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Use technology for efficiency1st of July 2011
In his third article for ECJ, Diversey's Pedro Chidichimo explains the benefits for facility management companies of implementing and running IT systems and procedures to improve their front and back office operations. He says internet based applications can differentiate a business from its competitors through improved service quality, and efficiency and profitability of back office procurement tasks.
In today's era of Apples, Androids, tablet PCs and similar portable technology I can’t help but be surprised at the low level of adoption within our industry of such easily available resources. Despite the numerous vendors of standard or customised internet based solutions I have seen some facility management companies and executives struggle with key tasks such as workforce planning, service programming or online purchasing automation.
For a service deployment manager one of the least desirable things is to have a poorly programmed day with resources sitting idle. And for a procurement vp, dealing with more than 100 product and equipment suppliers, the net provides such amazing opportunities for automation. Let me explain where I see the two biggest potential areas for facility management companies.
Front end applications for improved service quality
In my years of experience working with the leading actors in this great stage where we play, I have seen the best innovation coming from tools such as computers or hand-held devices that are simple to operate. Centrally managed and locally deployed, such tools offer a powerful way to achieve optimal work-loading and allocation, labour and cost estimation, inspection, and optimisation:
•Work-loading and allocation: scheduling routine/daily tasks, balancing workloads, generating and printing assignments
•Labour & cost estimation: calculating employee and budget needs, managing inventory, supplies and equipment.
•Inspection: PDA and PC-based inspections helping to capture critical observations and identify areas demanding immediate attention
•Optimisation: real-time reporting, employee performance analysis and continuous improvement.
These workforce planning tools allow facility management companies to do more with less. They significantly differentiate you and your business, elevate the professionalism of the cleaning team, enhance productivity, and improve the level of cleanliness within a building. Not to mention labour savings…
Back end applications for efficient and profitable procurement
Knowing that the number of tools used to deploy a good facility management task is just too big, we see there is a level of complexity that needs to be managed efficiently. There is a need to enhance cleaning operations through optimisation of the supply chain and this is something E-procurement systems are good at. Whether within procurement, finance, operations or general management, E-procurement systems have the capability to deliver significant benefits by streamlining processes and improving financial performance.
There are very few dedicated online procurement systems for building service contractors. My suggestion is to create a small team to research the options available and ask your chosen vendor to customise a good system that is right for you.
The main benefits of an E-procurement system are:
•Standardisation and harmonisation of product ranges to streamline business processes
•Control and visibility of spending to lower operating costs
•Robust reporting to deliver powerful business intelligence
•Improved operational efficiency and supply chain management.
I recently had access to a case study from a building service company with approximately 2,500 customer locations and 17 milion euros spend with 58 suppliers for janitorial, uniforms, office supplies, etc. Using a procurement system designed for cleaning operations supplies and consumables the company achieved no less than a total annual product spend reduction of 10 per cent, reduced admin processing costs by 80 per cent (resulting in over 346,000 euros per year savings), and increased manufacturer compliance levels from 40 per cent to over 85 per cent. And most of all, in the director's own words, “the real advantage came from a system that has been built for our needs, rather than us having to adapt our processes to match a system“.
I also met not so long ago a European building service contractor who was able to reassign 16 full time employees in its accounts payable department by using electronic invoice matching capabilities.
This is a call for our industry to start adopting such tools. The benefits at stake are there to be grasped and the bigger the size of your business, the bigger the potential rewards. There is nothing more risky than doing things the same old way.