Iowa district buys into and saves big with k-Purchase automated purchasing system

Using k-Purchase, the Grinnell-Newburg Community School District spends less money and time on purchasing
By: | Issue: February, 2016 | Case Study
December 9, 2015

There’s a new purchasing system in town, and it’s saving time, money and stress for folks at the Grinnell-Newburg Community School District in Iowa. Gone are the frustrations associated with purchasing chaos, sticky notes with account codes and memos about incomplete deliveries that should not be paid in full. Using a totally automated system by k-Purchase, school staff can order anything from crayons to maintenance supplies without generating one piece of paper. It’s so easy, formal training isn’t necessary.

“It’s very intuitive,” says Lisa Johnson, chief financial officer for the 1,600-student district located midway between Des Moines and Iowa City. “New users receive a ‘getting started’ email with login credentials, account codes relevant to them, and a few basic instructions, and they just go with it. Most of our people never even ask a question about it.”

And there is no cost to districts. The cloud-based system can be accessed anytime from anywhere. By following simple on-screen prompts, a staff member can create a requisition that is electronically routed to the designated person for approval, after which a purchase order is sent to the vendor. When the order is received, the purchaser electronically indicates if it is complete, so Accounts Payable does not pay for items not delivered.

“This is so much easier than the old way of doing things,” Johnson says. “The old way was all paper. We had a lot of problems with purchase orders getting lost, or delays from paperwork being transported between buildings to get signatures.”

All account codes are preloaded into the system, so staff members can easily select the appropriate one for items being ordered. Spending summaries help keep track of a department’s budget, and the purchase order numbering system allows Accounts Payable to easily assign payments when the PO number isn’t on the invoice. Reports summarize spending data and who has spent how much.

The district is saving money by spending 75 percent fewer man-hours on the purchasing process, by using less paper and and subsequently needing less storage space for record-keeping, Johnson says.

“Today people can electronically search for old purchase orders,” she explains. “There’s no reason to keep copies.”

Even more time can be saved using the Marketplace; the familiar ecommerce format allows staff to order directly from vendors that offer competitive prices on items that are delivered within 48 hours. The order gets processed after the purchase requisition (think shopping cart) is approved.

“This makes things easier for teachers who have favorite items they like to order,” Johnson says. “They don’t have to run to Walmart any more because they can get everything for a good price, delivered to them very quickly.”

k-Purchase also provides a Purchasing Advocate, a company representative who helps the district assess needs and fulfill them. After ensuring the system is properly set up with all account codes, authorized purchases and vendors loaded, the advocate helps with any issues or special requests. For example, the purchasing advocate can recommend district-preferred products be added to the Marketplace.

“Everyone likes k-Purchase,” Johnson says. “It’s easier than filling out paper forms. You don’t have to remember account codes, and you can order from anywhere you have your laptop. It’s intuitive, and it’s way easier for the Accounts Payable person.”

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