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SRUC – a unique procurement challenge

Guthrie Group Limited has risen to the unique procurement challenge of SRUC, Scotland’s Rural College. The procurement specialists have been working in partnership with SRUC for two years implementing an efficient and cost effective supply chain for branded and PPE clothing and facilities supplies that is aligned to the College’s strategic goals.

SRUC is Scotland’s centre of excellence for rural skills education, research and business consultancy partnerships. With six campuses across Scotland, 27 farm offices, five farms, eight veterinary centers’ and even two golf courses, its annual procurement budget exceeds circa £20m.

While affiliated to APUC, the Advanced Procurement for Universities and Colleges, SRUC operates to its standards and procurement frameworks. However, the unique nature of SRUC’s operation has meant that the Procurement Team has evolved its own highly distinct best practice procedures.

The vast variety of practical, lab and classroom based courses and the College’s far flung locations present very specific challenges to the SRUC Procurement function. The Spokesperson for the Procurement Team, Billy Connelly, Corporate Procurement Manager, commented “to tackle these challenges the Procurement Team has aligned and built its policies and procedures very clearly around the business goals and aspirations of the College as a whole”.  

Rather than giving ‘price’ the significant weighting, for SRUC operational and technical quality are far more often the defining factors behind its procurement choices.

As Billy explains: “There is a high level of scrutiny for any public sector procurement and it perhaps goes without saying that for us factors such as sustainability become even more important when working with land based suppliers and operating in the world that we do. However, our Procurement Team operates from the belief that we are fundamental to how smoothly and professionally the College operates – and that makes us critical to the College’s reputation.

“For us that displays that we want to work with suppliers who recognize and want to work to these higher goals, who look at service delivery, provide solutions and will be prepared to be innovative.”

Working with Guthrie’s

Guthrie Group has been working with SRUC since 2015. The company tendered for the business through Public Contracts Scotland, a thorough evaluation process that allowed SRUC to truly understand who they would be working with.

Billy said: “We saw in Guthrie Group a company that would be innovative and always willing to develop new products and services as our needs evolved”.

He continued: “Graham Guthrie has an expert knowledge of land-based business and will always recommend a better product or better price if there is one.  If he sees an operation or service that could be done differently to be more efficient or less cost intensive, he will put that forward. This partnership with Guthrie’s has delivered efficiencies’. It has also brought us a new way for students’ to order clothing and improved the logistics of ensuring that the right product is in the right place at the right time.”

Procurement Specialists

The partnership between SRUC and Guthrie Group works on a number of levels.  As Billy points out, a good supplier is one that listens, and which brings innovation to the services provided. 

On another level, it depends on expert market knowledge.  Procurement is constantly subject to policy and regulatory changes.  The best procurement managers and their suppliers will also know what’s ‘out there’ – keeping on the pulse of the market, so that new products or services are always on the radar.

Finally, the most constructive working partnerships are those which recognize the role that procurement plays in the commercial success of a business. Not simply, by cutting costs, but by bringing new ways of doing things whether this is to deliver a service or enhance internal procedures.

Billy has been working in public procurement for more than 30 years. About the same time as Graham has been purchasing for the Guthrie Group. Both have seen the sector change and want to break down the perception that procurement is a business blocker; it is a business improver. The experience that the two possess has ensured that the working relationship between SRUC and Guthrie Group is open, constructive and built on mutual respect.