X/procure®: Small company, big impact

X/procure® Software (Pty) Ltd

#TT1002016 Winner of the 2016 Rica Viljoen Award for Excellence in the Management of People

Category for small enterprises

Taking the pain out of procurement for pharmacies

Running out of stock is a nightmarish scenario for pharmacies large and small, whose customers cannot wait until the shelves are replenished to have their prescriptions filled. In South Africa, the advent of electronic procurement has taken much of the pain out of the supply chain and one company, in particular, X/procure®, is helping pharmacies keep their house in order.

“About 76% of South African pharmacies use our ordering portal, which processes around 500 000 orders a month and R10 billion worth of orders a year, consisting of scheduled, over-the-counter and front-shop items,” says JD Henderson, X/procure® managing director.

The portal’s popularity is easily explained. It seamlessly connects pharmacies to the wholesalers who supply them and provides almost instantaneous feedback on whether the required product is available.

If that product happens to be an originator drug (the original patented version), X/procure®’s portal will instantly display an advert of the generic alternative. “This is unique to our system and is a very important feature because legislation dictates that pharmacies must always recommend the cheaper, generic alternative to an originator drug,” Henderson says.

The ordering portal also helps pharmacies improve their stock management. “Our software provides a clear history of what, when and how a product was ordered and alerts the client to any anomalies,” he says. “If you typically order 10 packets of a particular product but are suddenly ordering 100, the system would query that.”

Then there’s the portal’s ability to help pharmacies buy front-shop items (tissues, cosmetics, vitamin supplements and the like) at the lowest prices. “When ordering from multiple wholesalers, the pharmacy can see the prices from all the wholesalers and choose the lowest-priced options,” says Henderson. “That’s a major advantage because pharmacies can only make a profit on front-shop products, not on the medicines they dispense.”

Small company, big impact

Despite the huge volumes of orders that X/procure®’s procurement portal handles daily, it has a staff of only 38, many of them being technical resources and all of them hand-picked for their skills and their compatibility with the company culture.

“We employ like-minded people with the same values,” Henderson says. “No matter how great your skills are if you don’t share our values we don’t hire you.”

Those values include putting the customer first (“That sounds like a cliché but we really go out of our way to make the customer feel like the only person in the world.”), under promising and over delivering (“If we say something will be ready at 8am tomorrow, it will be.”) and honesty and integrity (“We will tell you upfront if we can’t do something for you.”)

Playing for points

Innovation, too, is a core value. “It’s important that everyone on the team is part of the innovation process, so we’ve created an in-house portal where people can log new ideas,” Henderson says. “You earn points for submitting an idea – whether it’s good, bad or ugly – and more points if our innovation panel picks your idea. If it’s taken to development you earn more points, and when it’s commercialised, you are involved in that – and you earn more points.”

At the end of the year, staff members redeem their points for PlayStation games, LCD screens and movie tickets. “But if you don’t want to redeem your points, you can convert them to cash and donate it to charity,” says Henderson, adding that this was a staff idea that became reality, as was the suggestion that flexitime be introduced to avoid sitting in Sandton traffic.

Other people management practices that X/procure® takes pride in are the benchmarking of salaries, drawing up of development plans for every staff member, succession planning for every position, and a culture of celebrating successes, birthdays and other memorable occasions.

Overindulgence at staff functions is not encouraged but if a staff member is feeling worse for wear, there’ll be a designated driver who’ll get him or her home safely, says Henderson. “We have a lot of fun here. We work hard and we party hard, and when we party, we do it responsibly.”