Marginal gains: a sporting ethos for managing facilities

Bellrock Property & Facilities Management Ltd

Bellrock Property & Facilities Management Ltd provides specialist risk focussed workplace management and property management services to a wide range of complex and sophisticated clients throughout the UK. Operating in the corporate, healthcare, education, retail &leisure and local authority & central government sectors, we create and implement bespoke solutions to improve the performance and value derived from non-core activity.

Bellrock manages services to thousands of operational sites across the UK. We are a team of 1000+ property and facilities professionals located at 40+ sites across the UK working on behalf of our clients with access to 1100 accredited suppliers.  

Our service divisions workplace and compliance, technical and real estate and M&E Services are underpinned by our in-house market leading Concerto software suite.

In sport it is hard to forget the ethos that propelled the British Cycling team to victory laying the foundations for Team Sky’s (now Team Ineos) successes and of course the World Cup winning England rugby team of 2003.  Both victories were underpinned by finding marginal gains in a series of elements that affect performance, be that in the kit (clothing and equipment), diet, sleep or exercise regime and preparation.

In facilities management the focus has often been on transformational improvements that are often difficult to deliver within the timescale of a contract of three or five years.  Using the concept of finding ‘marginal gains’ achieves small incremental improvements, that once aggregated, translate in to substantial enhancements to service performance or cost management. Technology is critical to not only defining where those gains can be made but also how they are executed.

The case for technology
Implementing technology for managing maintenance and facilities services will deliver significant improvements in relation to supply chain management, internal communication between stakeholders, payment and budgeting processes and resource deployment.   All of these improvements may be marginal, but process improvements and improved communication and visibility of performance have exponential benefits.

A system with a single portal to log maintenance jobs and analyses the completed work in terms of timescales, resources, and costs, creates the needed transparency of activity and spend. Customers can log requests from their secured cloud-based site and be kept informed as to progress of the job.  Supply chain partners and directly-employed technicians can be geo-located giving the end user the assurance works are in progress, and more importantly when the works are expected to be completed. Photos can be attached so that the lay person can convey the nature of the problem.  Technicians can then understand the issue in detail and prepare the tools, or materials to undertake the repairs as efficiently as possible.

Often the mobile or remote functionality has the most impact in driving efficiency.  With all members of the team having access to the system communications are streamlined as notes are added, hours booked, and calls completed from a mobile device whilst on-site.  When connectivity is not available, the information is cached until connectivity is restored.   
Successful deployment of the system takes careful planning with a focus on tailoring the software platform to the specific organisational needs.  The key priority is often to ensure the mobile-user experience is as simple as possible, intuitive and easy to navigate.

Building the model
The success, or otherwise, of the implementation and subsequent utilisation of any system is defining what is important.  The question of what the organisation is trying to achieve, be that reducing cost, enhancing safety or maintaining a highly effective and well utilised environment, drives the operating model to which the technology platform aligns. The provider and the FM team can then work closely together to identify the information points that will be required as an output for stakeholders, either in the form of reports or as raw data that can be manipulated in real time.  

It is essential to establish the operating model as it is integral to defining process workflows and building up exception planning criteria.  These in turn define who will access information and manage tasks at any given time, as well as which processes can be automated as a result of integration.  

As a result, the operating workflows are unified and will offer up the raw data for analysis.  Often the source of the data is owned by other suppliers or departments servicing the FM function.  Take security for example.  They may “own” the access control or visitor management system, yet once analysed this data may be essential in creating a more efficient cleaning schedule.  Unlocking the paths to the data, so that the system becomes the data aggregator of building and asset information, requires an advanced data import engine or open API platform in order to integrate all interrelated information.  

The possibilities to create a truly integrated system harnessing machine learning, artificial intelligence and IOT mean we will need to rebrand CAFM to reflect the value, not just in terms of efficiency.  There is an opportunity to free facilities managers of process and operational management and focus on aligning the environment to business needs and exceptional customer experience.  

