Driving Efficiency: Walls Construction’s Supply Chain Management Optimisation | RedSky

Driving Efficiency: Walls Construction’s Supply Chain Management Optimisation

RedSky has worked in partnership with Walls Construction to develop a user-friendly and highly effective Supply Chain Management solution. 

According to the Walls team responsible for its adoption and implementation, the solution provides a robust platform for optimising subcontractor management, while delivering on its potential to streamline numerous business processes. 

Walls Construction Overview

Walls Construction is one of the top five main building contractors in Ireland. The company has experienced extensive growth in recent years, driven by new clients and repeat business from existing customers. Its
projected turnover for 2023/2024 is circa €570m and over €600m for 2024/25.  

Early Adopter: RedSky’s Partnership with Walls Construction

As is the case for many large main contractors, a significant proportion of the company’s overall costs relates to subcontractors. So managing the subcontractor supply chain and the associated risks has always been key to the success of the business. 

Operational Director for Finance, David Strickland, is also the Strategic IT Lead for the business. He said: “Given our strong and sustained growth in recent years, we knew we needed a software platform that would allow us to better manage our subcontractor supply chain. 

“When Chris Winson told me about RedSky’s plans to develop a supply chain management product, we could easily envisage the synergies that such a product could deliver for Walls Construction.” 

RedSky needed input from a high-quality end user to steer the developers in the right direction about the real-world functionality that a main contractor would need.

David added: “We wanted to be an early adopter and we were delighted to be offered the chance to work with RedSky in a symbiotic relationship, to influence the development of the product. We use other RedSky systems to great effect that are all easily configurable and scalable.”

Unanimous Decision: Setting Objectives for Supply Chain Management Solution

Walls Construction’s first action was to set up a six-person Steering Committee. Its three primary objectives for the new supply chain management solution were:

  • To create a central repository of easily accessible metrics pertaining to subcontractor management
  • To provide an integrated system that generates and disseminates information across all areas of the business
  • To develop a modern, customisable and user-friendly interface that aids high levels of user adoption and engagement. 

The Committee reviewed RedSky’s proposal alongside other supply chain management offerings available on the market. “The decision was unanimous,” said David. “Across a wide range of evaluative assessment criteria, the RedSky product was the strongest of all the prospects.

“We knew RedSky wouldn’t be starting from scratch because they had already developed a similar solution for a construction company in Saudi Arabia. We were happy to collaborate with the RedSky Development team to tailor that base offering to Walls Construction’s specific needs.”

Walls has been using RedSky software since 1999, so the team had extensive experience of the calibre of other RedSky offerings and the dedicated level of client support available.

After successive consultations with key stakeholders, the Walls Board endorsed the adoption of the RedSky Supply Chain Management solution as the optimum way to achieve greater effectiveness in their supply chain management processes going forward.  

The Starting Block: Formation of Project Sub-Group

Following the decision to partner with RedSky in developing the Supply Chain Management solution, Walls Construction set up a sub-group for the project. It consisted of David Strickland – Operational Director Finance, along with Damian Giles and Stephen McNulty, who are both Operational Directors, Surveying. 

The sub-group gathered input from numerous stakeholders across the business, while also liaising closely via a series of online meetings with the RedSky development team. 

Damian noted: “We consulted functional area experts from several parts of our business, as did RedSky. We recognised the achievement of developmental input and buy-in from key future users as being critical to the ultimate success of
this endeavour”. 

Pilot Study: Phases and Key Deliverables

A 90-day pilot study followed. There were three phases involved: Discovery, Build and Proof of Concept. Three key deliverables were also identified: Vendor Database, Pre-Qualification Questionnaire (PQQ) and Performance Rating.

The Walls Construction sub-group outlined its expectations and system requirements to RedSky – covering existing processes and future digitisation requirements. 

Damian said: “I was tasked with bringing a multi-departmental approach to supply chain management for the betterment of the business overall, rather than for the betterment of any
one department.

“In essence, we wanted to achieve greater consistency – everyone using the same system, doing the same things in the same way and working towards the same goals. RedSky listened to us and worked closely with us to design and configure the system around our requirements.”

The pilot was successful and met the Steering Committee’s three primary objectives in full.

Go-live: Implementation of RedSky Solution

Walls Construction went live with the RedSky Supply Chain Management solution in November 2023. The company took on 120 user licences – more than originally envisaged because the pilot phases had revealed the huge cross-functional potential of the RedSky solution.

The Supply Chain Management software is now being rolled out across many Walls Construction departments, including:

  • Surveying – to onboard, procure and manage subcontractors
  • Estimating – to interrogate the database for suitable subcontractors
  • Contract Management – to collate feedback about subcontractors and rate their performance
  • HSE personnel  – to assess risk and make sure all subcontractors maintain safe working practices
  • Quality Control – to ensure that all work is carried out to the right standard, using the right materials
  • Finance – to ensure the long-term health and sustainability of the business
  • Senior management – to enable senior managers to optimise subcontractor use, improve efficiency and define the future direction of the business.

