Solid Groundwork

Laying in a solid accounting system like EasyBuild is as beneficial to a civil engineering company as laying good groundworks, as T & W Civil Engineering have discovered

In a year beset with problems and hardship for many, there are thanks to be said for a major underlying trend - the predominance of sunny weather, without which the socially distanced queues outside Tescos and the emergence of a love for the outdoors in any shape or form would have been unbearable. It is to be hoped the good weather continues as the construction industry gets back into its stride once more, and the UK Government throws money at infrastructure and increased house building to revitalise the economy.

One of the potential beneficiaries of a return to untrammelled construction is T & W Civil Engineering, a Northants based company, formed in 1994, which has been providing groundworks and civil engineering services to clients in the private housing sector for over 25 years. Having expanded into other areas such as Milton Keynes, Peterborough, Cambridge and Bicester since its launch, the company prides itself on the strong relationships it builds with its clients based on the quality of delivery, excellent customer service, and its commitment to ensuring all workers go home safely each day. T & W's clients include Barratt Homes, David Wilson Group, Persimmon Homes, Redrow and Lioncourt, with a focus on developments that are likely to have upwards of 250 units across the various phases, and is currently engaged on 18 active sites with 3 more expected to start in the next couple of months. These include a recently won £5.5m infrastructure project in Rugby and a £6.5m groundworks and infrastructure package in Wellingborough.


Before implementing EasyBuild T & W used Sage 50 for its accounting software, a very basic package that was adequate when the company started out but became less suitable as the business grew, particularly over the last five years. The company also had a separate, purpose-built procurement system.

Adam Burchnall, the Finance Director at T & W, explained the challenges that the company had to overcome. "There was no real-time information," he said, "and it wasn't possible to get an accurate view of costs until the end of the month once all invoices had been received, due to accruals not being made when we placed orders. We couldn't drill down into costs either, because orders were placed in a different system with only the final invoice being loaded into Sage. It was only possible to get a high-level view of where the costs, such as materials and consumables totals, were being incurred."

With nominal codes being chosen at point of invoice, rather than being linked to the product ordered, there was a greater risk of inconsistent postings between accounts payable clerks. The result was a lack of visibility for the commercial team - surveyors would only get a view of site performance based on a month end report and to drill down into any of the cost categories would be a manual and laborious process for finance. Invoice matching was also a problem. With orders being placed in a different system they couldn't be automatically linked in Sage, and the accounts payable team would have to cross-check with the separate system prior to loading in Sage - using two screens side by side.

The processing of Accruals and month-end adjustments, without the ability to run reports on open orders, was particularly challenging - all of which slowed down the system, and the volume of transactions going through Sage 50 and the loading and refreshing of new screens caused the system to crash repeatedly.

Finally, the problems associated with the ageing solution was exacerbated by its (non-existent) document management. You couldn't attach files/documents to transactions in Sage, meaning that the Accounts department had to keep paper copies of everything. If anybody needed an invoice, whether it was the surveyor or site manager, it became a time-consuming process obtaining it.


A decision was made to change the accounting and procurement systems with EasyBuild being the preferred supplier. The software has been up and running for close to 10 months now and has brought a number of benefits to the business, solving the challenges outlined above.

Adam outlined the benefits of the new system. "We now get real-time information. Orders generate committed costs within the system, providing us with a view of the costs incurred by site at any point in time, without relying on invoices being received.

This is particularly useful for surveyors when they're doing monthly valuations, and from a buying perspective we can now run reports and see trends on a weekly, or even a daily, basis.

"We can also supply managers with more information," he continued. "Orders placed directly in the system link to cost headings for each product, improving the accuracy and depth of management information. For example, rather than a high-level view of our overall material spend we can now see how much we have spent on every single product on every site and track the trend each month."

That gives T & W greater confidence in the figures they can generate, as all of the detail is obtained and posted based on the order (which is at product level) rather than when the final invoice is input. Accruals are also more reliable due to the creation of committed costs at order stage.

Benefits have accrued in other areas as well. EasyBuild has increased support for the commercial team, and surveyors can now see costs in real time, drilling down into each transaction and pulling up invoices directly on screen thanks to the system's document management functionality, enabling them to carry out their role without delays.

The old system of invoice matching has now been replaced with one that matches them automatically, with orders raised directly in the system, and the process for querying items or clearing them for payment has been made much easier.

Accuracy and speed of use have also been improved, with both the procurement and accounts processes integrated into a single system. The amount of information that needs to be keyed in and the time incurred from raising the order to generating the payment has been reduced - and there are further options within the system that the company can use to reduce this further.


Supplier’s invoices are received in a number of formats - including scanned paper documents and emails - and T & W is now looking to automatic the collection of invoice details from these, perhaps using OCR technology or other EDI platforms.The company is in the process of implementing a system of on-site requisitions using EasyBuild's mobile app. This change is key to the business and will provide another layer of automation and help reduce the risk of the wrong products or quantities being ordered. The company are also looking to implement budget controls to help them track material usage against expectations.


Adam said that there was some nervousness and reluctance within the office initially as many of the staff had been with the company for a long time and knew the previous systems like the backs of their hands. Change is always difficult, he explained, and no matter what role is performed, the impact of change is always one of the main considerations that have to be taken into account - both in choice of supplier and the implementation process. Within a few weeks of using EasyBuild, though, the feedback was good, and it became second nature

Asked to define the outcome of the company's choice, Adam was very positive. "EasyBuild is a relatively simple system. This, however, is one of its strengths rather than a weakness. We saw more comprehensive systems when looking for a supplier, but we felt the additional complexity would bring more complications rather than benefits."