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Bringing visibility into facilities management

BY Deena M. Amato-McCoy

When customers decide where to shop, they consider cleanliness and store safety just as much as price, merchandise variety and ease of store navigation.

However, as retailers rely on third parties to manage their facilities’ maintenance and repairs, oftentimes tasks are not completed accurately — according to agreement criteria — or might be overlooked altogether. By adopting an automated facilities management solution, retailers can maintain the highest level of cleanliness and safety without stretching their already razor-thin margins.

Retailers, especially those that manage equipment needed to chill or heat fresh merchandise, must keep their facilities and supporting equipment in tiptop condition if they want to increase revenue and keep shrink levels low. For many, the optimal decision is to outsource these operations to “experts in the field.”

However, where retailers struggle is having visibility into the specific tasks being tackled or managed and accountability that all tasks covered in service-level agreement (SLA) contracts are being met. For example, companies want visibility — and a proverbial “paper trail” — into whether SLA partners are maintaining facilities in an adequate and frequent manner. Ensuring that these two factors are met, retailers can uphold the highest possible level of appearance and hygiene, and maintain their reputation in the marketplace.

Meanwhile, companies also want to be sure that if an issue does occur — whether it’s the breakdown of equipment or a simple spill in a store aisle — the situation is addressed as a matter of keeping employees and customers safe.

However, maintaining these partnerships and operations with manual processes makes it difficult to validate work orders and compliance levels. Some retailers still manage these processes with paper-based checklists shared between SLA staffers and facility managers — a process that only makes data stale by the time it gets into managers’ hands.

“While some companies attempt to speed up the process with emails, messages can still get lost in the shuffle or spam filters, making information obsolete by the time companies are ready to address issues,” said Chris Kampfe, VP of Marketing at GoSpotCheck.

A new level of visibility

The time has come for a new approach: a solution that is managed via mobile devices. When using the facilities management module from GoSpotCheck, for example, retailers can analyze detailed data from maintenance checks, site audits and janitorial inspections. By blending images, text notifications and reporting capabilities, retailers will be empowered to understand potential customer issues, troubleshoot maintenance problems and even identify training deficiencies.

For example, the solution’s “photo album” enables users to snap and organize location or category pictures using filterable analytics — such as date, site, building, area type and other tagged criteria — overlaid on top of each image. Meanwhile, by enabling alerts and follow-up notifications, users receive alerts when an audit response matches important filter criteria. Follow-up actions are sent when additional effort must be taken to resolve an issue in the field.

Finally, a mobile reporting solution makes customizable charts and graphs accessible from any mobile device. Advanced filters break down reported data by customer, building and area type, among other specifications. Armed with this information, managers get a real-time view of their site’s performance — a move that eliminates ground-level blind spots.

All three pieces also keep retailers with a vast footprint to stay on top of potential issues regardless of where stores or distribution centers may be located. By logging into the mobile app, users have the ability to stay abreast of facilities and performance and address any potential issues in real time — using real-time evidence as a guideline.

“Having this data at their fingertips can ensure that stores and distribution centers are in compliance of cleanliness and other safety standards — a factor that not only minimizes risk, but reduces exposure to liabilities, especially those caused by potentially litigious slip and fall incidents,” Kampfe said. “With real-time visibility into these operations, retailers can be sure that all contracts are being fulfilled, and waste and excess labor is being reduced — all of which result in a cost-savings for the company.”

Once retailers have integrated the automated solution into their service agreements, they can begin to expand its functionality. For example, Kampfe envisions a time when the mobile solution can be linked to “connected” systems powered by Internet of Things devices as a means of monitoring their performance.

These could include connected soap dispensers or paper towel holders. The sensors would alert managers when soap or paper levels are low, and the solution would automatically deploy a work order to SLA contractors.

The sensors can also be used to capture foot traffic throughout a facility, department or restroom. Having this data on hand, contractors or janitors could pinpoint problem areas instantly.

“This integration would enable SLA contractors to use resources when most needed, which will drive efficiency when addressing issues,” Kampfe said. “With real-time information filtered from a sensor, users can go to a specific location that is experiencing an issue, from cleaning an unkept bathroom to tending to a spill or leaking pipe.”

In the end, an automated facilities management solution is a proactive way of keeping retailers in the know and, most importantly, delivering the clean and safe facilities that customers are demanding.

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