Four Ways to Work Better with Procurement

May 2013, Government Fleet - Feature

by Shelley Mika - Also by this author

At A Glance

Methods you can use to ensure a smooth collaboration with procurement include:

  • Being clear with procurement on exactly what you need.
  • Keeping the lines of communication open.
  • Working with the procurement department as a partner.

A recent Government Fleet procurement survey revealed that when it comes to procurement, the majority of respondents said fleet drives purchasing and spec’ing. In fact, 82% of respondents said fleet drives purchasing/spec’ing for cars and light trucks, 78% for heavy trucks, 71% for off-road equipment, and 59% for police vehicles. (See full survey results in the last page of this article.)

Based on these survey results, it’s clear fleet plays a major role when it comes to procuring new fleet units. But one other entity also plays an important role: procurement.

In order to get the right vehicles and equipment at the right time, fleets must work closely with their procurement partners. Fleet objectives must coincide with those of the procurement department, and the departments must understand each other’s needs. When objectives don’t align, this can result in unusable specifications in RFPs, not enough vendors bidding, slow processing of orders, late deliveries, and the “low-bid” attitude.

So what can fleets do to work better with procurement? While providing clear and complete information on purchasing needs is an important step, so is the human side of the equation — forming a genuine relationship, respecting each other’s expertise, and communicating as partners. When both are achieved, the results can be powerful.  

Map Out Your Needs

The first and most straightforward step to work well with your procurement department is providing clear, detailed, and specific information about the fleet units you wish to acquire. This includes vehicle types, number of vehicles by type, and the full specs you require, as well as when you’d like them to place the order.

When handing over specs, clarity is key, said John DeLoache, CAFM, director, Fleet & Travel Management for the State of South Dakota. “Don’t take for granted that what you want will be standard — spell it out in the spec,” he suggested. “Once you order, it may be too late to change what can happen.”

In order to ensure clarity, it’s important to remember you’re sharing your expertise on the types of vehicles you need — and that level of expertise may not be the same on the procurement side of the table. Matt Burgans, fleet supervisor, Placer County Sheriff’s Office, Auburn, Calif., provides his procurement partners information on the exact specifications for vehicles and equipment, as well as time requirements, previous vendor experiences, and the financial restraints for the items. “We have the firsthand knowledge of what will work for us and what won’t work, so it is imperative that we pass those requirements along,” he said. “You can’t assume your common knowledge is everyone’s. Be clear and concise with what you need, and don’t expect that everyone in your procurement department will be an experienced fleet professional.”

Carol Wilson, CPM, director of procurement for the State of Connecticut, also suggests providing information on how the vehicles will be used, both now and in the future. “It is very important that we receive clear requirements documents including desired specifications, scope of services and some background from the fleet on its purchase intentions, including the short- and long-term direction of vehicle purchases and any special needs,” she said. Allowing procurement to see the big picture of the need and use of the vehicles, as well as a close-up view of the detailed specs, can help them find the right unit for the job.

Beyond vehicle and equipment needs, Joseph Clark, fleet management director for the City of Durham, N.C. suggests working closely with procurement on service and items related to maintenance and repair. “We work with procurement to establish contracts for repairs, parts and supplies, fuel, tires, lubricants, etc.,” he said. “Our procurement department wants to help us be successful, so by providing them with some guidance and direction about our needs, they are better able to serve us.”

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