New national purchasing agreements and the Determine Cloud Platform are transforming Watermark Retirement Communities’ procurement and plant operations.
By Jim Harris, Senior Editor at Knighthouse Media
Before Amee Foss joined Watermark Retirement Communities in 2017, the company’s contract management process was known by many in the organization as “the black hole.”
“When I started here, all of the directors in our communities would submit contracts to an e-mail inbox for our contracts team to review,” she says. “There was no visibility, traceability, or control in the process.”
As Watermark’s national director of procurement and plant operations, Foss was tasked with solving the senior housing provider’s contract management problem. To do this, she looked to enterprise contract lifecycle management [ECLM] software provider Determine, whose solutions she had used in her previous companies.
The Determine Cloud Platform combines many of the solution modules formerly offered individually into a single graphical user interface. The benefits of the platform provided a shared database providing visibility into all documents generated from supplier onboarding, purchase orders, invoices, contract management and budgeting. Watermark previously had disparate systems across several locations to handle these processes.
“When Determine demonstrated that tool here, we really saw the value in it and decided to invest in their entire modular suite,” Foss says.
Watermark in May began implementing Determine Cloud Platform solutions throughout its organization. The Tucson, Arizona Resource Center manages 52 senior living communities in 21 states including continuing care, independent living, assisted living and memory care communities. “Our commitment is to get Determine activated and in use throughout our organization by the end of October 2018,” Foss says. “It really is an amazing application that will change the way we do business.”
Watermark’s procurement team is responsible for negotiating and implementing national purchasing agreements, while its plant operations staff includes maintenance directors who are responsible for communicating the company’s national agreements and processes within its communities.
Directors in each community use “shopping carts” within the Determine procurement module to purchase items. The shopping carts generate purchase orders that will be sent automatically to suppliers.
Shopping carts are pre-programmed with several frequently purchased items. For example, carts will be available to procure items needed during full room renovations, or partial room turns – which occur when a resident leaves the community.
The company has designated three levels of room turns – silver, gold and platinum – based on the types of fixtures and supplies designed for the residence. “We wanted to standardize the process for consistency and economics,” Foss says.
Several of Watermark’s national suppliers worked with the company’s procurement team to determine material packages that would be used for each level of room turn. These suppliers include Shaw Flooring, Sherwin-Williams, HD Supply, Renovations Plus, and Direct Supply. In addition to supplying paint, Sherwin-Williams installs flooring provided by Shaw.
Watermark’s other national contracts include a trash collection and recycling agreement with Republic Services and a sharps collection agreement with Stericycle. These contracts in particular have helped Watermark save a significant amount of money because they replaced individual agreements at several properties that were recently acquired by the company, Foss says.
“This past year, we took on nine communities in Rochester, N.Y., all at once and brought them into our agreements. Many of these communities were using different companies to pick up trash or sharps,” she adds. “Because we now have 52 communities, it was time for many of our communities to modernize the tools they were using, re-evaluate their agreements and gain buying power through national agreements. We saved a significant amount of money just re-doing the Stericycle agreement.”
In addition, Watermark recently entered into a national agreement with Imagine Technology, which provides Toshiba printers and copiers used throughout its communities. Imagine is overseeing a managed print services program for Watermark. “We will now know where all the printers and copiers are throughout our network and can manage how and what people print,” she says. “Imagine Technology is a great partner to Watermark.”
The company is also using national agreements to improve and standardize its transportation services. This includes a national fleet agreement signed with Enterprise to provide leased vans and cars used in its communities, Foss says.
Watermark purchases the buses from Creative Bus Sales, which configures buses with different features such as chair lifts based on the needs of the communities where they are used. Enterprise assists Watermark with tracking maintenance needs on all of its vehicles.
Residents of Watermark’s properties recently gained another transportation option. The company is piloting a program with Lyft at five of its properties that enables residents to book rides through an on-premise concierge. The concierge uses the Lyft app to schedule pickup and drop-off times for residents, Foss says.
Watermark continues to look at new ways to increase its purchasing efficiency. The company is working on 17 projects along these lines, including expanding the Lyft pilot program and implementing additional Determine modules.
Watermark is also looking into expanding its energy efficiency programs, including possibly installing solar technology at its properties.
Foss says her team’s efforts are fully supported by Watermark’s senior management. “I’m proud to be part of Watermark and work with an amazing group of individuals, and an awesome executive management team,” she says. “I’m excited to roll out the Determine CLM and procurement applications, which will make our business operate even more smoothly.”