eProcurement in research

eProcurement for 1500 potential users

The Austrian Institute of Technology (AIT) is Austria's largest non-university research institution and a specialist in the key infrastructure issues of the future. It is therefore obvious to establish resilient and modern structures for procurement as well. The particular challenge here: an enormous range of goods and services as well as a high proportion of one-off procurements.

"Around 1,500 people work in the Group - and all of them are allowed to order without any major restrictions," says DI (FH) Markus Zörnig, Deputy Head of Purchasing & Logistics, summing up the initial situation. This is exacerbated by the AIT's extremely broad technical positioning: With seven centers - Energy, Low-Emission Transport, Digital Safety & Security, Vision Automation & Control, Health & Bioresources, Technology Experience and Innovation Systems & Policy - the company is active in a wide range of specialist areas. In addition, there are three subsidiaries in the areas of light metal research, nuclear engineering and the Seibersdorf laboratory: "This means an endless range of potential procurements - as a buyer, it is simply impossible to have the required product knowledge everywhere.

Atypical purchasing process

Since the products to be ordered often require a very specialized approach, the researchers themselves do the preliminary work: "In this respect, we at AIT deviate from classic purchasing. It is also not uncommon for alternative offers to be obtained directly from the requester, because only he or she can assess the equivalence." Nevertheless, the ambitious eProcurement project was launched in 2016: "My former supervisor, Ms. Schwabach, initiated this goal before she retired." SER Group's DOXiS document storage and workflow system was to serve as the central system. "This is mainly due to the nature of our projects: We need to manage calculations and contracts, obtain approvals for grants, provide access to auditors, etc. That's why DOXiS plays such an important role in the company."

Efficient system integration

In the initial meeting with DIG, all processes were analyzed. "It was important to us to retain the familiar entry via DOXiS. The release processes should also take place in the familiar environment. So we needed a flexible bridge to SAP, where the order is ultimately generated." Exactly this integration of historically grown structures into an efficient overall solution is a specialty of DIG. "Now our users start in DOXiS, from where they come to the eProcurement platform. Here, the shopping cart is compiled and the account assignment is made. Then the shopping cart is transferred to DOXiS and the respective approvals are obtained." In fact, that in itself would be a core competency of the DIG platform. "However, since we are used to approvals in DOXiS, we wanted to map this here for procurement as well. The flexibility of DIG has surprised us in a positive way!"

DI (FH) Markus Zörnig is very satisfied with the flexibility of DIG.


Free text orders and catalogs

"Our challenge lies in the number of potential products. And in the fact that, as a rule, we don't even know them before we order them," says Zörnig, highlighting the special circumstances at AIT. Because of the great variety and the enormous proportion of one-off purchases, catalog management can only be used to a limited extent: "You can't make a catalog article out of a large welding system. That's why we have a high proportion of free-text orders, which are then processed further in purchasing. In addition, however, we are also trying to expand the range of catalog articles." Various catalogs are created, e.g. for occupational safety, standard furniture (with individual specifications for each AIT company), kitchen supplies and much more. "The creation of content catalogs with Excel lists and the upload via DIG-Catman is very easy." In the meantime, 17 catalogs are already available.
Standardization is also to take place in the area of service procurement, and efficiency potential is to be realized through bundling, e.g. in the area of facility management: "Then the user can request services on the basis of negotiated hourly rates. The estimated effort is entered according to the service provider's offer, as is the date for execution." Free-text masks and catalogs play together here: "For many services, we have contractually agreed fixed dates. For example, when calibrating a device. But these can also be changed via the free-text mask - nevertheless, they are catalog orders."

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Complex release regulations

"In principle, we prefer OCI connections, and there are no restrictions on the product range depending on the customer. Only certain product groups, such as software and hardware or cell phones, are blocked: "We work together with special suppliers. A corresponding requirement request is then always sent to our 12-person purchasing team." ECLASS provides the necessary information. Which offices are to be involved in concrete terms depends on the product group and the type of procurement. "For capital goods, for example, purchasing is always involved because negotiations are necessary here." The requesters can also obtain comparative offers directly: "In the area of chemicals, for example, we have five suppliers listed." Ordered catalog items are transferred directly through the DIG platform to SAP and a copy of the order is stored in DOXiS - both in PDF and XML format. Follow-up documents such as invoices or order confirmations are also stored here. The supplier communication itself takes place via EDI or by mail and PDF.

High utilization rate

Depending on the product group, eProcurement is used to varying degrees: "With the VWR Healthcare offering, we achieve a usage level of 50%, catalogs such as RS Components are higher. In any case, we want to achieve 80% overall for catalogs and 20% for free-text orders." Of the 1,500 employees, about 700 use the system, "But that's misleading in that many researchers* outsource ordering to their office, so they use eProcurement indirectly." The system itself was developed over a period of about a year from kick-off. "The go-live was in January 2017, and we hardly have any queries from users; everything is self-explanatory. In addition to expanding the catalog offering, we are currently working with DIG on the automated processing of delivery bills, etc. Here, among other things, automated matching is to take place."