Medical Storeroom Makes Shopping Easy

April 1, 1999

Judith Zwolak

Doctors who need a new pair of scrubs, administrative secretaries looking for copier paper and research scientists requiring more petri dishes can view the medical center's stock of such items without leaving their desks.

The Department of Material Management has recently placed much of its inventory online, creating a virtual Tulane medical storeroom. "We try to offer the most convenience to Tulane employees," says Dan Sintich, director of the department. The address of the virtual storeroom is welcomestoreroom.htm.

Once inside, shoppers can view items ranging from iMac computers to 10-milliliter pipettes. Employees from both campuses can browse the storeroom and collect a virtual shopping cart full of items and generate a printed sheet to accompany the IT (interdepartmental transfer) forms required to complete the purchase. Plans to automate the process completely, without generating the paper forms, are in the works, Sintich says.

Employees can also purchase items for personal use through the site, but must pay sales tax. The Web-based storeroom is just one of the programs that the materials management department has developed to serve Tulane employees, Sintich says. This type of benefit is part of the service-oriented mission of the department, he adds.

"When we deal with vendors, we work every angle we can to get the best deal for Tulane," he says. To get the best deal, the department centralizes services such as spring water delivery, beeper purchases and overnight shipping to capitalize on the volume of business the medical center generates. Buyers in the department then negotiate prices with vendors based on this volume.

Centralizing services such as package delivery also adds an extra layer of safety on the Byzantine downtown campus, where unauthorized personnel may present a security risk in laboratories and animal-research facilities. The department also organizes sessions with computer companies where employees can evaluate hardware from Apple, Dell and Gateway, the three companies with contracts at the medical center.

For employees who want to check out the newest iMac or G3, the department has a permanent display area for Apple computers in its fourth- floor office in 127 Elk Place. "Very few purchasing departments worry about things like this," Sintich says. "We allow our employees to test drive computers and 'kick the tires,' so to speak."

Other computer-related activities at the department include setting up rooms on the fifth floor at 127 Elk Place for on-site repair and service of hardware and for software training by CompUSA instructors. In the department's fourth-floor office, Geryl Diodene, assistant director of the department, will soon provide training on the purchasing applications of the new Tulane Accounting Management System.

The actual storeroom of the department, located on the first floor of the School of Medicine, houses rows of laboratory and office supplies as well as some unusual items.

"During hurricane season, we stock batteries and flashlights as well as some items that are hard to find in the stores, such as dry ice," Sintich says.

As with the online storeroom, employees can purchase items directly from the storeroom for individual departments or for personal use by adding sales tax. Offering these services goes beyond the calling of the average purchasing department, says Sintich, who has a background in retail sales and likes to refer to employees as customers.

In fact, when Sintich interviews applicants for positions in the department, he always asks prospective employees if they have retail experience. "People involved in purchasing departments need to know how to work with customers," he says. "If you have a retail background, you know how to take care of your customers."

Tulane University, New Orleans, LA 70118 504-865-5000