, but also has been able to gain greater efficiency.”

The new system went live in January 2007. With no mandatory requirement to use it—researchers typically “own” the grants they work with—leadership at the Institute expected scientists to adopt it gradually, but word of the benefits it delivered spread quickly. By September 2009 95% of all labs, and 1,327 active employees were using the SciQuest system.

Today more than 90 percent of spending at the Institute (thousands of purchases) flows through the new electronic, on-demand procurement system and all facets of the purchasing cycle—from gaining approvals to the payment of suppliers—are dramatically faster.

“SciQuest lets researchers spend more time doing what we do best... researching! Before we had it, we wasted countless hours shuffling papers instead. And there is no way to know how much money we lost through redundant purchases, rush orders and the like,” said Bruce Beutler, professor and chair of the department of genetics in the Best Practices entry.

Labs now spend 85 percent less time ordering supplies and managing their orders. Many have gained 20 hours of research time each week by eliminating the administrative tasks once associated with the purchasing process, while the average requisition to delivery cycle takes half the time it did before the transformation and continues to accelerate.

The new system has saved hundreds of thousands of dollars. Many labs can report saving of seven percent or more on their supplies and purchases, allowing researchers to achieve far more with existing funding. Labs can now easily access TSRI’s negotiated rates and invoices can be automatically checked against these rates.

Lombardi is proud of the effort’s Best Practices win. “An administrative procurement function can have a significant contribution to the acceleration of science to drug discovery.”

This article also appeared in the July-August 2010 issue of Bio-IT World Magazine. Subscriptions are free for qualifying individuals. Apply today.

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