Online Tool Simplifies How UMD Buys Goods and Services
Illustration by Jason Keisling
From coffee creamer to copy machines, from reference books to rock salt, the University of Maryland purchases nearly $200 million in goods and services every year. But beyond the dollars, these purchases come at another price: the time and paperwork it takes to process them.
This month, the university is rolling out a new online shopping tool called Shell Shop that offers one-stop, nearly paperless purchasing. It will not only simplify buying, it will get the items to campus faster and at a better price.
Developed by the Office of Procurement and Strategic Sourcing and the Administrative Modernization Program (AMP), Shell Shop connects buyers to thousands of products from UMD-contracted vendors—including Guy Brown, Fisher Scientific, CDWG and Grainger—making the purchasing process significantly more efficient.
“We believe that Shell Shop will not only provide opportunities to rethink how we purchase, but it will allow for more direct input on the front end from our purchasers,” said Ingrid Farrell, assistant dean at the School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation. “The result is a more streamlined and efficient purchasing experience for all.”
Farrell’s group was part of the pilot group of 10 departments and schools that started using Shell Shop last week. Full implementation of the new online system will be staggered in waves across campus through the spring.
Shell Shop is the first major product of the procurement modernization initiative launched in 2017 to optimize day-to-day purchasing at UMD. Together, AMP and the procurement office tapped over 200 faculty and staff to understand their departments’ buying processes and identify opportunities to improve.
“Procurement touches every person on campus, regardless if they are doing the buying,” said James Newman, director of procurement. “If you teach with it, type with it, read it or sit on it, we helped you buy it. So, ensuring that the pathways to purchasing goods and services are efficient and streamlined plays an important role in the mission of the university.”
In addition to eliminating the extra paper and steps it takes to purchase goods and services, the system automates approvals, simplifies order tracking and enables quick product turnaround. Shell Shop will also provide the university critical data on campus-wide purchases for the first time.
“Before Shell Shop, it was very difficult to see the university’s purchasing history from a big picture perspective,” said Kim Watson, assistant vice president of procurement and strategic sourcing. “By seeing all UMD transactions in one place, we can leverage volume, negotiate better deals and improve our relationships with suppliers. This will save us substantial time and money as a university, allowing us to funnel those resources into research and education.”
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