Arkansas State University – Jonesboro, Arkansas

March 27, 2024

Arkansas State University

Unraveling the Procurement Playbook of Higher Education


Innovative supply chain management drives growth as a top procurement practice at A-State

When it comes to academia, proper supply chain procurement and management are both paramount to shaping the trajectory of a university’s growth and success.

At every level of development, from the highest administrative echelons to the grassroots operational teams, strategic initiatives in this domain lay the foundation for brand expansion and sustainability.

For one institution, Arkansas State University, operational excellence at such a high level has become the campus-wide status quo.  This university’s supply chain procurement and management techniques have manifested a harmonious integration of strategic vision and prowess.

Its strategies are characterized by streamlined processes, sustainable practices, and robust partnerships that propel the institution forward.

Ultimately, this success has translated into enhanced academic offerings, improved campus experiences, and a strengthened reputation, positioning the university as a beacon of excellence in higher education.

Delving into Campus Dynamics

Arkansas State University, with its rich history dating back to 1909, has evolved into a comprehensive institution offering a diverse array of undergraduate programs across eight colleges.

Originally founded as an agricultural school, the university has grown far beyond its rustic roots and into the realms of higher education.

The university boasts 8 undergraduate colleges: agriculture, engineering and computer science, education and behavioral science,  liberal arts and communication, the Neil Griffin College of Business, nursing and health professions, sciences and mathematics, and university college.

A-State’s robust academic framework also includes an online degree program, offering over 100 different programs ranging from associate’s up to doctoral degrees.

Additionally, the university’s presence even extends beyond borders with a campus in Mexico, solidifying its global footprint.

Recent years have witnessed a surge in enrollment, with a record-breaking figure of 14,903 students in the fall, signaling sustained growth and vitality.

The campus buzzes with a vibrant student life, offering over 150 campus organizations, intramural sports, Greek life, and NCAA athletic programs, ensuring a rich and engaging experience for students from diverse backgrounds.

One thing is clear, the A-State campus is alive and thriving with student life and activity. However, the real question here is: what lies at the heart of it all?

The answer to that isn’t the first thing that many people think of when identifying the driving factors behind a university’s success.

While uncommon, the answer is simple. A-State’s secret growth factor is its stellar procurement and supply chain practices.


The Advantages of High-Level Supply Chain Management

A-State has certainly cultivated a wonderful environment for its students to grow in and the way it has done this is by having all of its internal affairs thoroughly organized and in order.

“We have a centralized procurement office,” Director of Procurement Services Lisa Glasco states. “We allow the departments to order certain commodities and services under $20,000.  The department can choose which vendors they want to use. Above $20,000, we go out for a bid or use state or cooperative contracts.”

A-State deploys a strategy of departmental autonomy to ensure a consistent flow of resources while operating from a centralized office, ensuring a more organized and streamlined process.

With the focus being on efficiency from multiple angles, the university’s utilization of state and cooperative contracts also optimizes cost-effectiveness.

By leveraging mutually beneficial agreements with big entities like E & I Cooperative Services and tapping into state contracts, A-State has been able to navigate its supply chain complexities with finesse.

This is most likely due to the large degree of communication and collaboration that these arrangements have encouraged between A-State and its partners. From the outside, it’s hard to notice, but internally it becomes clear that the university’s leadership has cultivated fantastic relationships with the organizations that cover the bases that it cannot.

“The best resource we have are our suppliers. Our suppliers come to us when a commodity will be increasing in price or the supply chain is scarce. Our vendors let us know how much we will need to order to save money,” Glasco says.

However, A-State doesn’t establish these partnerships just based on the savings they yield, these partnering entities also meet a standard of sustainability that allows the university to routinely conduct operations with full confidence that their supply chain resources are being ethically sourced.

Embracing sustainability and ethical practices, the university upholds transparent procurement standards and actively partners with vendors who are committed to environmental responsibility and fair labor practices.

