Founded in 1787, the University of Pittsburgh (Pitt) is one of the nation’s most prestigious public research institutions. Serving an enrollment of 18,427 full-time undergraduates, and 10,339 graduate students, it goes without saying that controlling costs is a top priority. “Our focus on savings is a big reason for our support of E&I’s programs,” said Mike Durica, Procurement Specialist at Pitt. “We try to use the Cooperative’s contracts whenever possible.”
E&I is a member-owned, not-for-profit buying cooperative that leverages the power of more than 3,000 institutions to reduce the total costs of goods and services. Members have access to a diverse portfolio of competitively awarded contracts, consulting services, and electronic purchasing platforms. Members also realize significant time efficiencies since the Cooperative manages the entire RFP process. Pitt’s familiarity–and success–with E&I was the impetus behind the university’s decision to begin using the Cooperative’s Specialty Underwriters (SU) program. As a leading provider of equipment maintenance management programs, Specialty Underwriters offers a reliable, time-proven approach to managing equipment repairs, reducing operating costs and providing ongoing analysis of measuring equipment reliability and vendor performance through key management reporting.
Though Pitt was working with an existing equipment maintenance provider, some ongoing service-related issues prompted management to make a change. “All things considered, it was an easy decision for the university to switch to the Cooperative’s program,” said Durica. SU began by working with the Purchasing Department to identify all of the university’s equipment under contract with the prior supplier. SU representatives then visited each of the departments on campus to discuss the program and ask for the opportunity to provide a quote for a new maintenance contract. Not surprisingly, there was some initial hesitation. “Many departments did not completely digest the concept that they could go to a third party and pay a more competitive (lower) price than they could by going directly to the manufacturer,” Durica explained. “Some individuals were very receptive, while others required a bit more convincing.” Good news travels fast, however, and it wasn’t long before the program was gaining traction on campus. SU was able to provide an average savings of 20%-30% on existing maintenance contracts, and the service provided was top-notch.
To address the program’s growing popularity, Pitt requested additional support. SU responded by providing a representative who was designated to an office on campus. This level of specialized attention showed the university how vested SU really was in the program. According to Durica, the amount of business done through SU has increased steadily throughout the years. “I would estimate that in our first year we had about 300 pieces of equipment with SU totaling about $543,000 in business,” he said. “Currently, we have 620 pieces of equipment under contract at a total cost of $1.3 million. We’ve saved about 23%, or $400,000. That’s a considerable cost savings for our university.” Simply put, Specialty Underwriters has exceeded Pitt’s expectations. “The most important thing we’ve heard from our folks is that they were able to receive the same level of coverage with SU that they would have received if they had gone through the manufacturer, but at a much better price,” Mike explained. “There has been no drop-off in the level of service, and the transition was practically seamless. From the university’s perspective, it doesn’t get any better than that.”
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