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Potential for efficiency savings

All in all, there are approximately 2,100 students across the four schools with ages ranging from three to 18 – plus a further 500 employees. 

Wakefield Grammar School Foundation is one of the country’s leading families of single-sex independent day schools.  There are four schools in total, including Queen Elizabeth Grammar School (QEGS), Wakefield Girls’ High School (WGHS) and in addition to both QEGS and WGHS having a junior school with a Pre-Prep.

With a large estate to manage and extensive day to day operations, the Foundation is continually looking at ways of creating operational efficiencies and cost savings, while having a clear view on how budgets are being allocated across the organisation.  

Looking for a procurement partner

One large cost to the Foundation is the catering function and, following a review by a catering consultant, a recommendation was made for the Foundation to tender the food supplies.  The inspection recognised that by consolidating suppliers and renegotiating food costs, the Foundation would be able to recognise cost savings.

Bursar and Clerk of Governors, Laurence Perry, explains: “Following the feedback from the catering consultant we decided to seek help from a procurement partner to support us in a tender process for our food. With an annual food budget of over £650,000, we were interested in seeing what savings could be realised without diminishing service or quality.  A hard task perhaps, but with help from a specialist, we knew it was entirely feasible.”

Having seen Pelican Procurement Services at the Independent Schools’ Bursars Association conference, the team at Wakefield Grammar School Foundation were aware of Pelican and so when a timely call was made to the Catering Manager, Paul Roberts AHCIMA, he was able to provide a brief and get the ball rolling.

Confirms Paul Roberts: “Before we partnered with Pelican, every year I would invite a number of suppliers to come and tender for our business. It was a time-consuming process as I would personally visit the suppliers, negotiate prices across all product lines, agree delivery logistics and service level requirements – all in house.   As you can imagine, this is a huge task in itself and at the end of the day, I am responsible for six busy kitchens so time is at a premium. The decision therefore to work with a partner meant we would receive dedicated support and expertise in the process, freeing-up a huge amount of time and the administrative burden from my day-to-day catering role.”

The first step was a process of creating a ‘shopping basket’ of items that the Foundation regularly purchases, and this enabled them to reach out to a number of suppliers – both existing and new – to seek their feedback on costs. The findings of which were then presented back to the Foundation and, as a result of this initial exercise, it was clear that financial savings of up to 14% could be realised across food and non-food purchases. It was then down to the team to review which suppliers would really provide the overall service package that the Foundation demands, as well as the financial savings.

Continues Paul: “The primary driver for me is service – I need to know that when an order is placed, it will be delivered at the right place, at the right time and to the quality that we expect.  Our kitchens serve over 2,500 meals every lunch time and so we simply cannot be let down on service. Price of course is important, however that can always be negotiated.”

As part of the tender process, Pelican arranged site visits for Laurence and Paul to meet with a shortlist of suppliers to discuss their requirements, see their operations first-hand and to really understand the details of what a supplier relationship would look like.

 “It was an extremely useful exercise and enabled us to all undertake thorough analysis of each supplier and come to an agreement on the best way forward,” confirms Laurence.

Painless Procurement Process

A decision was made to consolidate the number of suppliers down from double figures to just four, and this has resulted in an actual financial saving of 12% of the overall budget – equating to at least £75,000.

“For me, the whole tender process was painless,” affirms Paul. “We met the suppliers and the people that really matter, including head of transport and telesales. It was a great process, and the attention to detail from Pelican was excellent.  It hadn’t been done in such depth before and Pelican handled everything: negotiating, appointing, governance checks, development of agreements. It was a seamless and painless process.”

Paul Roberts , Catering Manager

Pelican also organised and agreed all service level agreements (SLAs), which was a primary requirement for the Foundation. A specific time drop window is needed during every working day, and therefore product availability and delivery logistics are vitally important.  Confirms Paul: “It was important that as part of the agreement, if the supplier can’t deliver Plan A, we have an agreed Plan B.  This has been put in place.”

Another important element for the group of schools is compliance: with regular inspections from the Environmental Health, the Foundation is required to present compliance documents relating to their suppliers, on request. This is all available from Pelican, who already have obtained such information from their supplier network, which as Paul says is “another weight off my mind.”

A dedicated Pelican procurement manager supports the Foundation with the ongoing supply chain management and contract management. This helps Paul and his team in a number of ways: “If there are any supplier issues and I’m not getting the answers I need, I can pick up the phone to Nikki Fox at Pelican and she gets it sorted. With six kitchens here the last thing I need to be doing is chasing suppliers. I know I can call Pelican and they will just sort it, which saves a huge amount of time” assures Paul. “We did change a fresh fruit and veg supplier in the early days due to a service issue, however this was flagged and handled by Pelican immediately, meaning an alternative was sourced quickly. It’s when this type of issue occurs that it’s good to have a specialist partner at your side.”

From the financial management and control perspective, the way in which the schools now manage their supplier invoicing has evolved. The team is now using Pi, Pelican’s award-wining cloud-based system, which is designed to provide full control and transparency over finance and purchasing matters, from accessing supplier invoices, or downloading management reports, through to assessing individual orders made by the chefs at each of the school’s kitchens.

Confirms Paul: “Before, all invoicing and recording of orders was manual.  Now, with the Pi system it has consolidated the way the inbound invoicing is managed and has saved our finance department three full days on invoicing matters alone. This is a massive saving.   We can all view the data from the same web portal and have access to analysis, the ordering dashboard, management reports, budget analytics, total spend by category or kitchen, view invoices or even find individual orders by line item if needed.   The time this has saved us is significant.”

Value-Added Benefits

On top of everything, the Foundation has received training from Pelican on the Allergen labelling legislation, which came into effect in December 2014, to ensure the team is fully briefed and complies with the regulations, plus advice has been accessed via Pelican’s dietitian regarding menu planning, which was offered as an inclusive service to the school. The Foundation has also started to involve Pelican in a planned kitchen refurbishment project to identify potential commercial equipment and installation savings.

When asked to summarise the overall experience of partnering with a procurement specialist, Paul says:

“Throughout the process, I’ve found Pelican to be very professional, extremely quick at replying to queries and very knowledgeable. There’s a lot of expertise in the business and they are willing to let us tap in to that knowledge at any time. It’s my first experience of using a procurement operation like this and I would highly recommend it to other independent schools looking to save time and money without lessening quality, choice or service.”

Paul Roberts, Catering Manager

Concludes Laurence Perry: “The tender process has led us to not only save approximately £75,000; a surplus that can be reinvested elsewhere across the Foundation, but has given us operational and resource savings.   While Paul deals with Pelican on a day-to-day basis, I tend to have a broader view on the partnership and to me it is clear that we now have greater transparency of finances, improved visibility and control on what is spent where, and have set supplier agreements; all of which deliver real advantages to our organisation, every day.”

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