Future-proofing building services

10th of November 2016
Future-proofing building services
Future-proofing building services

Commercial buildings now typically feature a growing complexity of technology-based systems, from fire safety and building energy management to access control and CCTV. Grosvenor Services, which provides a wide range of facilities services across Ireland, the UK and the USA is now helping clients to maximise the benefits of those systems to deliver smarter services. ECJ editor Michelle Marshall speaks to the company’s Ian Campbell and  Maeliosa Ryan about its new technology division, and also how the business is working smarter within its cleaning operations.

The growth in technology-based systems in modern buildings means we now have more data and information at our fingertips than ever before. The challenge comes in analysing which parts of that data are most useful, and then using it to improve performance – based on what the objectives are.

What relevance does this have to the cleaning sector, we may ask. It has significant relevance because we now operate in a world where client expectations are changing and all service providers are expected to deliver more innovative solutions that result in greater efficiency, better control and lower costs.

Facilities services company Grosvenor Services has identified the business potential and recently launched a specialist technology division to help clients get the most from their technology-based systems. And that can mean smarter cleaning, for example.

Established in 1959 Grosvenor Services has operations throughout Ireland, the UK and the USA. It’s a family-owned business that specialises in prestige contracts for premium retailers, for example. It offers cleaning, mechanical and electrical services, grounds maintenance, security, waste management, catering, reception, pest control and now technology services.

End-to-end solutions

Heading up the division is Ian Campbell, technology services director. The team works with clients to develop end-to-end solutions and then, more importantly, uses the data generated to find intelligent solutions to business issues. Campbell explains: “For instance, the information generated by security and surveillance systems can be used to manage other facility services, like cleaning provision, more effectively. If a room isn’t used as much as others, it may not require the same regularity or intensity of cleaning.”

Campbell quotes a case study as an example. A large company based in the UK required a more efficient and cost effective means of delivering cleaning and soft services across their corporate office and other sites. Their showcase premises covered over 30,000 square feet, requiring a high standard of cleaning, to be delivered under very tight budgets.

This challenge required an innovative solution; placing an analytics platform over the existing CCTV system enabled them to capture building usage and occupancy information, which was then provided to the cleaning operations staff.

The solution was pre-tested prior to installation in order to remove the risk of equipment failure and associated impacts to the existing client operation.

“Once installed, the information provided to the on-site cleaning team enabled them to deliver a more intelligent cleaning service,” explains Campbell, “based on a more cost efficient model (smarter cleaning meant less people were needed, leading to greater cost savings). In addition there were improvements in cleaning KPIs of over 23 per cent.”

Worth noting is the customer had already invested in CCTV technology for security purposes. Grosvenor Service’s solutions actually create additional ROI benefits when the technology is used for a wider purpose.

The challenge for any service organisation is the reduction of margins and the competitive arena of tendering, says Campbell. “These new technology-based solutions allow contractors to carry out their core services while improving their margins. It’s all about people, process, technology,” he believes. “And it all comes down to intelligent use of data.”

He continues: “Grosvenor Services is taking information and data, using technology which is already in place, in order to help our customers achieve smarter services and significant benefits over the longer term. We are offering technology as a service to our customers in its own right, and we are also cross-selling it to our cleaning clients.”

Much education is involved in setting up such an operation, Campbell explains, because it is a significant innovation for any business. “Our great challenge is that we could potentially increase risk to the client organisation when working with their existing technology solutions so it’s essential we ensure the resilience and validity of our design through rigorous testing.”

The key message coming from Grosvenor Services is that the technology is now there to enable the industry to run smarter. “If we don’t innovate, what’s the answer?” Campbell asks. “When it comes to service delivery the market is more and more competitive. If we don’t move with that, at the very least we’re standing still. At worst, you simply won’t survive.

Lean and agile

“Cutting costs and specifications to the bone has gone as far as it can go. We must innovate. The real challenge, and to some extent bravery, comes in knowing how to do it. And many businesses are not quite brave enough to do it.”

He adds: “It’s the lean and agile that know where to do it,” adds Campbell. “And that means not just doing it for the sake of it. It’s about knowing where it makes a difference.”

As marketing manager Maeliosa Ryan explains, Grosvenor Services’ viewpoint on the implementation of smart solutions is very much from a ground roots level. The company is open to innovation in its service provision with the help of technology. “We are very interested in telemetry on our cleaning machines for example,” she explains, “and we can successfully sell that concept to our clients as guaranteeing continuity of service because machines are always available. This technology also reduces the cost of service provision because there are useful features such as remote diagnostics that cut downtime and chances of breakdown. Plus we can track activity and any abuse of the machine.”

Ryan continues: “For a service provider the bulk of the cost is labour. On a level playing field we must ask ourselves, how do we make gains? Do we work people harder, drive them to their limits? Or are we seeking to free up people’s time to enable them to not be constantly doing spot checks etc?

“Above all it’s essential for the service provider to have the culture, belief and vision to implement new solutions.”

Ryan believes the onus is on the smart service providers to show clients what is actually possible, because often they simply don’t know. For her developments such as fleet management, time and attendance and workforce management solutions are of most interest right now. “We will increasingly become solutions providers,” she says, “and the skill within service companies is to use that technology well and implement it effectively.”

She continues: “Suppliers and manufacturers have the solutions on offer and are presenting them to us. We need to now examine what we can use and how we can implement those developments. For that to happen successfully, it’s essential we have the right skills within our businesses – skills we can really take to our clients and make a difference to their organisations with.”

Grosvenor Services is now experiencing a greater awareness among clients about just how much the quality of cleaning in their buildings can impact on their business. “What they want is the five-star office or retail environment,” says Ryan. “The FM manager gets the stress and hassle when standards are below par and this is where technology can really add value.”

Service providers must also be asking what they can do to save on time and tasks, Ryan believes. “Mobile technology will be a part of the cleaner’s toolbox. They might check into a room to see their list of tasks, for example, then check out again when they leave.”

For Grosvenor Services workforce management is a key benefit of technology. “We can set alerts for non-attendance, for example,” Ryan says, “and interestingly the level of attendance actually goes up. It also has benefits associated with safety and security for staff.”

Thought leadership is now what’s required from service providers, believes Ian Campbell. “When you’re seen as ‘just a cleaner’ you simply cannot have those conversations about technology.”

More than a cleaner

How about the cleaner of the future? For Campbell, it’s about them doing more than just cleaning. “We could be utilising staff in safety, communication, customer satisfaction and greater value for their employer, and for the client. There are clear benefits in productivity, lower staff turnover, health and safety etc.”

He continues: “A cleaner must be confident in saying ‘I have all the tools I need available to do my job. I am safe in the environment I’m in’. There may be fewer people but they have a better skill set. That enables them to map a career path in cleaning, which in turn means the sector may attract better people for example.”

Ryan emphasises: “If you don’t get on this bus, what is your future? Who are the early adopters and where do we go from here? We believe smart technological solutions, implemented well, result in smart service, retention of staff and retention of contracts.”

And Campbell concludes: “Technology must be something at the heart of a company that facilitates change.”

 

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