University News

Brown hires strategic sourcing manager

New position will focus on analyzing purchasing, optimizing buying power with vendors

Senior Staff Writer
Thursday, September 17, 2015

As part of the University’s efforts to reduce its structural deficit, a strategic sourcing manager will begin working at Insurance and Purchasing Services Monday, said Jeanne Hebert, purchasing director.

Hebert declined to identify the new hire before Monday due to confidentiality concerns, though she noted the person “currently works as a buyer at another university.”

This position has not previously existed at Brown. In April, the Deficit Reduction Working Group published a set of recommendations for addressing the University’s structural deficit, one of which was to hire a new staff member to focus on strategic sourcing.

This summer, Provost Richard Locke P’17 and Executive Vice President for Finance and Administration Barbara Chernow ’79 solidified the recommendation as one the University should implement, and the job was posted online in early July, Hebert said.

Strategic sourcing “is a good way to save money and really not impact anyone in a negative way,” Chernow said, adding that the hire was finalized by the start of September. The funds for the new hire come from positions that were vacated and are no longer needed, so there are “no new costs,” she said.   

The strategic sourcing specialist  will work to evaluate and optimize the University’s purchasing practices, which involves assessing the school’s contracts with vendors for everything from toilet paper to lab chemicals.

“Everybody buys copy paper, but (departments) at Brown might be buying copy paper from any number of places,” Hebert said. “If we all would buy it from the same place, then we could leverage our buying power. By promising some amount of business to a company, we can negotiate pricing.”

For example, the University currently holds contracts with 70 different transportation services, The Herald reported Sept. 10. “Maybe if we have fewer vendors and better terms, we can still have all the transportation we need, but we can have it at a higher quality service and a cheaper rate,” Locke said.

The strategic sourcing specialist’s work will begin with identifying which items departments are purchasing from which companies, Hebert said. The person will then be able to “aggregate those expenditures” to optimize buying power, she added. 

In the University’s five-person purchasing department, “everyone is going off and doing their own thing,” Hebert said.

“I don’t have individual buyers that specialize in certain commodities. … Everybody does a variety of things,” she said. “This strategic sourcing person will be someone who has the time and energy and is devoted to building long-term supplier relationships,” she added.

The hiring move may align the University with peer institutions, as “schools across America” are employing strategic sourcing specialists, Chernow said.

This relatively new position comes with the digitization of information, which allows large quantities of data to be analyzed. “We have a system that isn’t paper-driven anymore, so things move through the system more quickly,” Hebert said. “Our old financial system was an antiquated system, and it wasn’t geared towards providing the kind of data and analysis that people have come to expect.”


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