Central Repository: Core Requirement for Subcontractor Information

A central repository for subcontractor information was a core requirement for Walls Construction in adopting this software solution. 

RedSky’s Supply Chain Management solution comprehensively addresses that need. It can be used to store information ranging from trade references to insurances and certifications, with each digitised item attached securely to the subcontractor’s record on the system. The possibilities are extensive.

As a procurement tool, the Supply Chain Management solution can be a real time-saver. Damian commented: “In a big company like Walls Construction, we have new people coming into the business all the time.

“Previously, if someone new to our Procurement team wanted to find a roofing contractor in a particular area of Dublin who is capable of doing a medium-sized piece of work and is on our approved subcontractor list, they
would have had to ask a colleague to show them where to look for that information.

“It’s a very different situation now, because they can use the Supply Chain Management software instead. All the information is on the system, centrally stored and easily retrievable, including details about the subcontractors’ skills and areas of work, as well as which Walls Construction projects they previously worked on and how well they performed.”

Streamlined Workflows: Revolutionising Business Processes

Stephen said: “We use workflows and approvals in the company’s core RedSky ERP system. They have revolutionised how we do business, by creating clear paths for information, authorisations, and approvals.

“We know that RedSky workflows work well for our business needs. It’s still very early days, but workflows are already starting to have a positive effect on supply chain management, including as part of an onboarding tool
for subcontractors. 

“Previously, MS Word-based PQQs [pre-qualification questionnaires] were emailed out to prospective subcontractors by individual quantity surveyors and mailed back. There was no central repository for the completed questionnaires. Overall, Walls Construction wanted an integrated system that would allow for the automation of many of the processes involved.”

So how does the system work in practice? The Quantity Surveyor or designated Project Administrator sends the subcontractor an ‘initial registration’ email with a link to an online form. The subcontractor then completes the online form, attaches the relevant mandatory evidence (like certifications and insurances) and uploads it directly onto the Walls system. 

There is no need for a Walls surveyor to key the details onto the system because they are automatically uploaded and stored, ready for review as part of the workflow. 

If everything is in order, the subcontractor’s status on the system can then be updated to ‘approved’ (subject to the user’s authority level). Alternatively, if more information is needed, an online questionnaire can be emailed out for completion. Many of the communications involve (authorised) automated emails that can be sent piecemeal or as a batch load.

“We don’t want our surveyors having to spend a big portion of their time manually emailing people and collecting, filing and storing data,” said Stephen. “The workflows streamline key processes, creating efficiencies that free up time for key members of staff and enable them to focus on tasks that add greater value.” 

Fully Integrated: Single Source of Information Truth

Importantly, the RedSky Supply Chain Management solution provides Walls Construction with a single source of information truth. 

The system is fully integrated. Each subcontractor has their own code, which is used throughout the system – on the Supply Chain Management solution, on the PQQ, for the performance ratings and by all other Walls Construction departments involved with subcontractors.

David Strickland commented: “Another key benefit of having an integrated system is that we can make sure we’re always contracting with the correct legal entity, right across our business. An integrated system allows us to do all that.”

Robust Security: Protecting Subcontractor Information

The Supply Chain Management solution also provides a means to keep valuable subcontractor information secure because the system has good in-built security, including multi-factor authentication to log in. 

Damian was heavily involved in developing the internal procedures for system users. He said: “We can decide who gets access to what level of information. For example, we’ve already set up a section that allows commercially sensitive financial information to be accessed only by certain senior managers. We can also set it up so that key information cannot be extracted from the system and then pasted onto
an Excel spreadsheet or Word document, so security protocols are key.”

Performance Management Tool: Enhancing Contract Performance

The system includes robust contract performance management functionality. It is helping the Walls Construction team to pick the right subcontractor for the job. 

Walls Construction has identified five pillars that support production: Safety, Quality, Programme, Commercial and After Sales Support. Based on these pillars, the company has developed a series of questions, which contract managers now routinely use to rate subcontractor performance on the system.

Stephen said: “Over time we will be able to build up a repertoire of performance information metrics relating to historic jobs completed by each subcontractor, including comments from our end-of-contract reviews.”

Comments can be added alongside the performance evaluation scores at any point, to ‘fill in the blanks’ for system users. For example, if a normally excellent subcontractor experiences a temporary dip in their performance scores, a note could be added to explain that there’s a valid reason for this, like key staff absence. In which case it may be appropriate to note and make some allowances for the mitigating circumstances. 

If there is a serious issue with a subcontractor, such as unprofessional behaviour, a costly (and avoidable) error or a safety breach, they can immediately be ‘carded’ on the system. A yellow card puts the Walls Construction team on alert, whereas a red card automatically stops all payments to – and future orders with – the subcontractor until the issue has been resolved. 

The sub-group noted: “The system is really flexible; we can configure it to exactly how we want it. The carding system flags up the issue to everyone. Anyone who needs to know more information can drill down to find out the details of what happened and why.” 

