Webinar recap: How Primero uses Felix for vendor management

Dan Wilson   |   September 29, 2022
primero felix

Recently, I had the pleasure of interviewing Glen Ercegovich from Primero - a Felix customer. Here is a recap of some of the highlights from the session.  

If you’d like to watch the recording, please visit this link. 

Q: Can you tell me a little bit about Primero, the organisation and the industry or industries that you operate in - local, global operations, those types of things? 

A: Primero Group, its inception was the back in 2011. So, we've been around for approximately 11 years. We're an engineering, construction company focused mainly in Western Australia, around the rare earth, iron ore and lithium construction projects where key clients range from Rio Tinto to the junior miners. We also have an office in Montreal. We have approximately 1000 employees at the moment. 

Q: And what about yourself? Give us a little bit of an insight into what your typical week looks like, your role, your responsibility, and your objectives. 

A: I’m Procurement Manager for the group. I’m responsible for the procurement of goods and services throughout the whole company. We have a couple of divisions at Primero. We have an operation and maintenance division and also a project division. 

I’m overseeing about half a dozen direct procurement officers that work for me and I work closely with the project engineers across all the projects currently underway, so day-to-day tasks involve or focus mainly on vendor management - and that's where Felix has come into play. 

Evaluating vendors, making sure that we're using vendors that comply, that tick all the boxes; and also making sure that our processes and procedures are all up to date, which seems to be an ongoing task for me. 


Q: Can you take me back to pre-Felix: what were you trying to do? How were you coping? The types of challenges you were facing day-to-day? What was frustrating you and your organisation about the way that you were handling that vendor management piece? 

A: Well, pre-Felix we didn't really have vendor management software. It was all based around spreadsheets and pulling data from our ERP. The main reason that we brought in Felix was to make sure that we were compliant with our ISO accreditation. 

Prior to Felix, like I said, our Approved Vendor List (AVL) was just a spreadsheet that never got updated, was issued out to the engineers, and then we'd have missing vendors on there that we actually had accounts with.  

It was time consuming to constantly update our AVL, along with making sure that vendors are compliant with insurance; CoCs that never got updated, never got filed away. 

So, it was just extremely cumbersome to manage our vendors without the use of a software system like Felix. I would need an extra couple of staff just to manually update these spreadsheets and evaluations and whatnot [to remain compliant for our ISO accreditation]. 

Q: At what particular point in the journey at Primero, did you identify that there was a problem? Was it very early on and you were looking to implement a solution or were you happy with the status quo? Was there a particular trigger point that you went and said “look, we need to go and find a solution”? 

A: Probably during our initial audit – internal and external audits – where these observations would come into play; where we're using manual new supplier forms and how we're evaluating. We're very lucky to fumble through these audits early on at Primero. 

Those audits were a major trigger point because we needed to keep our accreditation. So, probably half a dozen years ago, I said we need a better system. We can't keep focusing on manual spreadsheets. 

We came to the realisation that we either start looking at expanding our procurement team and investing in more resources or start looking at a vendor management system such as Felix. 

We evaluated the decision between adding more resources and a vendor management system and in the end, we decided to go with Felix which saved us money in the long run. 

Q: Next question is really around “how did you hear about Felix”. 

A: As you said, we're very fast growing. I can remember when turnover was less than 60 million and now pushing up to half a billion. 

So, during that time of fast growth, we've hired good people and along with those good people come great ideas. 

Felix was first mentioned to me by employees that work at Primero that had worked at other organisations. They utilised a vendor management system like Felix. 

Personally, I've heard of other platforms such as Felix, but due to the recommendations from my colleagues and our friends and people in similar roles at other companies over here in Western Australia, we decided to push on with Felix. 

And with the support of our directors and executive team, they were all in for implementing a system that was going to help us grow and move with the times. 


Q: We've spoken about your journey to recognise the problem, identify the solutions in the market - you’ve chosen Felix. Keen to understand how the implementation process went, how long it took, did anything unexpected come up or is there anything that we could do to make that better and your overall satisfaction with the implementation. 

 A: All credit to your sales team and your implementation team. Liam Gill, who was my contact at Felix. He was fantastic at touching base constantly - letting me know where we’re at, and how can he help. He just made the whole process a lot smoother and it wasn't difficult at all. 

What was really impressive was, once we signed on the dotted line, there was a 12-week schedule put in place, detailing all the milestones that needed to be hit. 

We actually condensed that to 8 weeks and hit that target, which is great. And the after-sales support has been fantastic. So, all credit to your team at Felix because that made the whole process very seamless. 

The only issue was when it came to the integration between Felix and our existing ERP, which our IT department had to migrate and make sure that the two systems talk together, which took some time, but I suppose that's just an internal Primero issue. 

Q: Now that you guys are utilising the tool, do you feel like it's solved some of those issues that you set out to address in the in the first place and have you got any quantifiable before and after type statistics that you can share with us? 

 A: Initially, prior to Felix, we would upload every vendor that issued an invoice, so we had an approved vendor list of probably over two to three thousand vendors in our ERP. Bringing Felix in was a good way to cull that list and just utilise the vendors that want to work for Primero and want to tick all the boxes and be compliant. 

So currently we have 362 approved vendors in that system, but there have been about 600 invitations coming through to the market. Regarding culling our vendor list, it's been great, and also ensuring that data in Felix is correct. 

Now when we do get project engineers that are new to the business and they want to know who we can use for civil works on our projects, they're not just going onto Google and searching Joe Bloggs that we never used before and then go that far down the rabbit hole where a contract is issued, and finding out we can't use them because they're not an approved vendor. Instead they just use Felix, so, it's really saved a lot of time in that regard. 


