Supplier selection processes are a little like looking for love on a dating app. Suitors put their best (and sometimes not completely accurate) foot forward. Without knowing the right questions to ask, it’s easy to wind up with a frog instead of a prince.
The same advice goes for procure-to-pay (P2P) selection processes. Platforms promise 100% procurement automation, easy vendor consolidation, and significant time and money savings. The post-implementation reality is that too many biopharma and life sciences organizations only achieve 50-70% procurement automation, with a purchasing team that is busier than ever and still struggling to tame long tail and maverick spend. Lab supply procurement digitalization yields many benefits, but if you don’t ask the right questions during the competitive bidding process, you might be in for an unpleasant surprise later.
1. Who is responsible for hosting the PunchOut catalogs? Scientists often have hundreds or even thousands of PunchOut catalogs from which to order supplies. P2P vendors promise to consolidate this process and make it more user-friendly. However, after implementation, procurement teams may discover that they are responsible for uploading and maintaining each and every catalog. Catalogs quickly become obsolete and must be frequently re-uploaded by procurement, increasing workload, errors, and delays.
2. What will the P2P platform’s home page look like? Home screens often feature a limited, static number of links to supplier catalogs, with occupied slots going to the major players, such as VWR and Thermo Fisher. If a scientist can’t find their product from the home screen catalogs, they may need to sort through all of the other catalogs, often navigating between hundreds of separate tabs.
3. How easy is it to purchase from suppliers who are not on the home screen? What is the process? If an item is found from a catalog not on the home screen, sometimes the scientist must complete an ad hoc request form, which then must be approved by procurement, resulting in delays and inefficiency. Free text orders abound since there is no real time advantage to using one of the non-primary suppliers and can serve to actually increase maverick spend.
4. Who is responsible for adding new suppliers? This is a very important question, as procurement is usually still responsible for adding new suppliers, post P2P implementation. Ideally, a third party will set up new vendors and will do so in a timely manner that adheres to pre-set approval flows.
5. How will order tracking be handled? Order and delivery tracking can be a major bottleneck that adversely affects supply chain resilience, but it doesn’t have to be. Ask to see exactly how order tracking will be handled to determine if the user experience will be truly improved. With many platforms, order tracking remains very manual, usually happening via email and phone calls. Even post P2P implementation, scientists spend 2.4 hours per week communicating with operations teams and/or suppliers to track order statuses. Worse yet, 86% report experiencing delays in experiments due to backorders.
6. What is the user experience truly like? Can scientists take a test drive of the ordering process? What about the supplier experience? The ultimate goals of procurement automation are to boost the bottom line, expedite experiment timelines, and accelerate speed to market. Scientists need a solution that helps them spend less time procuring supplies and more time on the bench. During the request for quote (RFQ) process, ask if the scientists can try out the P2P platform to see what the product identification and selection process is like. Is it more Amazon-like, or does it still involve hundreds of clicks and open tabs? Is order tracking improved and automated? Also investigate the supplier interface, as suppliers are major stakeholders as well.
Just with any system redesign, you must begin with the end in mind. This is why you must craft your selection process questions with the goal of finding a match that makes the lives of your scientists easier so they can achieve those eureka moments.
No matter where you are within the P2P selection or implementation process, it’s still possible to achieve your goals by enhancing the platform with a self-service marketplace, such as ZAGENO, to help R&D procurement achieve almost complete automation of trunk and tail spend.