Comment: How contractors should respond to the Carillion collapse
Michael Gallucci, managing director of construction consultancy MPG, advises firms affected by the collapse of Carillion how to respond.
When contracting on construction projects, it’s imperative to have appropriate written agreements and programmes in place. Often, contracts give both parties the right to terminate if one or either becomes insolvent. That means you can walk away from a project without incurring any further costs but what should you do about the money you are owed for the work you have already completed?
That’s the shadow hanging over around 30,000 businesses collectively owed £1 billion following the collapse of Carillion which has left chains of first tier suppliers and sub contractors in limbo.
The scale of this insolvency is extraordinary but the same common sense responses to a customer in insolvency still apply.
Firstly, it’s worth getting a good sense of how exposed you are. Clearly, if your business depends for its survival on the next payment from Carillion, as is sadly the case for some, it will be your number one priority. However, if your exposure is far from critical, it would be a mistake to spend every working moment on the issue when you have other customers to look after and opportunities to pursue.
Having said that, you still need to take some action urgently.
You may have seen news about banks creating a fund for firms affected by the collapse and of a new government task force to address the issue but don’t take those as an excuse to do nothing and hope for the best. There are plenty of things you can do now to protect your business.
Step one is to look at where you have outstanding contracts and whether these are affected directly or indirectly with Carillion. This is a list of the companies in liquidation: Carillion plc, Carillion Construction Ltd, Carillion Services Ltd, Planned Maintenance Engineering Ltd, Carillion integrated Services Ltd and Carillion Services 2006 Ltd.
The liquidators, PwC, have set up a website for everyone affected. Go to https://www.pwc.co.uk/carillion and select ‘Suppliers’.
Check your contracts in both directions, firstly to see if you’re entitled to suspend or terminate your contract with your customer and secondly to see what your options are with anyone that you are sub contracting to. If you decide to take action under your contracts, make sure you do this within the terms of the contract.
Your contract with your customer may set out specifically what should happen if one of the parties in the supply chain becomes insolvent. Make sure you understand it and keep track of progress. If the contract doesn’t do this, take steps to retrieve the money owed to you, which may be through legal means or withholding future work on the project until you are paid.
Take steps to protect any physical property or supplies that you have not been paid for, making sure to do so within the law, of course.
I am a strong advocate of effective programmes and record keeping to protect yourself in the event of disputes or situations that lead to potential non-payment such as your customer going into liquidation. If you don’t already have full written records of the work you have carried out on any projects affected by the liquidation of Carillion, prepare them now.
There is much in the media about lessons to be learnt from Carillion. For contractors, the affair should encourage a review, firstly of how they enter into contracts and secondly their effectiveness at managing programmes and record keeping because when things go wrong, these can be the difference between being paid or losing everything.
Pandora and IBM digitise jewellery supply chain
Pandora has overhauled its global supply chain in partnership with IBM amid an ecommerce sales boom for its hand-finished jewellery.
The company found international success offering customisable charm bracelets and other personalised jewellery though its chain of bricks and mortar retail destinations. But in 2020, as the COVID-19 outbreak forced physical stores to close, Pandora strengthened its omnichannel operations and doubled online sales.
A focus on customer experience included deploying IBM’s Sterling Order Management, increasing supply chain resiliency and safeguarding against disruption across the global value chain.
Pandora leverages IBM Sterling Order Management as the backbone it its omnichannel fulfilment, with Salesforce Commerce Cloud powering its ecommerce. Greater automation across its channels has boosted the jeweller’s sustainability credentials, IBM said, streamlining processes for more efficient delivery. It has also given in-store staff and virtual customer service representatives superior end-to-end visibility to better meet consumer needs.
Jim Cruickshank, VP of Digital Development & Retail Technology, Pandora, said the digital transformation journey has brought “digital and store technology closer together and closer to the customer”, highlighting how important the customer journey remains, even during unprecedented disruption.
"Our mission is about creating a personal experience and we've instituted massive platform changes with IBM Sterling and Salesforce to enable new digital-first capabilities that are much more individualised, localised and connected across channels and markets,” he added.
Pandora’s pivot to digital
The pandemic forced the doors closed at most of Pandora’s 2,700 retail locations. To remain competitive, it pivoted to online retail. Virtual queuing for stores and virtual product trials via augmented reality (AR) technology went someway to emulating the in-store experience and retail theatre that is the brand’s hallmark. Meanwhile digital investments in supply chain efficiency was central to delivering on consumer demand.
“Consumer behaviour has significantly shifted and will continue to evolve with businesses needing to quickly adapt to new preferences and needs,” said Kareem Yusuf, General Manager, AI Applications and Blockchain, IBM. “To address this shift, leading retailers like Pandora rely on innovation to increase their business agility by enabling and scaling sustainable supply chain operations using AI and cloud.”
Yusuf said Pandora’s success was indicative of how to remain competitive by “finding new ways to create differentiated customer experiences that protect their enterprises from disruptions to help mitigate risk and accelerate growth”.