Save money by thinking LEAN

LEAN thinking in facilities management… there’s more money to be saved than we may think!

Look at many of the problems and challenges being raised in the FM industry today and many of them come down to one factor. Whether it be increasing efficiency amongst the workforce, reducing the amount of ‘non-earning’ time amongst the workforce or simply trying to find ways of increasing the bottom line.

The simple answer is facilities managers are trying to eliminate waste. Clearly, we’re not talking about rubbish removal here! The definition of waste is simply anything that doesn’t provide value to the organisation.

On the face of it, it may seem that everything that is done does provide value. If your client requires a call-out, until a drone can visit the site and perform the task, you do need to get an engineer there. You can use the most energy efficient vehicles, but you will still have a fuel bill. That ultimately provides value. It gets the engineer to the site and you can charge for the visit.

But a critical look at every process can bring out some unique savings. Even better, a critical look at every process, assuming there is no limit to what can be done. Yes, even a drone could well perform a task in future!

LEAN principles at RLT Onsite…

At RLT Onsite, we undertook a serious overhaul of every process as a result of a LEAN workshop some of our team members went to. Back at the head office, the whole teamgot together to understand what they had learnt and look at ways of implementing this within the organisation. It took a few meetings before the ideas started flowing. We had layouts of the office and warehouse, drew the workflows on them and looked at ways of reducing waste.

The results? We reorganised the warehouse from being A-Z to putting parts nearer the dispatch area that were used more often. One team member realised there was nothing stopping us going paperless in some processes. The system gave us up to the minute information. We introduced new technology to the warehouse and updated our procedures. The smallest of changes brought about huge results. Since then, we have continued to look at processes as we grow often making small changes to reap surprising benefits.

How does this apply to the FM industry?

The above might make it sound as though LEAN thinking is a one off project. However, LEAN is a constant process, something which needs to be ingrained throughout an organisation as part of its culture of continuous improvement. No-one could claim to have reached the perfect model. In the same vein, LEAN thinking has been around for years and also often muted in the FM industry. However, radical change and reduction of costs will only come through focusing on innovative ways of reducing waste and adding value. As a start, it’s amazing the results that can come from a brainstorm session. At RLT Onsite, we have had a number with different clients. Apart from making a huge impact to the client we were working with, it also gave their end users more benefits. A true win-win-win scenario.

For instance, back in 2014, RLT Onsite worked with who has now become a large client providing them with an app requisition form that help them to not only capture the materials needed for the current visit but also information about the store for future reference and for their client. This reduced the amount of admin time in the office by approximately 75% as well as eliminating communication errors and wrong parts being ordered.

Most FM organisations are capturing data electronically and this is certainly a step in the right direction. How that data is used, however, can be where the system falls down. RLT Onsite has worked on smart stocking for organisations that give engineers a more streamlined van stock that is tailored by an engineers building portfolio rather than the same across the whole workforce.

For each organisation the challenge is different. However, organisations often over-complicate the challenge instead of focusing on the real issue, how we reduce waste.

Some typical wastes in the FM industry are:

–         Travel time | How can you reduce time spent travelling. Can you reduce reactive call-outs by being more proactive in maintenance?

–         Wrong parts being ordered | Is there a way of making sure that the right products are ordered using product lists rather than relying on an engineer description.

–         Miscommunication | Similar to above, how can you utilise previous data, product lists or geo-mapping to ensure the correct information is passed down the line.

–         Van stock that is not relevant | How much stock is on vans that isn’t relevant to the engineer? Less is more!

–         Collecting materials | Can you introduce direct-to-site deliveries that arrive just-in-time?

–         Quoting and approval times | Can you streamline the quoting process and make it easier to retrieve previous information?

There are many more. Whilst lean might usually be applied to manufacturing, the principles apply everywhere, and no less to FM than anywhere else. At the end of it all, reducing waste reduces costs which increases your bottom line!

Take time out to review your processes and brainstorm with colleagues from every area. You’ll be surprised what ideas the finance team will have for the operations team to reduce waste and costs. We fully recommend working with your strategic supply partners too.

The savings will surprise!


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