Fast Access to Real-time Data: Improving Decision-making

Before taking on the RedSky Supply Chain Management system, the storage and management of supplier details was handled in a somewhat ad hoc manner. Walls Construction was obviously doing a lot right; it just needed a piece of software that would enable it to do things even better.

Insurances are a case in point. When a subcontractor’s insurance policy was approaching its expiry date, a Walls Construction surveyor used to send a request for a copy of the new policy. However, if the subcontractor was working on multiple Walls Construction projects, they would potentially have numerous Walls Construction surveyors requesting the new policy, because each was working in their own ‘silo’.

The RedSky system has eradicated this duplicated effort. It manages all Walls Construction’s subcontractor insurances. The system automatically sends a notice to the subcontractor, advising them that their insurance is due to expire in two weeks’ time and asking them to upload the new required documents. 

“Once the subcontractor has uploaded them, all that remains for us to do at Walls Construction is to check that they’ve done it properly and that the insurance is valid,” said Damian. 

“We’re using our people’s time more efficiently by minimising administrative tasks. Instead, they can focus on surveying or contract management activities that add greater value to the client and to Walls”.

The sub-group noted: “We need efficient and effective systems so that we can use key users’ time productively. That’s a key driver for all our IT needs.”

Optimising Subcontractor Supply Chain at Walls Construction

According to David, Walls Construction’s Main Board acknowledged early on that managing and optimising the subcontractor supply chain is critical to the organisation’s success. He said: “The company needed to manage its subcontractors better and optimise how it uses them across the organisation. The Supply Chain Management solution is enabling us to do that. For each subcontractor, we can see immediately what work has been given, when it starts and ends, and how much spare capacity subcontractors have.”

Culture Change

Walls Construction has put in place a key resource to administer the system and make sure that all staff are following the correct processes and procedures. 

“There is a cost, yes, but the benefits that flow from the new resource far exceed the associated costs,” said David. “Most software functionally delivers; the challenge is staff adoption and engagement with that new software. 

“There is a whole culture change that must be driven from the top, for people to adopt new technology and use it correctly: the ‘Walls Way’. And that’s really important, because if a financial transaction is carried out incorrectly, it can take three times as long to fix. Whereas if everyone does things right first time, there are huge time and efficiency savings to be made, which is ultimately good for our business.”

To help with the adoption challenge, RedSky developed a set of tutorial videos covering all aspects of the Supply Chain Management solution. The new video-based training approach is saving Walls Construction a significant amount of staff time: there’s no training manual to compile and maintain; and there are no internal training courses for the system either, because new recruits (and users who may
want a refresher) can simply watch the video and replay it if needed. 

Recruitment and Retention Benefits with RedSky Solution

As is the case for many commercial organisations in the UK and Ireland, recruiting and retaining talented employees is a big challenge for Walls Construction.

David said: “Here in Ireland, remuneration among the main contractors tends to be similar, but where we can compete is by demonstrating that we are a leading light for technology and its deployment in the construction industry. 

“Having the RedSky Supply Chain Management solution in place shows that Walls Construction is at the cutting edge of industry technology. I do think it is helping to attract people to our company, and working with an efficient IT system encourages them to stay.”

Looking Ahead: Future Potential of RedSky Solution

The enormous potential of the RedSky Supply Chain Management solution is recognised by senior management at Walls Construction. 

“It’s part of our philosophy to approach new initiatives in a systematic and measured way, so we deliberately took small steps during the implementation,” said Stephen. “But we do recognise that the system can deliver so much more.”

Damian added: “The possibilities are extensive. As well as managing trade references, certifications and insurances, there are other current business processes and procedures that we could convert, using workflows to manage them better. 

“I do see us continuously improving how we use the system. Currently, the system is completely new to us, so we’re learning and envisaging new possibilities all the time. I’m confident that if we spot a process that could readily be adopted by the industry, RedSky would be open to the idea of taking it on board and programming for it.”

A final note from the sub-group: “We’ve found RedSky to be a progressive organisation, with the right calibre of people to get the job done. They are friendly and professional, and we have a good working relationship with them. They are solutions-focused and dedicated to designing optimal IT solutions for today’s leading construction companies.”

About Walls Construction

The company was established more than 70 years ago and is one of Ireland’s largest building contractors. It is privately owned and has a strong track record in multiple sectors, from commercial, industrial, residential, healthcare and education to retail, conservation and tourism/leisure. Walls has more than 450 employees and a sizeable proportion of its business is contracted out.

About RedSky

RedSky software enables construction companies to achieve and maintain a competitive advantage. We make real-time actions visible, enabling you to control change, eliminate risk and achieve ongoing incremental gains from improved operational efficiency. Across all types of construction and contracting projects our software is scalable, modular and proven to improve performance and productivity.

 

You can download the PDF version of the case study via the link. To see RedSky Supply Chain Management solution in action, request a demo today. If you’d like to stay informed about the latest industry trends and updates, sign up for our newsletter to receive early access to content straight to your inbox.