Customizing Adaptable Solutions to Get Kids Back in the Classroom

Sep 5, 2023   |   ODP Business Solutions

Back to School

In summer 2020, one school district was approved to receive $1.2 billion in grants over three years through the U.S. Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act to procure personal protective equipment (PPE), cleaning supplies, and furniture to help students and staff return to school. As one of the largest school districts in the U.S., with 225 school buildings and just over 200,000 students, returning to school was a massive undertaking. ODP Business Solutions™ was one of 80+ vendors included in an RFQ but emerged as the top candidate with the right mix of products, ordering capabilities, invoicing, and logistics, as well as the proactive and collaborative support to handle such an important task in a very compressed time frame.

An In-Depth Look at the Problem

While there was strong support and belief in the importance of getting children back in the classroom for in-person learning, the school district faced several challenges before the first students returned in July 2020.

Shortages and delays:
In summer 2020, PPE, cleaning supplies, and furniture were in extremely high demand. Shortages and delays were constant, and the school district needed to find a reliable source of these products.

Centralized ordering:
The purchase of PPE was funded by a grant within the CARES Act; however, instead of individual schools placing orders as they usually would, the grant stated that all purchases must be sent through a single purchase order from the school district. This meant that PPE needs had to be planned, procured, and processed from a central administrative source at the district and then distributed to all schools within the district.

An additional challenge was the unique distribution that the district needed in order to get the right products to all 200+ schools in a timely manner. While most orders could go directly from the supplier to the schools, the district wanted to have a cache of products like PPE on hand for any emergencies. Without any established distribution capabilities in place, the chosen supplier needed to help implement a system that included a makeshift warehouse and delivery partners. Finally, another stipulation of the grant funding stated that all deliveries must have a clear paper trail.

ODP Business Solutions Provided the Right Supplies and Support

ODP Business Solutions™ got creative, customizing its own processes to differentiate from the competition to deliver the right offering during this turbulent time. Specialists from Workspace Interiors and Workspace Facilities by ODP Business SolutionsTM were engaged from the beginning of the program. A new invoicing process was introduced to accommodate the single purchase order mandated by the CARES Act. A logistics process, which included a makeshift distribution network, was established that not only allowed most orders to go directly to the schools but also housed extra supplies for the school district to distribute as needed. With its large footprint and strong supply chain, ODP Business Solutions™ could avoid supply disruptions and delays that plagued smaller vendors. Finally, communication and proactive support allowed the school district and ODP Business Solutions™ to adapt and find ways to create safer learning environments.

ODP Business Solutions

Results That Earned an A+

Execution required significant planning as there was only a two-week window between when schools reopened and students returned. The school district brought in a commodity buyer to manage the day-to-day operations once implementation began.

Constant communication was key. The ODP Business Solutions™ team set up biweekly calls with the commodity buyer and the district’s director of procurement to ensure everything was running smoothly and any issues would be caught early. Team members also stayed in regular contact with staff members and individual schools so they got what they needed.

The district was pleased with the results of its collaboration with the ODP Business Solutions™ team. The well-being of students and staff was priority number one, a system of strong processes was implemented, and the guidance and support of ODP Business Solutions™ provided confidence every step of the way.

ODP Business Solutions has several competitively solicited contracts available through OMNIA Partners to help customers achieve business results across every industry. No matter your latest initiatives, count on ODP Business Solutions to support you with creative, innovative solutions tailored to your district’s students.

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