Campus Spotlight: Procurement and Distribution Services

When the COVID-19 pandemic began spreading rapidly earlier this year, it sent people all over the world scrambling—and the Case Western Reserve University community was no exception. Classes moved online, events were canceled and many university operations moved to remote operations. Now, masks will become a common sight, classrooms will look vastly different and the academic calendar has been altered, all to help slow the spread of the novel coronavirus. In the past few months, units all across campus have put in untold hours to keep the community safe and ensure scholarship can continue, despite unique challenges. To recognize those efforts, we will highlight some of the units across campus in a special Campus Spotlight series this semester.

In the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, several essential items were found to be crucial in limiting the spread of the virus but were hard to come by. That created a unique problem for the Office of Procurement and Distribution Services. The unit had to be creative and patient, leaning on some vendors for new supplies and forging new relationships with other vendors to obtain such supplies as cleaning products for departments, hand sanitizer and stands, student health kits, cloth masks, thermometers, gloves and more. 

Photo of hand sanitizer, cloth masks, surgical masks, a thermometer and sanitizing wipes on a table

The office’s efforts included those in procurement, contracts, accounts payable, PCard, customer care, university movers and the mailroom, managed by vendor partner Exela Technologies.

In addition to obtaining supplies, the unit:

  • Managed contracts for event cancelations and changes;
  • Kept vendor payments moving, including expediating transactions necessary for the pandemic response;
  • Moved necessary items around campus; and 
  • Distributed, replenished and rerouted supplies on campus.

Crucial in the unit’s response was help from others across campus, including emergency management, environmental health and safety and the Office of General Counsel.

“We are used to being a resource for all the departments on campus, and it’s great to know so many other departments were so supportive of our efforts and constant questions,” said Mandy Carte, director of Procurement and Distribution Services.

In the early days of the pandemic, the unit had to be reactionary, sourcing items as needs arose. In May, the unit was among the first to return to campus. Now, the team has settled into a new routine, trying to anticipate needs and bidding out requests to get more competitive pricing.