Having been established within Kent Fire and Rescue to drive efficiencies and financial savings across fire service procurement nationally, the National Procurement Hub approached eXceeding for help to devise and implement a national, category level procurement strategy.
The Hub’s officers had little to no existing knowledge or experience of category planning and each worked only part-time, having an established role already in one of the regional fire services.
Individual fire services had been accustomed to procuring their own goods and works – and having their own budget to do so – meaning there were hearts and minds to win over within the individual services. This meant the category plans the Hub’s officers were to develop had to be robust enough to pass intense scrutiny and convince any doubters of the benefits of collaborative procurement.
Our procurement experts carried out category management training for the Hub’s officers to equip them with the knowledge and skills to successfully prepare and communicate category plans that would convince senior stakeholders and decision-makers of the value of joining together to leverage a collective buying power.
We then supported these officers in the development of their individual category plans, including carrying out independent spend analysis to equip them with vital data to support their recommended course of action.
As a result of our work, the National Procurement Hub was able to establish a strong procurement strategy for the fire service on a national level, as well as a series of robust category plans for implementation by category leads that were secure in their knowledge and expertise to deliver on those plans.
With more than 50 fire services across the UK, each responsible for procuring its own goods and works in isolation from its peers, the decision had been made to establish a National Procurement Hub to explore the potential for combining requirements to result in financial savings and further social value.
The idea of the Hub was to try to drive savings and efficiencies within procurement for the whole of the fire service across the UK by identifying synergies between services’ buying needs and leveraging economies of scale. It was hoped that having the Hub in place would attract high quality suppliers to work with the fire service nationally, as well as make it quicker and easier to go to market overall. To date, the hub’s work has identified an estimated £65.5 million in collaborative savings.
The Hub was initially established within Kent Fire and Rescue, which approached eXceeding for help to devise and implement a strategy to encompass all the buying needs of the individual fire services into one, cohesive national category plan. We were commissioned to provide expert training, practical implementation support, and independent spend analysis to support the project.
With so many fire services involved, all with independent budgets for their procurement, there were lots of different priorities and personalities at play. There was also surprisingly little existing standardisation of even the most common items such as uniforms, adding another layer of challenge.
Furthermore, a lack of funding meant that the Hub was being staffed by procurement officers from individual fire services that allocated part of their time to its work. With no full-time, dedicated resource, there was potential for the project to drag on, perhaps reducing its impact in the long term.
Our first task for the National Procurement Hub was to carry out category management training for its team. Conducted by one of our expert consultants, this structured classroom training was designed to help its procurement officers step up to a level whereby they could successfully develop and implement a series of national category management plans to transform current fire service procurement.
When one officer was struggling to reach the required level of strategic, ‘big picture’ thinking, our consultant provided targeted individual coaching to bring them up to the necessary capability.
We then supported all the category leads to develop their category plans and to communicate them to the head of the procurement hub, who had to regularly update project sponsors in the National Fire Chief’s Council and also the Cabinet Office. These plans also formed part of the information provided to the individual fire services on planned next steps.
As part of this support, our experts conducted an independent spend analysis for the past two years for each category to inform its plans going forwards. This included identifying the highest and lowest areas of spend as well as any out-of-contract tail spend.
Our work with the National Procurement Hub’s team equipped its officers with the knowledge, skills and crucial data to successfully devise, implement and manage category procurement plans.
Thanks to our training, coaching and support, these individual fire service procurement officers were able to make the transition to become category
leads for the National Procurement Hub, successfully managing their categories
on a national level.