Q: Can you talk to me a little bit about your risk mitigation journey and what does that mean to Primero? How much is that worth to you as a company? 

 A: That's the entire reason that we've brought Felix in the first place. So having that one point of truth to know that when you're using an approved vendor that's on our AVL, that's been approved in Felix, all the compliance documentation is up to date and relevant. 

Prior to that, we were using subcontractors that 99% of the time had insurances, but we just wouldn't have copies of them. So, having Felix in place just eliminates all risk and it's definitely a big, big tick when it comes to our risk mitigation. Our commercial team and legal team were right behind Felix and that's one of the reasons that we brought it on. 

Q: You were in charge of the process of purchasing and implementing the Felix system and it's obviously key to your function. But what impact has using Felix had on other aspects and other teams within Primero?  

A: Like I said, our commercial team and legal team, they're right behind Felix. And not only them, but our project teams, our project engineers and our project managers, they probably – apart from myself and my team – are the ones that utilise Felix on a day-to-day basis. 

And with the constant evaluation of vendors, they can quickly look up a vendor in Felix and see what they've scored on previous evaluations. 

If the vendors have got low scores, they can touch base with myself, my team and maybe project engineers that have used them in past and get some more feedback on those vendors. 

So that whole managing vendors, using vendors that will support Primero and work with us, that's a massive bonus for the group. 

dan glen primero

Watch the full webinar recording here.

Q: You're utilising 2 Felix modules at the moment - the vendor management piece and the API. What about the current modules do you enjoy using? And have you got any plans to integrate additional Felix modules in the future? 

A: We've only started using Felix towards the end of last year and as I've talked about earlier, purely to manage our vendors and onboard our vendors, we have the [Sourcing module] which we've yet to utilise. Our operations and maintenance division are going to be utilising that RFQ module for packages that are going to be awarded moving forward. I have the support of our leadership team to utilise the Sourcing module for projects moving forward. 

Once we get some feedback from our engineers on how that works, we could possibly be looking at other modules as well. 

I know that you touched on the Contracts module, which could be an option down the track. 

Q: You’ve integrated your Felix instance with your ERP, utilising our standard API. What benefits has that brought to the organisation in terms of not duplicating data entry efforts and those types of things? 

A: Previously, we had a manual form we’d issue out to vendors. They'd complete the questionnaire, put their banking details on this form and then we’d rely on our accounts department to enter those banking details into our ERP. 

You know you can't eliminate human error. So, with that transition from a document to our ERP, there were some areas where 9 was being entered as 6 (for example), which doesn't seem like much but caused a massive issue down the track. 

So now that we have our vendors completing the banking information or the ABN and their correct email addresses in Felix, that all gets transitioned across to ERP which eliminates the risk of human error from our end. 

Q: Glen, you mentioned before that Primero have some operations in Canada and North America. As I understand it, they're utilising Felix as well. Can you give me a little bit of insight into that team and how that came about? 

A: In Montreal - one of our engineering officers - they've got some key clients there and they have done a couple of construction projects. They heard about Felix and that the Perth office is utilising this vendor management software.  

They have some big projects that are going to hopefully come into play. So, it's good to see that the Montreal office has taken a foot forward in getting a vendor management system and procurement system into place prior to these projects kicking off. 

They've got a whole lot of vendors that the company hasn't used in the past so getting them uploaded to Felix and ticking the box to make sure that they are compliant - is a great move. 


Q: What's on the horizon for yourself and for Primero moving forward and how do you hope the partnership with Felix can help? 

A: Oh, hopefully it’s onwards and upwards for Primero. I know that there's quite a bit of work that we're tendering on and it's in the pipeline. 

So, as I said before, I'm looking forward to having all the RFQs issued through Felix – having all of our project teams using the same format and going out to market – which would definitely help with vendors pricing our works. 

As you may be aware, Primero falls under the NRW Group. So, I'd like to see the whole of NRW Group of Companies utilising Felix and having that integration through the eight companies under the group. 

So, I can only see great things in the future between Primero and Felix. 

It's definitely been a great move and I really appreciate the after-sales support from your team. The weekly meetings are fantastic – they don't have to be long. But if you've got issues, they're always there to listen and help us resolve those bugs if there are any.  

I've got nothing but great things to say about Felix, I’m a big advocate of Felix. It's been great for my day-to-day workload making the vendor management side of things a lot easier and less time consuming. 

Q: Finally, if you had colleagues or contemporaries in other organisations that had just started looking for a vendor management and procurement solution or if they are considering Felix, what would you say to them? 

 A: Initially before I even engaged Felix, I have friends in the industry that recommended Felix and I’ll do the same. It’s great software, great people to work with. 

Like I said before, I heard about Felix from friends in the in the industry, they had nothing but great things to say about Felix, that it helped their business, their department.  

Anyone out there looking for a vendor management system that will help them save time and money, I’d definitely recommend Felix for their company. 

Click here if you would like to find out more about Felix’s Vendor Management module. Alternatively, you can watch the full webinar here.

Dan Wilson
Dan is Felix's Chief Revenue Officer, and has been an expert in the procurement technology field since 2012. During this significant time of change and technical innovation, Dan has been at the forefront of Felix's efforts to listen to the real-world problems facing procurement organisations and then create smart technology solutions to equip enterprises of all sizes and from all industries, with all the tools they need for smarter, more efficient, less risky and more connected procurement.
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