Is Your Facilities Department Becoming Leaner?

Has one of your peers retired or moved on, and the decision was made not to replace them? Have you been asked to take on 20-30 more locations recently – most of them in a totally different region of the country? Is there a recurring theme around your department to become more efficient and productive; accomplish more with less? Is your Director or VP asking you for more timely updates on projects? More transparency, and better/faster reporting throughout the year? (How many times do you receive a phone call from your boss asking “Hey, I’m running into a meeting with senior management and I need to know the current status of work going on at these three restaurants.”)  At a recent tradeshow, an industry leader shared some numbers in one of the breakout sessions, and with a little bit of mathematics, we were able to back our way into the fact that most facility managers are responsible for as many as 100 locations, spread across huge geographies – in some cases the entire country.

If this describes your situation, you are not alone. This trend is occurring across many industries. Oil & Gas, Automotive, Aviation, Petrochemical, Power, Pulp & Paper, Retail, and the Restaurant industry are all facing pressures from competition (think Blue Apron), regulation (think minimum wage and health care), and consumers to increase efficiencies. Consultants are working with Corporate Finance and Accounting departments with the goal of reducing corporate headcounts, and leaning out payrolls and growing benefit packages. This strategy hinges upon the ability to push much of the transactional responsibilities down the supply chain to your most trusted suppliers. These same consultants, who come up with the “what to do” strategy, rarely offer a blueprint for “how to do it.” Sometimes we see the entire execution strategy dropped in the lap of the Facility Manager – literally left to sink or swim. What follows are some thoughts to consider if you are currently living in this reality.

For the lean facility department strategy to work, there are several factors to consider:

  • Segment your Suppliers The first step in the process is to segment your suppliers into those which you trust, and are capable of handling this increased responsibility. These trusted resources must have the reach and skill to handle increases in volume, but also expanded geographies.
  • Identify Activities for these Suppliers Next, identify the activities that you can push out to these suppliers, for example: site visits and preparing estimates. Maintaining an active list of what needs to be done, with a budgeted estimate to do it, by location is critical to managing a large quantity of concepts. You will also want to have real-time updates of how far along every project is in the process. Which projects are complete, in process, scheduled, awaiting approval, awaiting material, pending a quote, etc. is critical knowledge to have as you attempt to keep your stakeholders informed.
  • Understand Budgetary Demands Affect Workflow These trusted vendors must possess the understanding and the ability to throttle the work load in accordance with your budgetary demands. This means they must have the financial strength to be able to slow down when your corporate “keepers of the purse” make last minute decisions to re-allocate funds to a new system or offering. And they must also have the ability to ramp up quickly, if needed, when urgency demands faster responses, or quick budget utilization (wink, wink).
  • Provide Preemptive Planning and Communication There must be a competence to see behind the problem, and adequately plan and communicate reality to you – minimizing surprises, and cost overruns. For example, if your dish ring has some discoloration between sheets of stainless backing, and you are due for an equipment upgrade in that system, is your contractor preparing you for the reality that there are probably moisture issues in the wall behind the stainless that will need to be addressed after demo, and before the equipment goes in? This is difficult to accomplish by a “maintenance call center” who makes a living taking your calls and dispatching general service techs across the country.
  • Verify Suppliers Qualifications and Versatility Do your key suppliers have the requisite insurance, licenses and the ability to work in both non-union and union environments?

Are your key service providers proactively anticipating this shift in responsibility? Which among them is positioning their companies to handle your increasing needs? These companies should be investing in robust project management software, and the internal processes needed to support them. They will need a quality system that ensures work is completed consistently and to your tightening specifications. Your brand is everything, and turning it over to 15 different regional providers, or worse, a call center, is becoming less and less attractive to the Brand Manager and those she reports to. The provider you select also needs robust HR processes that are constantly recruiting and training for growing demand in additional regions.

Historically, facility departments were dominated by regional Facility Managers, whose rolodex of local providers made them critical to the corporation. In those days, selecting a service provider involved ensuring they got the job done on time and on budget, with minimal disruption to operations. With the introduction of technology, and the desire and ability for brands to leave their regional footprint and expand into other areas of the country (think Wawa, Culvers, and Cooper’s Hawk), companies are expecting their Facilities Department to handle this expansion with existing resources, which requires more and more dependence on a robust group of service providers, that possess significantly more capabilities than the regional providers you have grown accustomed to using.

Are you working with a General Contractor in your Facilities Department who is built for this reality? If not, I encourage you to contact us and allow one of our team members at RFS to review our internal processes that we have designed specifically to help the Facility Manager of the future deal with this new reality.


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