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"Sometimes the savings are a few dollars, sometimes it’s a 50% price reduction we found with a new vendor, and sometimes the savings are seen in the time we don’t have to spend signing a stack of purchase orders. People are realizing that they get more for their dollar with Epylon, and it is selling itself throughout the organization."

— Mary Simms, Director, Internal Business Services, Kern County, Superintendent of Schools Office

Kern County

Superintendent of Schools Office
eProcurement Implementation

The Challenge
The Kern County Superintendent of Schools Office manages the purchasing for approximately 200 programs such as technology and facilities throughout the county’s offices. Having no central purchasing office, the business office of the Superintendent of Schools Office acts in conjunction with managers of each program to facilitate the purchasing of goods and services for the 1,200 employees that cover the county. The office processes over 5,000 purchase orders each year, a number exclusive of purchases done under contract such as construction projects, and does business with an excess of 1,000 different vendors.

The office managed purchasing activity with purchasing cards and the Quintessential School Systems (QSS) financial systems software package. But the purchasing process was lengthy. Pricing and product specifications were determined by researching physical catalogs, and quoting requirements were met with faxes and phone calls to vendors. Each program manually input product information into a requisition, which was sent to the business office for approval. A purchase order was then printed and a copy mailed to the vendor. Another copy was sent back to the program site for a final signature and returned to the business office, authorizing payment when the product or service was received.

The Kern County Superintendent of Schools Office also ran a central warehouse. Program sites sent orders through their financial system to be printed and filled by the warehouse supervisor. Behind the scenes, warehouse staff were searching catalogs for pricing and faxing the orders to the different vendors—a process that was replicated for each of the up to 100 orders the warehouse could receive in a day. Mary Simms, Director of Internal Business Services for the Office, comments, "I knew that there must be a better way."

Until learning of Epylon, Simms was not confident that an eProcurement solution was that better way. Existing solutions would be insufficient in meeting the requirements and needs of a public sector agency. But Simms was familiar with Epylon’s founding team, and impressed with the public sector experience they brought to the design and functionality of the eProcurement solution. Confident that the solution would not only meet her specific needs but would also introduce new efficiencies to current purchasing processes, Simms not only implemented a fully integrated Epylon solution, but mandated its use.

The Solution
Epylon’s Buyer CL is a hosted online purchasing solution with access to a tailored public sector marketplace. Building upon the existing purchasing practices of the Kern County Superintendent of Schools Office, Buyer CL migrates approvals and purchase orders online, streamlining purchasing by eliminating the faxing and mailing of requisitions and purchase orders. The Epylon marketplace enables Kern’s program sites and business office to electronically transact with both their local vendors and those in Epylon’s network of public sector vendors. Epylon also provides a valuable audit trail, automatically archiving all forms, work, and approvals for permanent electronic access to purchasing history. In July, the Superintendent of Schools Office began using Epylon’s eProcurement solution among the staff that held purchase cards. Knowing that integration to their QSS financial system was imminent, a full roll-out was scheduled for November when Epylon announced its edgXML integration platform, and QSS as its first financial system integration partner. Leveraging their 15-year investment in QSS, Kern implemented a solution seamlessly integrated for data exchange between Epylon’s eProcurement solution and QSS. Epylon’s integration platform enables Kern’s office to conduct frictionless eCommerce—from electronic requisition through encumbrance to receipt and payment. Critical purchasing information such as supplier information, budget and user data, fund encumbrance information, purchase order numbers, and purchase validations is securely exchanged between the Epylon and QSS systems. With phased on-site trainings, Epylon’s account managers and training staff held interactive sessions that closed with each person completing one real online transaction from their own task list. Simms has now mandated use of Epylon with county office staff as well as her suppliers, and the Superintendent of Schools Office is purchasing with Epylon every day. Benefits: In the few months since the implementation of Epylon’s integrated eProcurement solution, the Kern County Superintendent of Schools Office has experienced first-hand the efficiencies of eCommerce. Among the benefits already realized by Kern:

  • Stronger Internal Controls: Before Epylon, the business office assumed the program director’s approval of a new requisition, but were never positive of it, leaving the business office potentially liable. With Epylon’s audit trail, a history of approvals is at their fingertips for instant confirmation.
  • Thorough Checks and Balances: With integration, funds are encumbered with the click of a button, and easily reconciled upon delivery for quicker payment. Integration is so seamless in fact, staff members who never had access to the QSS system are now using it to encumber funds without even being aware of it. The business office doesn’t need to worry about granting access because permissions are set by a central administrator and can be limited as needed.
  • Simple Quoting Equates to Savings: With electronic access to new and familiar vendors, the county office has found that their staff is more frequently going out to quote on items that may have been historically purchased from one vendor. In one example, a local vendor who had been forgotten was rediscovered and able to offer 50% savings on an order.
  • eCommerce Maximizes Resources: The easily accessible online research, electronic quoting, and requisitioning features of Epylon have made possible the permanent closure of the County Superintendent of Schools Office central warehouse on January 1st, 2001. The resources dedicated to that service are now reallocated to better perform jobs that were before left undone or being filled by costly temporary staff.
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