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Lancaster University has recently transformed its catering procurement processes through a strategic partnership with Pelican Procurement – an Avendra Group company. The collaboration involves the implementation of the purchase-to-pay cloud-based system, Pi, ushering in a new era of efficiency and transparency in managing purchases, suppliers, invoices, stock, and food allergen data.

Emma Easton, Planning and Analysis Manager at Lancaster University, shared insights into the university’s journey and the transformative impact of adopting Pelican’s innovative solutions. Having been with the university for seven years, Emma reflected on the challenges faced with a manual stock management system relying on paper delivery notes and Excel spreadsheets. Not only was this time-consuming, but the potential for human error in a complex environment comprising 12 units, including food service and alcohol, was a challenge.

Online Ordering

For example, before using the Pi system, we had to place individual orders in a number of ways, including over the phone, by email or via suppliers’ websites. If someone forgot to order something, there were times when we had to pop into local shops! Now, with Pi, everything is all in one place – it saves a lot of time. It’s so much easier and quicker.

It also empowered our team to take ownership of ordering. We can now track spending and overall budgets with ease. For example, if an order is placed, that person is responsible for booking it and receipting it. This hasn’t happened before, and it puts greater ownership on our team and transparency for me. I can see what they are spending – and keep abreast of overall budgets. It’s effortless to do.

Invoice Management 

The manual handling of invoices also underwent a significant transformation. Before Pelican, a member of the team would collect paper delivery notes and record the value on a spreadsheet, which would be cross-checked when invoices came in. This was very time-consuming. When it was period-end for purchase accruals, we’d have to check the spreadsheet manually. Sometimes, we would have to wait for delivery notes, so if they were not received or had been misplaced, we would then be under accruing as we wouldn’t know the order had been placed. Many gaps needed filling.

The introduction of the Pi system streamlined our internal processes, ensuring day-to-day transparency and eliminating the risk of under-accruing. We are so happy we have a solution that removes barriers and allows our team to focus on their core responsibilities.

Internal Ordering

We have a central production kitchen, which supplies food for our other services – e.g. we have a pre-school on site as well as conference & events, hospitality and student dining. We struggle with associating stock items with those different areas. As we order in bulk, it’s hard to see, for example, who the tray of lasagne is for – is it for events or preschool? Matt Ferris, Lead Product Manager from Pelican, has shown us the Picnic module, which will help us address this issue.

Menu & Allergen Management 

We have expanded Pi usage by integrating menu and allergen management. In addition, we plan to use the QR code feature that will enable us to share our menu with allergen and diet information easily with our students, staff and visitors, which is critical for us. We can’t wait to showcase this to our customers!

Stock Management

We are currently conducting the monthly stock take on spreadsheets, and any new products or prices are updated manually. This process takes us at least a couple of days to do that, and you only have to put one digit incorrectly, and it would throw the calculations. The adoption of Pelican’s Pi Stock Management system would address these challenges comprehensively, saving us time and mitigating the risk of errors. We are looking forward to using it and enjoying all the benefits the system has to offer.

Onboarding Process

Mobilisation at the start was easy and took a weight off our shoulders from the project planning and organisation point of view. I was really impressed by the whole process, led by Pelican’s Implementation Project Manager, Marietta Campbell. It was structured, clear, and simplified. We had regular communication with the Pelican team to ensure a smooth transition. Pelican gave us best-practice guidance throughout the implementation, and it worked really well.

We have also received support on the go-live date, where Simon Burton, Procurement Manager at Pelican, was working on-site for two days to mitigate any issues. And it was beneficial to have him on site, ensuring everything was running as it should. There were a couple of minor delivery point issues, but Simon picked these up, phoned the supplier and changed it straight away. 

We have also really benefitted from the Pi training, carried out by Harriet Medlicott, Pi Trainer and supported by Marietta, to fully understand all the system features and benefits that we can utilise.

Bespoke Solutions with Ongoing Support

Pelican’s commitment to ongoing support and adaptation for individual needs really stands out! I couldn’t find any other system that can do what Pelican Pi does. The benefits we now receive from Pelican are extended beyond our team, positively impacting the commercial, procurement, and accounts payable departments.

Initially, I didn’t really understand the scale of what was possible via Pelican – but now, I wonder why we haven’t done this before! Working with Pelican has been a very good decision. And we have an excellent working relationship with the Pelican team.”  

It’s nice to know that we have support from a team of experts, and that gives me great peace of mind that we are operating our catering function most efficiently and transparently. I’m not sad to see the back of our spreadsheets!

We are here to help.

To learn more about how Pelican Procurement Services can help your business achieve its goals and work more efficiently, email our friendly team at 

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