Home >Maintaining standards requires smarter working

Maintaining standards requires smarter working

30 October 2015

By Bob Vincent, executive chairman of LCC Support Services Ltd:

"The only time that cleaning and support services are noticed is when they are below standard. Contractors who want to stay in the business must have the capability of being a cross between Superman and a chameleon – being all things to all people at all times. To achieve this, being smart is the key word and technology will play a major role in speeding up the process and monitoring/reducing human error.

Facilities management is growing at a phenomenal rate – faster than most business areas. As it gathers momentum it becomes an even bigger part of our daily business costs. Its year on year growth rate is envied by other business sectors as it becomes probably the second largest business expense after wages. As technology reduces head count, FM/outsourced services could well become the biggest expense in non-production oriented businesses like finance, insurance and retail.

According to the Building Futures Group, "FM is running annually at over £100b (or a lot more depending on whose figures you believe and what services are included).  It is involved in every element of our lives at work, rest and play. Organisations of all sizes are contracting out to FM companies for efficiency, best service and value."

To deliver the ever increasing standards and efficiencies expected of contractors we have to be totally up to speed with the latest eco policies and recommendations; health and safety regulations; employment law and a host of regulations from the use of chemicals, working at heights and a lot more.

Our ways of working are constantly under scrutiny. Who would have thought a decade ago that window and gutter cleaning of most offices and retail outlets would be carried out from ground level using poles, vacuums and video cameras?  In many situations, such as gutter cleaning, this way of working is doubly smart as it is far safer and cuts out costly scaffolding and can be handled by the cleaning or FM contractor.


Care for the environment

The FM industry is playing a very responsible role in ensuring that environmental and energy saving initiatives are carried out by introducing these opportunities to their clients the building owners and occupiers.

The green theme is good for everyone, not just the tree huggers who played a huge role in creating awareness of their beliefs and alerting us to the enviromental damage we were doing.  This resulted in us becoming more responsible and without their activity we could all be living in a land like China where scientists have warned that its toxic pollutants are now so bad that they resemble a nuclear winter. This has a great effect on plant growth and food supply, masks are worn in the city streets and many rivers are so polluted that the water is unusable.

In the UK

A series of UK governments have played an important role although I am slightly confused that having changed many vehicles to diesel as recommended, the latest report says that diesel has worse emissions than petrol. So, once again 'it’s all change – well until another Government advisor tells us differently – perhaps it will be hybrid, biofuel, LPG or natural gas next time?  

The Energy Savings Opportunity Scheme (ESOS) is a sound government initiative. It is a mandatory energy assessment and saving identification scheme. ESOS Energy Audits can increase businesses profitability and competitiveness by identifying cost-effective savings which, if implemented, will improve energy efficiency.  The scheme is estimated to make £1.6bn net benefits to the UK, with the majority of these made directly by businesses energy savings.

Technology plays its role

Technology is the way ahead. It can monitor and produce a mine of information that will help us advise our clients, but unless backed up in a cloud, you could lose everything from correspondence to HR information, accounting, estimates etc. in one hit. Technology is as important to the contractor as it is to its clients – so there are further FM technology services we can provide including management, servicing and training.

Collection of data should not be regarded as big brother but something that will reduce costs resulting in only those who should pay paying – for example, building, public liability or car insurance.  The more accurate records the insurers have the more accurate premiums will become. New in-car technology can monitor driving style and other aspects too so the reckless drivers have suitably loaded premiums. Another FM opportunity would be driver training through the Institute of Advanced Motorists or RoSPA which we use.

For a small cost, web cameras can provide 24/7 monitoring of buildings or departments and store the information on a cloud. This is very important for identifying whether theft is from outside or inside an organisation. Camera created information can help reduce insurance premiums. 

Vehicle tracking minimises the opportunity for staff straying off the route to the job, electronic lighting and heating control systems can control usage as well as efficiencies and advise when something is going wrong. There are systems like the nfs Hospitality programme which manages visitor attendance, meeting room management and reporting on people that abuse the system by forgetting to cancel a room booking/food/parking spaces/IT hire etc. This system can monitor occupancy levels of meeting rooms and hot desks so management can track any trends or ways to maximise the use of available space and perhaps reorganise to save an office move.

Architects, interior designers and refurbishing companies have a great opportunity to make a difference to the occupier’s bottom line. Simple things such as movement sensitive lighting operating in washrooms or store areas that are not constantly in use have a cash savings element as well as a hygiene factor, because nobody needs touch a light switch and thus transfer bacteria.

There are many more examples of how technology will cut operational costs but we must retain smart staff to monitor the findings.


FM today is now an 'if you need it, we can source it' full service business. I believe it will for many organisations become the largest monthly outgoing but it took a recession for us to appreciate the importance of contracting out. For the last 50 years business management gurus have been telling us to focus on our core business activities and at last we have seen the light."