Meet the Buyer: Richard Childs, Biffa
With over 200 sites, travel management is a key operation for one of the UK’S leading waste management companies, Biffa, says its Group Procurement Category Manager
Biffa is a leading UK integrated waste management company providing collection, recycling, treatment, disposal and energy generation services to businesses and households across the UK.
I have been working as the Group Procurement Category Manager for the last six years looking after the group’s business and professional services. Over the years I have seen significant growth in the company. We currently have around 7,900 staff of which roughly 2,500 are office based. Around 800 of our staff travel regularly to over 200 sites across the UK.
I used to be heavily involved in the travel aspect of the business but we now utilise the services of travel management company Inntel, which has been a key instrument in the smooth running of Biffa’s travel requirements. We spend approximately £2million on travel per year which covers hotel nights, meetings/events, rail travel and air travel, so outsourcing business travel arrangements is the right business option for us.
Our most frequent UK travel destinations are our head offices and depot locations. High Wycombe is our highest demand area which is where our head office is located, followed by Newcastle where our recent acquisition of O’brien Waste Recycling Solutions is situated. Our locations change and spike according to acquisitions. In terms of transport to and from these locations we have a sizeable fleet of cars used, but also use rail travel and air travel. Air travel spend is higher although rail travel sees twice as many transactions. Our overseas requirement is minimal, only representing 3% of our total bed nights.
Using a travel management company allows us to effectively balance the needs and requirements of our staff with the needs of the business. It allows me to focus on other projects and spend less time on travel management, although I still manage the negotiation of contracts with hotel chains and oversee corporate events.
For Biffa, group travel combined with meetings and events adds another layer of complexity requiring specialist knowledge, capabilities and relationships to be managed effectively – something that Inntel are very good at. Ultimately, our desire to minimise fees is one of our greatest challenges in managing business travel. We always try to encourage employees to stay within our travel allowance, however this often proves difficult with increased budget pressures. Dynamic pricing and varying cancellation policies are also big challenges as it is harder to forecast business spend when there are so many variables. In previous years we booked early for the best rates but the recent changes in hotel cancellation policies are now giving us less flexibility with last-minute business requirement changes.
Using a travel management company allows us to effectively balance the needs and requirements of our staff with the needs of the business”