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INTERNATIONAL PUBLIC SAFETY ASSOCIATION
Together we are stronger

The evolution of partnerships through cooperative contracts: Understanding the benefits

25 Feb 2021 5:57 AM | International Public Safety Association (Administrator)

By David Kidd, National Director of Sales with Safeware Inc.

Pause for a moment and take yourself back in time 20 years ago in the public safety arena. Picture yourself observing the purchasing landscape and process to secure a commodity or item that a safety department needs to procure. Chances are that you see a separation between the procurement office and the end-users, maybe even a significant one. Perhaps even a stigma where end-users must get three prices or quotes from competitors before even reaching out to the procurement department in fear of getting into trouble or even going to jail for speaking to vendors with no contract vehicles in place.

Now fast-forward to the present day. Years of legislative changes and positive experiences with accessing other public-agency-held contracts to gain more efficiency and savings through the procurement process, and now you have the modern market.

COVID-19 and PPE procurement

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, procurement departments stood shoulder-to-shoulder with end-users and rolled up their sleeves to find any qualifying PPE that could support their agency. Through this process, many end-users had their eyes opened to the opportunity for collaboration with procurement departments, as well as the legal and efficient ways for public agencies to work together to achieve the best overall value and efficiency in the purchasing process. Often, these public procurement departments were able to secure the items that were needed for their end-users by accessing or piggybacking an existing contract with another public agency for those very same items. 

What did this new efficient process look like? Well, agencies that are looking for the same items were no longer competing against each other for these items, but rather they were pooling their volume and resources together to achieve a more beneficial result for each agency by utilizing their combined economies of scale. As we have heard so many times in the past: the more that you buy, the cheaper each item is.

Public safety agencies are used to working with neighboring entities, but from the procurement office side of things, it remained separated for some time. However, through the growth of nationally recognized cooperative vehicles, agencies have started to pool their volumes behind these national contracts growing their annual contract volumes over several hundred million dollars annually on these contracts. Large volumes like these are leading to aggressive pricing for smaller orders since the overall contract pricing is based on the annual collective volume of the contract.

Current collaborative practices may look something like:

  • Conducting joint training to hit numbers that provide additional discount levels or tiers;
  • Standardizing equipment to make bulk purchases and receive higher discounts per item;
  • Accessing contracts from larger agencies to take advantage of their aggressive pricing from their volume already in place; and/or 
  • Participating in cooperative contracts to
    • identify and design custom safety solutions;
    • procure items from the desired manufacturer for best value instead of only the lowest price; and/or
    • access existing public agency contracts that have already been through the bid process, thus meeting the requirement to purchase above the bid threshold.

Partnerships with suppliers

Given the current market conditions listed above, a trend that has developed in the marketplace is that public agency customers are able to develop relationships with trusted and reputable suppliers to start viewing them as partners instead of just a source for goods. Partnering with suppliers, especially under an existing public agency contract, allows departments to get creative and identify the level of safety they seek to achieve, create a list of items that will help them meet that level, and then procure these items in a cost-effective manner where they can be confident that they are getting the items they want in an efficient and compliant process.

Safeware Inc., for example, has been in the public safety industry for over 40 years. With over 1,500 suppliers and decades of cooperative contract experience, they would love to connect their field team of safety experts with your team to discuss their current contract solutions to meet all your safety needs.  Safeware's mission is, as has always been, to protect those who keep us safe every day.

About the Author

David Kidd is the national director of sales for the southern United States with Safeware Inc. He has spent over 13 years working directly with public sector government agencies and spent ten of those years with the premier national cooperative purchasing program, U.S. Communities. You can email David at dkidd@safewareinc.com.


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