Bouygues UK: Streamlining supply chain applications for payment process

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This eBook explains how Bouygues UK are promoting collaborative working for improved efficiency, visibility and risk management across supply chain applications for payment

Operating in the UK for over 20 years and part of a global diversified services group, Bouygues UK designs and builds sustainable developments that enhance and transform communities, and is one of the largest contractors in the UK.

Specialising in the residential and education sectors, Bouygues UK runs a large number of simultaneous construction projects, with values reaching up to £200m. With a large number of supply chain businesses to be paid across the sites, the team at Bouygues UK understand the need for accuracy and prompt payment.

Recognising the opportunity to innovate

Bouygues UK have a culture of knowledge-sharing, adopting best practices and embracing new ideas, the latest example of which has been their adoption of the digital processing of supply chain applications for payment and the issuing of payment notices.

Payment-related challenges are not uncommon in the construction industry, the majority of which are rooted in a lack of transparency, a fact that was not lost on the team at Bouygues UK.

Prior to digitising the supply chain application for payment processes, this was managed in what is the traditional way for UK contracting; relying on emails and spreadsheets for receipt of supply chain applications and the issuing of payment notices, in order to ensure compliance with Construction Act timescales.

Laura Riseley, Quantity Surveyor for Bouygues UK, told us: “Before we used Payapps, the subcontractors would send emails over at the end of every month and usually it would be on their own templates. Some of them would use our template, but it would be a slightly amended version that we’d always have to tweak when it came in. So because of that, we’d get a lot of misinformation or doubling-up, or the subcontractor often would apply for things in two different places. So it just meant a lot more work for us at the end of the month.”

Moving with the times, Bouygues UK felt that adopting a web-based solution could streamline the traditional process and as such onboarded Payapps across a number of their projects to transform their management of supply chain applications for payment.

Standardising the application for payment process – a single source of accessible truth

Payapps has provided a single, centralised solution for contractors to submit and receive supply chain applications in a consistent format.

Mark Nice, Commercial Manager, commented: “Now we’ve got visibility of everything coming in. There’s less chasing – probably none at all really – to get the subcontractors to submit their applications because Payapps does that for us. Everything’s in a standard format which is much easier than trying to interpret various documents to assess and value the works.”

Anne Smales, Deputy Commercial Director, followed this by saying: “Payapps gives us all the information in one place. If someone isn’t available, another member of the team can easily access the single source of truth thereby giving us greater clarity and understanding.

“We can see at a glance when an application is received, when payment notices were issued, and there can be no question about those key dates. We also have the benefit of reminders being issued to our commercial staff to make sure payment notices are issued on time, which really helps to ensure compliance.”

Improved visibility allows efficient working and time for other tasks

Fabrice Davis, also a Deputy Commercial Director, tell us what he particularly likes about Payapps: “I can go into the system, I can see every contract that we’ve set up in the system, any outstanding payments and where they’re currently sitting in terms of the approval workflow. I can see who’s holding up the process and I can discuss it in a timely manner with the right people, before any issues arise.”

Beyond applications for payment, Bouygues also use Payapps for managing variations. Mobarak Ali, Graduate Quantity Surveyor, explains what this was like prior to using Payapps: “The subcontractor would include this additional work within the one invoice, and there would be no clear separation between what was and wasn’t contractual. For the QS team, to then break that invoice down and work out if it was a variation or not, particularly if the subcontractor had not been clear, was a very time-consuming process. Payapps provides a solution to the problem, where variations are listed separately and any involved parties can add information and notes to the record, which makes it easier for the team to do their necessary checks.”

Recommending Payapps for streamlining applications for payment

Two years on from adopting the solution, we were keen to understand whether Bouygues UK and members of their supply chain would recommend Payapps.

“It’s a smarter, efficient way of working,” enthused Gtek’s Jim Howe. “Right now, we’re actually enjoying the fact that we can operate the system and check on payments on the move. So in the office or working at home, which we’ve being doing quite a lot during the pandemic, we can keep track of everything quite clearly.”

He continued: “Efficiency is one thing, but that in turn aids cash flow. We can monitor and we can forecast, so we’re more easily able to predict where we are on a financial basis. So in summary, yes, we would certainly recommend Payapps, in fact I think we ought to be using this ourselves as well with our own supply chain.”

For Bouygues UK quantity surveyors, it’s the efficiencies that really stand out: “Using Payapps means I can process a payment application really quickly,” commented Mobarak, “Sometimes within a couple of minutes, which then frees my time up for other aspects of the role, whether that be progressing meetings, site visits or just replying to emails.

It also eliminates the worry of missing applications or making mistakes, and at a glance you can check you have completed any actions pending which then allows you to get on with the rest of your tasks. It’s the same for the subcontractor – with everything set up for them, they can create and upload everything within minutes, freeing up more of their time too.”

