Rail Industry Focus


A call to fully engage

Source: Rail Technology Magazine Dec/Jan 2013

Annette Gevaert, director, rail and transport at Achilles, explains more about Link-up Engage.

In spring 2013 Achilles Link-up, the UK rail industry’s supplier registration and qualifi cation scheme, will make an important transition to a new generation. ‘Link-up Engage’ will offer far greater functionality, processes that will signifi cantly reduce the effort for suppliers to qualify and features that will make it easier for buyers to search and fi nd appropriate qualified suppliers.

Link-up Engage will be available to suppliers under a tiered pricing structure that will represent a direct price reduction for more than 75% of suppliers in the Achilles Linkup community. Both direct and indirect cost reductions will result in great savings for the rail industry, contributing to the Government’s requirement to become more efficient.

Chaired by Richard Sharp, rail compliance manager at J Murphy & Sons Ltd, the Steering Group for Link-up has worked alongside Achilles and many companies from the rail industry to identify the most pertinent questions for the questionnaire and to shape the key working parameters of the new platform. Every aspect has been considered carefully, right down to the simplest of questions. The result will be a platform created by the industry for the industry.

Many in the rail sector will already be aware of this imminent move – particularly the 3,500 suppliers and 115 buying organisations presently members of Link-up. However, not so many will be aware of the extent to which these changes will deliver important benefits.

Firstly, for suppliers the process of inputting data will become much easier. The pre-qualification stage will be streamlined so that only the most relevant and necessary information will be required for pre-qualification. Instead of a long static questionnaire, buyers will be able to ask additional questions at the shortlist stage of a tender – a process well known and popular in other industry sectors, like Utilities. Together, this will reduce the number of questions in the supplier questionnaire by over 50% – a significant saving to the industry in regards to the time and effort required to pre-qualify.

One of the most noticeable changes will be the revised product code structure. Overall there will be fewer product codes. Feedback and analysis has resulted in a slimmer product code list. Some have been re-named, others merged, but two new product code groups will be created – one for generic business services and supplies (such as travel and accommodation) and the other, for railway services and supplies (such as contingent labour). In addition, descriptions will be available to simplify the product code selection for both buyers and suppliers.

Functionality will be greatly improved. Information such as contact names and details will only need to be entered once and will be able to be simply cross-populated throughout the questionnaire (the information being available for update on a single linked file).

Suppliers will also find it easier to see sections of the questionnaire that still need to be completed or that need to be revised, and another enhanced function is that reminders on date sensitive information such as insurances will be sent out both before and after expiration – helping to reduce exposure to risk.

One of the most onerous tasks for a supplier tends to be the input of financial data. Through a special integration with Equifax suppliers will be provided with their fi nancial data, as held on Equifax, and simply asked to verify if it is correct or not. Suppliers will be able to revise the information, but the system will show the Equifax data alongside the revised material. For suppliers this will make it far easier to input the information and for buyers, they will have the advantage of having a full fi nancial report on a supplier (at present the buyer only sees the company’s credit rating score).

However, perhaps one of the most fundamental and signifi cant changes for suppliers is the adoption of a new commercial model. Moving away from a single price for all the new fourtiered pricing structure will equate price with the number of product codes selected, so creating a lower threshold of entry for suppliers below £400+VAT as opposed to the present flat fee of £585+VAT.

Those suppliers in the lower two tiers will see a price reduction, compared to the present regime. In fact, around 75% of suppliers presently on the system will see a reduction in the price they pay, despite the huge investment made into the new platform.

Buyers will also see many benefits to Link-up Engage. Firstly, there will be greatly improved search functionality with more flexible tools for finding the right suppliers first time. The buyer will be able to search using relevant criteria over numerous areas, for example, looking under product codes for a supplier that has ISO 9001 or a turnover not over £10m while instantly seeing the number of suppliers resulting from the search.

Notification services to buyers will be expanded. Along with the usual tracking of suppliers for specifi c aspects of changes to data (product codes, membership update, audit expiration), an alert facility will be in place for insurance documents that become invalid. So if a supplier’s insurance on public indemnity expires, the buyer is notified immediately.

A particularly useful facility for category managers will be the alert service being introduced for new suppliers, adding or subtracting product codes that are listed of interest to the category manager.

Both buyers and suppliers will further benefit from the transition to a global platform. Not only will navigation be more intuitive, with a clearer and more friendly user interface, but the global platform brings the possibility for suppliers to expand their product offering to other industries and regions, and for buyers to broaden their search for the right supplier.

Suppliers already registered in different Achilles schemes will have one central record, with all common data shared across the platform, making it easier to update information.

As part of the preparation programme for the transition to Link-up Engage, Achilles is arranging a number of webinars for suppliers during January and February and a series of ‘Link-up Engage seminars’ will be hosted around the country by organisations such as Network Rail, Transport for London, Alan Dick Communications and Sinclair Knight Merz.

It’s time to fully engage.

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