Shop with ease

So you’re in the market for, say, office furniture or some lab chemicals.

Up until now, buying these things meant flipping through several catalogs, hunting down prices, filling out forms and waiting while they made their way through the purchasing food chain.

Come Jan. 2, all that will be a thing of the past, thanks to BEN Buys and the Penn Marketplace.

BEN Buys is the part of Penn’s new Business Enterprise Network aimed at faculty and staff in general. BEN Buys is designed to take the hassle out of shopping for equipment and supplies at Penn.

“We want to reduce the time and effort required to create purchase orders and we want to make it easy for people to find the products they need to satisfy their research or educational mission,” said Ralph Maier, associate director of Acquisition Services and the BEN Buys functional project leader.

The Penn Marketplace brings most of Penn’s approved suppliers of goods together in a single place on the Web where buyers can quickly compare product descriptions and prices and make their purchases with a click of the mouse. BEN Buys takes it from there, generating purchase requisitions and processing them electronically.

“With BEN Buys, there’s no need for purchase order [forms],” said Marion Campbell, technical project manager for BEN in Information Systems and Computing. “You won’t have errors with mismatched purchase order numbers on forms and invoices. If you do purchasing via a point-and-click interface, you reduce the number of keystrokes and the number of errors.”

As of now, nearly 90 suppliers of products to the University have committed to participate in the Penn Marketplace either directly or indirectly on or soon after its launch date, and Acquisition Services is recruiting more participants.

The rollout of BEN will affect the ability of faculty and staff to buy goods and commit funds between Dec. 19, when the prior accounting system, FinMIS, goes off-line, and Jan. 2, when BEN goes live. Buyers will be unable to requisition goods and services during this period, though purchases using Penn’s MasterCard procurement credit card will be allowed. Buyers needing to purchase items beyond the procurement card limit or from suppliers who do not accept it should call Acquisition Services for assistance.

More information about BEN Buys and the Penn Marketplace can be found at

Originally published on December 13, 2001