From a management perspective, Fabrice said: “Yes, I would definitely recommend Payapps to other contractors. We’ve found it really useful and I’m not seeing anything else at the moment that does the same job, or that offers a team that’s so helpful. It’s been a godsend and I think it will continue to be useful into the future.”

Regarding the successful relationship with Payapps, Anne adds: “I can only see that going from strength to strength on future projects and with potential future developments. I’m sure our great working relationship will improve, and we’ll continue to see the benefits.”

Strengthening relationships across the supply chain

Not only has efficiency, visibility and risk-management been improved, the solution has supported the collaborative relationships between project participants. Working with a large number of subcontractors across multiple projects, and with labour shortages affecting the UK construction industry, Bouygues UK opted to use this new solution to further strengthen the relationships with their supply chain.

“Making sure people get paid on time is always a concern,” said Fabrice Davis whose team uses Payapps in the Hallsville Quarter Phase 3 works, part of Canning Town’s £3.7bn regeneration programme. “Hallsville Quarter is one of the biggest jobs that Bouygues UK has ever done in the UK, and Payapps has made our lives considerably easier.”

He went on to say: “The system keeps track of all the applications directly received from the subcontractors and knowing that they just have to submit them to one place definitely makes it easier for the subcontractors.”

One such supplier working alongside Bouygues UK is Gtek, one of the UK’s premier groundwork and civil engineering subcontractors. With Gtek’s previous manual, paper-based process for submitting payment applications, Gtek employees taking time off or human error in submission of an application could mean payment delays. So when Bouygues UK suggested Gtek use Payapps to improve the speed and accuracy of payment, Gtek’s Head of Business Development, Jim Howe, immediately saw the opportunity.

“Once payments were submitted, we would have no method of tracking progress, so we were then at the mercy of the main contractor to provide an update status. All these factors can create frustrated relationships and payment disputes… When another opportunity to improve a back-office function came along, we of course recognised the benefits.”

Jim echoed Fabrice’s views by saying: “Payapps has standardised the way we are making payment applications, keeping all payment applications in one place. It has minimised the human error impact in the process.”

Payapps offers real transparency

Martin Brown, Senior Quantity Surveyor at Swiftline Engineering, another of Bouygues UK’s subcontractors, commented: “Before Payapps, we would traditionally prepare and submit an application on an Excel spreadsheet, then wait the usual few weeks before we received a payment notice back. But we can now log-in at any time of the day and see exactly where we are, what’s being claimed for, and what’s been certified or due to be paid. Any differences are clear to see along with an explanation. We find it a great system to work with, offering real transparency.”

This enthusiasm from subcontractors is widespread, according to Greg Morgan, Quantity Surveyor for Bouygues UK at Hallsville Quarter Phase 3: “The initial reservation I had with Payapps was to do with subcontractor adoption; how readily they would accept paying monthly for applications. But we’ve had no real issues with that. Subcontractor adoption has been fairly flawless… they’re quite excited to have a central system where they can see where each application is and they know that it’s not going to get missed or lost, so it gives them confidence.”

Having subcontractor buy-in wasn’t accidental. Anne told us that this was a really important element of the Payapps launch: “We put together an information document with Payapps, to share with our subcontractors and consultants to make sure that they had an understanding of the system and the benefits not just to us, but to them, because it has to be a two-way process.”

Indeed, Mobarak was keen to point out that “sometimes, within 10 minutes of a subcontractor first receiving the link to the Payapps system, I see payment applications being submitted which shows how quick and easy the system is to use. Any cautiousness or reservations are overcome very quickly”.

Bouygues UK experience ‘second-to-none’ support and account management from Payapps

One of the reasons Bouygues UK cite for the uptake being so good, across both subcontractor and Bouygues UK users, is to do with the support provided by the Payapps team.

As Fabrice Davis, Deputy Commercial Director at Bouygues UK explained: “I think Payapps have been exemplary in terms of the support they offer. Every time we need anything, I just pick up the phone and normally get through to somebody first time. We’ve got quite a big team here on site – commercially, operationally, financially – and Payapps are more than happy to do introductions to all those people showing them how to use the system. And just as much as I can pick up the phone and call them, so can any of the team.”

One of those team members is Greg Morgan, Quantity Surveyor for Bouygues UK, who has used Payapps’ in-app chat function a couple of times to contact the support team: “They’ve all responded immediately and, very satisfyingly, we had the answer and the solution incredibly quickly each time. I’ve been really impressed with their speed and accuracy when dealing with any query.”

“The account management from Payapps has been second-to-none and our account manager is very accessible,” said Anne Smales, another of Bouygues UK’s Deputy Commercial Directors. “We have regular monthly catch-ups, where we talk about live projects, day-to-day issues, as well as future development and upcoming projects that we may have coming on board… In this technologically savvy world, we need to move with the times and Payapps are realistic about not standing still and working with us to continuously evolve and enhance the system.”

For more information on how Payapps helps to streamline supply chain applications,  see the accompanying eBook. 

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