Managing hard and soft FM services requires different skill sets and often the use of specialist companies and contractors to meet required standards. But what’s the most efficient and cost-effective way for a company to manage these different kinds of FM activities?
What is hard and soft FM?
Hard Facilities Management is managing fixed and physical assets like plumbing and air conditioning systems. Soft FM refers to the services delivered by people, such as cleaning and security.
Examples of hard FM
- Gas, plumbing, and heating
- HVAC systems
- Lighting, electrical, and mechanical
- Fire safety systems
- Building maintenance
Examples of soft FM
- Grounds maintenance.
- Cleaning services
- Pest control
- Waste management
- Car parking
How do businesses typically manage their hard and soft FM services?
Until recently total facilities management solutions - managing all hard and soft services through one outsourced umbrella organisation - were gaining in popularity. And that should come as no surprise.
With TFM the customer had fewer links in their chain to worry about and only one invoice to process every month. But, there were disadvantages. Contracts were lengthy and hard to break. Meanwhile, dealing with so many aspects of hard and soft FM (that were themselves subcontracted) meant data and reporting could be patchy.
The risk of having one monolithic service provider looking after every aspect of your estate could be too much. Following the collapse of Carillion, it was clear TFM service levels were often stretched to breaking point and companies could be left high and dry if a provider failed.
To manage this risk many businesses (such as the Co-Operative Bank) have moved towards using bundled services, or a combination of in-house and single service operators to deliver both hard and soft services.
But this approach has different pros and cons.
Bundled and single-service model gives you more control
Separating services out in this way can give you more control over the quality of services that you procure.
Bundling hard services and soft services separately - or even moving to single supplier relationships can improve levels of quality. Engaging specialist suppliers to deal with specific areas, rather than a generalist should mean more expert, dedicated attention to the work.
From a management perspective, forging 1-2-1 relationships with individual suppliers should also allow you to focus more on value. Freed from complex agreements with large companies, you can more easily switch between suppliers to find a better rate or better service, without risking delivery in other areas.
But supplier fragmentation risks losing control
The problem is, as soon as you start creating multiple supplier relationships, the number of contacts in your systems begins to increase, and the more challenging it is to track, control and optimise individual and overall performance.
In a fragmented supply chain, the complexity of tracking and accounting for important documentation increases. The chances of gaps and omissions emerging in process rises.
Consistency and control over performance is harder to maintain when you’re dealing with multiple contractors on different platforms and with different reporting methods.
And if you’re just using excel sheets and email to keep tabs on everyone you’re quickly going to lose track of budget, process and quality.
Flexible CAFM solutions offer a new way to manage multiple suppliers
But modern CAFM systems are giving companies and Facility Managers the opportunity to bring multiple supplier relationships under much closer control.
These systems allow you to give multiple contractors access to a single platform through which you can
- Request quotes
- Accept quotes
- Receive, reconcile and approve invoices
- Standardise and automate processes
- Allocate and manage budget
- Monitor performance
- Manage assets
- Manage warranties
- Control compliance documentation
Using a range of configurable dashboards, you can then manage and report on hard and soft FM in one place using a single reporting tool.
This approach can give you the big picture about data trends and budget use, but help you drill down on the elements of supplier performance when you need to.
Choose your CAFM wisely
But even the best CAFM dashboard will be useless without the data from contractors to populate it. Getting buy in from your suppliers is crucial as you plan and build a CAFM that will give you the data you need to run your operation successfully.
When you are choosing a CAFM partner make sure their contractor portal is designed to make life easier for them - as well as you. Ensure they can easily report their times (for example, using QR codes to log in and log out) and then invoice automatically when their work is done. Incentivising use of the CAFM tool by everyone in the chain will ensure the system becomes a single source of truth for your organisation.
Managing and reporting on all your hard and soft FM in one place is possible, but it requires a powerful piece of software to get right.
Dealing with multiple suppliers, supporting and automating different processes for different users, requires incredible flexibility from a CAFM system and your CAFM partner.
It requires commitment from you and your supplier network to make it a reality, but once achieved it will bring new efficiencies, budgetary control, and oversight within your grasp.