Collaborations with companies like Konica Minolta Business Solutions, renowned for their sustainability initiatives, underscore a commitment to responsible sourcing across operations.

According to Glasco, many of their suppliers and partners already have their sustainability standards showcased proudly on their company websites, so if there were ever a particular need for those standards to be enforced, they’re prepared well ahead of time.

Peak Principles of Risk and Inventory Management

Externally, A-State’s strategy utilizes collaboration, but internally, the strategy revolves around strict regulation of the university’s inventory levels. A-State’s Facilities Management handles the bulk of the institution’s inventory orders and maintains stock at a baseline threshold.

Efficient inventory management practices, including bulk ordering and automated replenishment systems, ensure optimal stock levels while minimizing waste.

When stock dips below the equilibrium, more inventory is reordered to keep it at that baseline, and while it does seem like a tedious process, the university uses several software platforms to streamline the process.

“We use Banner [by] Ellucian, that’s where we keep all of our purchase orders and reports we can pull from. The warehouse uses Famis for warehouse management, that’s how they keep track of their inventory,” Glasco says.

Additionally, the institution uses an AI software called Concur-Detect by Oversight, which handles 100% of the audits that it routinely conducts. This software’s capabilities have proven to be so effective that from its very first use, it managed to identify errors that have already saved A-State thousands of dollars.

The integration of technology enhances decision-making and audit processes, driving efficiency and accountability across the supply chain.

However, even with efficient practices already being leveraged, there is still a degree of preparation that needs to occur in case of any unexpected or disruptive variables.

Fortunately, A-State isn’t lacking in how it mitigates potential risks. Inherent to its operations, the university maintains robust risk management strategies, bolstered by comprehensive business continuity plans tailored to various scenarios, including natural disasters and pandemics.

“Our university has a business continuity plan for each department. We’ve got one set for multiple types of disasters,” Glasco states, explaining that the university has several memorandums of understanding (MOUs) with key suppliers in case of emergencies like stock shortages, natural disasters, and even pandemics.

Proactive measures like these multiple-use agreements with suppliers and digital audit solutions mitigate operational disruptions and ensure continuity during unforeseen events.

It ensures that no matter the condition, the back-end operations that serve as the lifeblood of A-State’s student experience never come to a halt, even in conditions where many other institutions would simply have no other choice but to stop operation.


The Future of A-State Expansion

Looking ahead, Arkansas State University is poised for further expansion and development.

The university’s ongoing efforts to update campus infrastructure and enhance pedestrian circulation reflect a forward-thinking approach to campus planning and sustainability.

There have already been several new facilities constructed around campus, the latest being the campus Meat Lab and the Windgate Center for Three-Dimensional Arts, which was built using funds donated by the Windgate Foundation.

“We opened a new building at the Judd Hill Farmers’ Market,” Glasco states, referencing the expansion of a previously outdoor-only farmers’ market to be connected with a building that also hosts additional classroom space.

The most anticipated developments at A-State most likely revolve around the plan to establish a college of veterinary medicine and revitalize existing facilities, which only further underscores its commitment to academic excellence and innovation.

As Arkansas State University continues to evolve and innovate, its efficient procurement practices and sustainable supply chain management remain unwavering.

It stands as a prime example of what an educational institution needs to be doing for its students to have a seamless student experience and sheds light on just how well-managed an operation needs to be for it to slip by completely unnoticed by those who primarily benefit from it.

Judging by the steady growth and activity the university displayed even during uncertain times like the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s clear that A-State’s leadership and supply chain faculty are the unsung heroes of the Arkansas State University campus.

With a strategic focus on optimization, ethics, and preparedness, the institution stands ready to shape the future of higher education and make a lasting impact on its community and beyond.


Arkansas State University (A-State)

What: A top university in higher education with an unrivaled procurement playbook of innovative supply chain management practices.

Where: Jonesboro, Arkansas



Konica Minolta Business Solutions U.S.A., Inc. –

Government Supply Services, LLC –

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