Driving continuous improvement
Clockwise from top left: Lim Cheh Peng (OSHE), Pang Chong Ning (CPO), Seow Siew Peng (CPO), Dr Yap Lai Lai (SOM), Liow Meow Leng (SCALE), Yeo Kai Xiang (CPO) and Chin Pei Pei (CPO)
Pang Chong Ning
Acting Director
Central Procurement Office
Seow Siew Peng
Associate Director
Central Procurement Office

OE heroes: Driving continuous improvement with category management

It is inevitable that a university renowned for research and innovation, such as NUS, will see significant expenditure on lab materials.

With substantial annual spending on lab consumables and glassware, the volume and demand for these products require sourcing from more than 10 suppliers. Different methods, ranging from small value purchases to simplified quotations for repeat orders, are employed in the sourcing process for the materials.

To improve price competitiveness, the Central Procurement Office (CPO) spearheaded a category management project to collaborate with Nanyang Technological University (NTU), which also incurs substantial expenditure on lab materials. This was done by consolidating the procurement of lab consumables and glassware for both universities.  

The project team leveraged category management as a way of driving and delivering value, and identifying opportunities for cost savings through demand aggregation which involved simplifying the procurement process. With the enhanced process, buyers for lab consumables and glassware no longer need to call for quotations or tenders, resulting in time savings and improved efficiency. In addition, a demand aggregation contract is established to consolidate the supply and delivery of lab consumables and glassware, enabling both NUS and NTU to improve price competitiveness and achieve better procurement value for their respective purchases.

Pang Chong Ning, Project Lead and Acting Director for CPO, observed that streamlining the process for requirements and specifications provided a series of potential cost savings. “The category management team and key users of these items focused on two elements of analysis during the optimisation process,” Chong Ning explained. The first part of the optimisation process involved assembling granular data about each category. For example, the volume of items being purchased and used, user information, costs, specifications and functions. The second part required an analysis on the impact of specifications on the cost of products and services, to enhance the understanding of institutional needs and future requirements.

Both universities collaborated on the information for respective purchases and supplier information to identify areas for cost savings. Seow Siew Peng, Co-Project Lead and Associate Director at CPO noted that a key benefit of working with NTU was achieving better value in term of price competitiveness. “We were fortunate to receive strong support for the initiative and active inputs from our key stakeholders in various departments across the University,” Siew Peng said.

Within NUS, the category management team and staff from the Office of Safety, Health and Environment (OSHE), and the Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine (SOM) among others, consolidated and synthesised insights from previous purchase phases to establish the sourcing strategy for driving greater value, reducing costs and mitigating risks from the purchasing process.

Lim Cheh Peng, Associate Director from OSHE shared that it was heartening to see active collaboration between different NUS departments and schools, as well as between NUS and NTU to achieve significant cost savings in the operation of research labs.

One of the category management projects for SOM was the collection and disposal of toxic industrial and biohazardous waste involving large amounts of chemical, cytotoxic and biohazardous waste being generated weekly from the 15 departments. Dr Yap Lai Lai, Senior Laboratory Manager at SOM explained that previously, each department went through a tedious process of sourcing and engaging waste disposal companies to obtain quotations for chemical waste and biohazardous waste disposal. “The high cost of disposals usually required tenders to be called,” Lai Lai noted. “With each department and the central team creating their own payment process, this resulted in a significant amount of work being duplicated across the entire School.”

With a waste disposal contract established through category management, departments can now easily arrange for waste disposals without having to go through extensive paperwork. In addition, the contract ensures price competitiveness and generates substantial cost savings for the departments.

The category management project resulted in an average of 23% cost savings through price negotiations and open tenders. Cost savings aside, the inaugural partnership with NTU paved the way for future projects that will enable NUS and other universities to collaboratively improve their respective processes to meet business needs.

OE is a strategic initiative undertaken by the University to develop best practices for an efficient and world-class administration to better support NUS’ Vision and Mission. It aims to bring about improved work processes and policies as well as create opportunities for talent development and growth.


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