Measures of success
The outcomes experienced by our public sector clients include:

  • The configuration and integration of the FM Helpdesk with other software programmes such as asset compliance, supply chain performance, finance or HR create a seamless work-flow and eliminate double entry administration.
  • An understanding of workload and priorities for managers deploying resources for the most effective service delivery.
  • Bespoke dashboards measure performance against set objectives.
  • Improved employee performance and satisfaction.
  • Reduced potential downtime for critical assets.
  • Improved, streamlined internal communication channels.
  • Single source of information for all property real estate and FM professionals
  • Real-time, two-way communication enhances overall experience and customer satisfaction.
  • Simplified budget forecasting and planning
  • Dynamic condition surveys continuously updated through maintenance and project records

Most organisations could point to a cost or efficiency saving from these gains.  Not only is the management of services an area for developing marginal gains but engineering services are also at the centre of the technology revolution that will drive those efficiencies.

Managing critical asset maintenance
Supporting public sector mechanical and electrical critical assets is an important responsibility.  It is therefore essential to keep focused on not only the technical trends and developments, but macro factors as well. The two main trends are the operational changes enabled by technology to both the assets themselves and the way in which maintenance can be deployed.  The other is the shortage of adequately trained engineers.

Nearly 5.7 million people work in engineering enterprises in the UK, representing just over 19% of total UK employment.  As with every other sector the engineering workforce is getting older. The proportion of young workers (aged under 25, especially) joining the industry has been decreasing over the last ten years. While women who make up 46% of the UK workforce as a whole, only account for 1 in 8 of engineering occupations.

Research from a bespoke extension of Working Futures 2014-2024 forecasts there will be demand in engineering enterprises for 265,000 skilled entrants annually through to 2024, of which around 186,000 will be needed to meet both replacement and expansion demand.  Based on these estimates and assumptions, projected supply will fall short of demand by at least 20,000 per year and this does not take in to account the unknown Brexit effect.*

Technology solutions for engineering
The statistics are a stark reminder that the challenges are significant for the building services industry.  Technology can hold the key to reducing an organisation’s reliance on the engineers themselves, at least in the short term.  The increase in the use of robotics is increasingly key.  Using profiling to determine performance across the life cycle of the asset and IoT sensors for monitoring, software platforms such as Concerto, by Bellrock fed by the data, can be setup to predict potential failure, and utilise resources only when needed. This also means managing maintenance requirements, not just around those parameters but also against criticality and risk of the asset.  With a clearer understanding, it is possible to build a more robust and streamlined maintenance schedule.

The other factor to consider is the ability for robotic technology not just to predict, but also diagnose and analyse issues before an engineer visits site.  Armed with a diagnosis, the role of the engineer becomes less about technical solutioning and more about practical implementation and first fix.  That means the labour pool can include more technicians to fill those types of activities, employing fewer but more highly qualified engineers.
Recognising the balance between technology and people is important.  Using technology to improve first time fix rates and reducing risk doesn’t just have an impact in terms of efficiency but increased client satisfaction.  An output may be a reduced reliance on engineers visiting site, but the value when they do increases as they are the customer’s human experience of the brand they represent, which, at the moment cannot be replicated or fully replaced by technology.

Managing risk
We are rising to the challenge with improved use of technology yet there is a need to remain focused on the outcome and managing potential risks.  Understanding risk and putting together a robust transition plan is key to a cohesive approach that is backed by senior stakeholders.  Breaking it down in to small incremental changes removes the barriers to change while continuing to meet the demands of the tightening public sector purse.

Harnessing technology, whether that be from a management and analysis perspective, or in terms of how services can be deployed, is proven to drive improvements and cost efficiency.  The sum of these marginal gains helps public sector organisations to challenge the norm, improve customer satisfaction and reduce public costs.

*Taken from Engineering UK 2017 Synopsis and Recommendations Report

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