Copy deal produces multiple savings

June 9, 2000

Higher education purchasing consortia are set to save Pounds 20 million through an innovative national photocopying contract, and if every university in the country signs up to the deal, the savings could rise to Pounds 100 million, writes Olga Wojtas.

The scheme was pioneered at Edinburgh University, and then taken up by the Joint Consultative and Advisory Committee on Purchasing. Covering Scotland and Northern Ireland, it is one of seven regional consortia that aim to save money for their members by getting the best value for money on various purchases.

Douglas Bell, secretary of the JCACP, says Edinburgh's printing manager, David Howson, purged the university of a "multiplicity of ugly and punitive contracts" on photocopiers, to forge a deal with only a couple of suppliers. The JCACP built on this to sign a pioneering "cost-per-click" contract, which means institutions pay only for copies at a standard rate and have no capital outlay, no lengthy lease agreement and no minimum service bill.

The Scottish participants saved Pounds 12 million within a few years, and as is the norm when one consortium wins a good deal, the others have taken it up. The first national three-year contract runs until the end of this year, with an estimated Pounds 20 million saving on photocopier bills.

Mr Howson now rejoices in the title "National Agreement Manager (HE Photocopier Agreements)" and gives talks to overseas institutions on the scheme.

Peter West, secretary of Strathclyde University and chairman of the JCACP, said different consortia took the lead in different areas, but this had been the most successful deal so far, "doing nothing to dispel the reputation Scots have for canniness". The consortium had to master a great deal of technical detail and find a way through competing offers from "quite determined salespeople", an object lesson in how professional the area of purchasing has become, Dr West said.

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