Facilities Managers may have emerged as the heroes of a locked-down economy, but that doesn’t mean their maintenance budgets aren’t under scrutiny.

As the nation has struggled through various stages and states of lockdown, Facility Managers have been there to make work possible. They’ve helped employees transition seamlessly between home and office working under tight Covid restrictions. They’ve kept vital shops and services open and available to the public.

The cost of lockdown

But Covid-19 and lockdown have taken a savage toll on the economy. PureGym have said they are burning through £500,000 a day while their facilities are in limbo. Restaurant chain Leon has racked up losses of £800,000 a week, leading their boss to talk of imminent closure if lockdown restrictions are not eased soon.

Those businesses who weather this storm are going to be looking at all their outgoings and searching for efficiencies to recover losses in the months and years to come.

Light at the end of the tunnel

There is some light at the end of the tunnel, though. According to Andy Haldane Chief Economist at the Bank of England, right now the economy is a ‘coiled spring’, with many household savings at record levels:

“As its energies are released, the recovery should be one to remember after a year to forget.”

But as businesses, particularly those in the service sector, look to recoup a year of big losses the pressure will be on FMs (as much as any other part of the business) to find the savings from their budgets.

End of lockdown - a make or break moment?

For FM teams, the end of lock down could well be a make or break moment. There is an opportunity to come back with a bang. To take advantage of new revenue potential by maximising the availability of facilities and minimising downtime of equipment. They will be pivotal in creating more memorable customer and worker experiences that can respond rapidly to developing needs.

As maintenance budgets tighten, though, we’re going to need to identify the digital tools and insight that can help us deliver on these objectives with less waste and more speed.

Here’s how FM software can help:

1) Costs, invoicing and auditing

How closely are you able to manage your contractors to optimise performance and flag potential problems with invoicing? Bringing these processes under greater control can start paying dividends quickly.

When you need to manage multiple engineers and contractors across different locations, it’s easy to lose track of where people are, what they are doing, and if they’re charging you the correct amount for their time.

Where engineers are charging multiple call-out fees by going to the same sites, a CAFM system can help you better organise their tasks by grouping them together for actioning in a single day.

When assets fail following a service, FM software can automatically recall an engineer to resolve the problem, rather than raising it as a fresh work order incurring a new charge.

The most sophisticated CAFM systems use artificial intelligence to trigger cost audit checks when there are anomalies between time reported and time invoiced.

The right FM software can help you avoid costs for non-service, for example when a contractor has missed an SLA.

2) Planned maintenance - reducing Call-Outs

There is also scope in many businesses to save money through more efficient work order management.

FMs dealing manually with work requests is often where mistakes happen. Those managing emails or updating spreadsheets independently across different shifts may end up accidentally duplicating work requests. Choosing the right call centre software with the right filters will help you:

  • Automatically detect and remove duplicated work requests
  • Prevent operators dealing with the same query twice
  • Flag up priority of fixes  (low, medium, high - with a due date, if possible) to organise engineer time more efficiently
  • Bundle multiple work orders into single visits

In an era of more remote work the quality of internal comms is likely to be more important than ever. Making sure our teams are always working from ‘the same page’ is key to gaining new commercial efficiencies.

3) Achieving more first-time fixes

Are your engineers as prepared as they could be when they respond to a call out or a routine maintenance request? The more information that you can associate with a required task the more likely it will be carried out correctly the first time - and the more efficient your end to end process will be.

The right FM software can assist with this. The use of standard forms on a portal to generate work requests can help structure the data you’re sending to engineers more effectively:

  • Capturing photos and videos of the problem, so engineers can see what’s really happening
  • Ensuring a full service history of the asset is available - showing common issues, so engineers can be ready with a required fix
  • Answering standard questions about category, location etc can help
  • Filter requests to send to the right engineer with the right skills
  • Automate distribution & ensure all relevant information is forwarded

4) BMS Integration for condition-based maintenance

BMS (Building Management Systems) integrated with FM software can power condition-based and predictive maintenance strategies. They promise to manage asset life-cycle more effectively and prevent unnecessary equipment downtime. Working in tandem, these systems can:

  • Predict impending equipment failure by monitoring asset data
  • Automate engineer dispatch to shorten response times
  • Proactive repair saves costs of reactive maintenance and associated downtime
  • Generates cost savings by avoiding unnecessary maintenance

Triggering work orders automatically based upon sensor and other data streams can bring significant financial benefits to organisations. Data can tell us early on which systems are failing and plan intervention before a system failure costs us money. Alternatively, they can let us know immediately when emergency maintenance is required.

It is exactly this kind of smart tech that, in the long term, is going to prevent damage to equipment and increase availability of services. Ultimately, it will enhance brand and customer experience on the ground.

5) Closer budget management

FM software with the right budget management tools can give you more control over what is spent and where.

It can help you make data-driven decisions as to when maintenance should be scheduled based on budget allowance.

With the right tools you can identify trends and patterns in spend, maintenance requests and asset management costs. This can help you plan resource more effectively and keep on top of the most pressing issues for your customers and workers.

The ability to manage budgets by work order type (e.g. Reactive, Planned and Capex) can bring you more control over where and when money is spent throughout the year. You can track spend in real time by building, team, function and more. This will help you impose controls and cap spending when necessary. It will ensure you don’t creep over your targets, or enable budgets to be redistributed in the event of changing priorities.

As we await the loosening of lockdown restrictions, there is so much potential for Facilities Managers to help businesses capitalise on a new commercial energy. If we’ve got the right FM tools in place we’ll be able to make maintenance budgets stretch further and ensure our operations are more strategic and sustainable in the future.

 

The Future of Retail with Peter Pritchard

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