Smart service through software solutions

1st of July 2015
Smart service through software solutions
Smart service through software solutions

One of the largest facility service providers in Belgium, Temco Facility Services, decided it wanted to optimise its business processes and cleaning operations through the use of the tablets, smartphones and state-of-the-art software. So it partnered with a Dutch software developer, FacilityApps, who developed a app platform for cleaning companies. ECJ speaks to Temco’s managing director Benoit Maerten about his vision for the company, and how technology is key to its future success.

The digital revolution may have been slow coming to the cleaning and building services sector but it is now impossible to dismiss the significant benefits the use of smartphones, tablets, apps etc can bring to the business. Benoit Maerten, managing director of Temco Facility Services Europe, based in Belgium, has taken a leadership approach and last year took the decision to invest in such a solution.

“Cleaning companies have definitely suffered because of the recession,” he says, “We need to be more lean and smarter in our operations, and we must all put our operatives more in contact with the client.” The priority, Maerten believes, is to have better communication and more open discussion between client and contractor.

“Technology is now changing very fast, with the use of smartphones, tablets, etc and that offers the whole sector so many possibilities,” he continues. “Cleaning is traditionally resistant to this type of technology I know, but it’s time to embrace it.

“We decided that to be successful we had to change our organisation, which meant totally altering our systems and training our people to make full use of the technology. The aim - to work in a more efficient way and also more in line with our customers’ requirements.”

At the heart of Maerten’s strategy is the change from being a reactive organisation to a proactive one in its offering of cleaning and integrated services. “I want to plan and predict rather than simply react to issues as they arise.”

Dirk Tuip of FacilityApps, which is working with Temco and developed the software, explains the reason for the increasing need for more high-tech solutions. “We are moving to a more ‘on-demand’ way of working, whereby the building and the client will tell us what needs cleaning.

“The very way in which we work in buildings is changing fundamentally – with trends like hot-desking, open spaces, home offices, quiet areas and designated meeting places now prevailing. Buildings are now much ‘smarter’ and cleaning companies must react and adapt to
those developments with more data-based cleaning.”

Temco is implementing the FacilityApps solution across its European operations and started it within Temco-Euroclean. “All our countries will be using it under our own branding, which is T@pp,” explains Maerten. So how exactly is the company employing the application? “We are mainly using the quality control function,” he replies. “which was previously carried out using a paper-based system.

“I want to increase the quality of our service and to measure that in an effective way. Our organisation can then convey relevant information to the client instantly. This also means we can react very quickly to any other issues that arise.”

The Council of Ghent was the first contract on which Temco implemented the system, across 130 buildings. “We also clean 370 offices for Bpost (the Belgium-based postal services provider) which our managers previously had to visit every month. Using the app enables us to change that frequency to once a quarter,” Maerten points out.

Daily routine

Temco area managers are now successfully using the app as part of their daily routine and Maerten plans to filter the system down to supervisors too. “This is an intelligent solution that can think with the user and give them tips and feedback. It can plan the most efficient way of working, of routing around the building, etc. And it enables our managers to plan their building visits.

“Those building visits become are more qualitative and more meaningful,” he continues. “We now make reports and action plans in co-operation with our customers, and notes can be reviewed instantly and agreed with the client. All information is also available to the client, in as much detail as they require, in the Cloud. They receive a summary of quality reports and can then drill down to the detail.”

The app also enables complaints to be logged and followed up quickly, meaning issues can be solved much more promptly – any problems are registered immediately rather than going through time-consuming reporting processes. “Clients want a solution right now, and the app allows us to offer that,” says Maerten.

Culture change

Implementing such a radical new solution throughout a company does have its challenges, Maerten admits, because it has to bring about such a significant culture change. “Altering the mindset of employees and persuading them all to embrace the new opportunities has not always been easy.” However Maerten is very clear in his vision. “I want my branch managers to be out in the field and more in contact with our customers and our new system very much facilitates that.

“It also allows for more cleaning on demand in line with customer requirements, and more planning ahead. This results in better use of cleaning spend across the year, which is more proactive and more productive for all parties.”

Solutions such as the FacilityApps platform are standalone and can be linked to existing systems the cleaning company is already running. And each company can select which specific features they want to use, whether it’s calculation of quotes, staff and asset management, planning of tasks, digital logbook or quality control, for example. All documents are available wherever the user is, and whether they’re using a smartphone or tablet. This particular application is currently available in Dutch, French and English, with German to be introduced soon.

“The technology allows us to digitalise as many processes as the cleaning company wants to,” Dirk Tuip explains. “And Temco Facility Services is driving our development forward because it has a real passion to be the first in the industry to use it in this way.”

For Temco the real value of the app currently is in quality control and client evaluation. Next will be asset management, so tracking of cleaning machines, updates on certification and maintenance, etc. “I would also like to implement the training module, which is an e-learning system,” Maerten explains. “New employees joining the company need to know certain things so step one is learning the checklist of company rules, etc, - video can be uploaded to each step if necessary.

“New employees are then tested with a list of questions and if they are not answering enough of them correctly an alert can be sent to the manager. The next stage of training is naturally on the job.”

Cleaner’s dashboard

Does Maerten foresee a situation whereby cleaners themselves are using the T@pp? “In future the cleaner could use an application to confirm certain areas have been cleaned, for example,” he replies. “This would not be so relevant on office contracts but more in the food industry, cleanrooms, laboratories, healthcare, etc.

“The cleaner could have his own dashboard to see the live picture – what has been cleaned, what needs to be cleaned, how long each job has taken, and maybe ask why it took so long.”
He emphasises: “The use of the application within our business will most certainly evolve as time goes on, it’s a project that will continue to grow.”

The reaction from Temco clients to the new technology has been highly positive already, Maerten says: “They now get feedback and proactive dialogue on how we are working and the lines of communication are far more open. My managers absolutely must have better relations with customers and by using this app technology I am obliging them to do just that.”

Far-reaching benefits

The benefits of an app are far-reaching says Tuip. “They save on costs, improve on quality, reduce complaints and improve customer relationships. But your company does need to be ready for that future, and open to the opportunities IT offers.”

And as far as Benoit Maerten is concerned, digital technology is without doubt a way for the cleaning industry as a whole to move forward and raise its levels of professionalism, and its
image among clients. “Our sector is seen as a commodity, with a negative perception,” he believes. “We only get calls if there is a problem but I want to change that, for us to be a partner to our customers.

“I’d like to instil a more ‘open book’ philosophy between us, with full transparency and independent quality controls. Then, I hope, clients will develop a different image of us as service providers.”

He concludes: “One of our core values is exceeding quality and to do that you must have control over what you do – where you can monitor what you do in a proper way. So for us our T@pp is a tool, an added value.”


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