Managing facilities at the local level for large, national chains continues to be a major challenge, especially for retailers wanting to present a consistent, uniform image to the public nationwide. Trevor Foster, COO of FM Facility Maintenance, a leading facility maintenance management company, spoke with Chain Store Age about the growing need for centralized control of a locally delivered facility maintenance solution.
What are some of the big issues that retailers are struggling with in regard to facility maintenance?
Two main issues we see in the industry today are the increased pressure to deliver a consistent, high-quality brand image across the portfolio and decreased facility budgets. To compound the challenge, there is a growing trend to use local service providers as both a way to reduce costs and give back to the local economy within which retailers operate. When you start to add up the number of service providers required to offer service at the local level and combine that with the landlords that need to be managed for various facility issues—add to that the number of manufacturers who need to be involved in warranty work—the staffing resources necessary to properly manage the thousands of contact points required of a national facility maintenance program become implausible.
With the spotlight on facilities as a cost center to organizations, there is increased pressure to have accurate, detailed and comprehensive data that support decisions and drive continuous improvement. The dichotomy is that there is a growing need to do more with less. As a result, many companies are looking to focus on their core competencies and let someone else manage the rest.
What effect is the economy having on this issue?
Besides the obvious fact that there is increased budgetary pressure on all expense categories, the economy in general is creating increased competition for the consumer’s dollar. Now, more than ever, retailers need to be focused on their image at every opportunity in order to maximize sales.
How is FM helping retailers address these issues?
FM has an expert service provider management team responsible for on-boarding new service providers and pre-qualifying them. Once providers are pre-qualified and part of the more than 8,000 service providers in our network, this team works to optimize service provider coverage for each of our clients individually. The optimization process takes into account the previous work a service provider has performed (from their scorecards), their adherence to the FM processes, as well as their rates, and develops a customized network—usually five service providers deep—of national, regional and local service providers. Being able to track the previous performance of our service provider network has allowed us to increase service levels to our clients, but it has also given us a way to benchmark the growing FM Service Provider Network and reward service providers who are doing a good job with additional business opportunities.
Account teams utilize our technology systems to identify, route and track all service requests—including service orders covered under warranty or that are the responsibility of a landlord. Each team is staffed with an account analyst who is responsible for making sense of the vast amounts of data that are tracked through the FM system.
With so many national retailers as clients, we are able to look at the average costs of various service requests and determine when service provider invoices and service quotations do not fall within reasonable expectations. This is probably the least talked about benefit of FM’s services—this actionable information that we are able to produce on behalf of our clients so that they can make better management decisions. We go beyond standardized, canned reports and provide our clients with information that can really make a difference when evaluating capital investment projects or repair-versus-replace decisions.
What do you see on the horizon for facility maintenance?
Companies will continue to refocus on their core competencies, concentrate on maximizing revenue per square foot and minimize or eliminate all non-essential costs within their companies. Operational personnel in the field are challenged by the day-to-day management of facility maintenance issues, and it often distracts their focus from those strategic initiatives. FM is leading the charge to change facilities management away from managing incident-by-incident to a partnership approach where we are an extension of our clients. In doing so, FM takes on the responsibility of managing equipment uptimes, identifying recurring maintenance needs that may require asset replacements and maintaining a national network of qualified service providers. This allows FM’s clients to re-allocate their operational resources back onto strategic operational initiatives.