Let’s cut to the chase…
In today’s FM industry, we’re no longer talking about being a security expert, or cleaning expert, or M&E expert, or HVAC expert etc… We all about total FM (TFM). This has largely been client driven. However, it has its advantages for FM companies too. You can expand your business with one client and have economies of scale.
There’s one problem with TFM that FM companies still struggle with…
With the greatest of intentions, FM companies are still using all sorts of different methods of ensuring they can be an expert at everything. Some use subcontractors, some have engineer teams that cover all disciplines, some use specific training for their client base to ensure they can resolve issues their engineers come across. Each of these methods have some measure of success, but often limited.
The easiest way to be an ‘expert at everything’ is largely overlooked.
It may seem crazy, but an FM supply chain should be the greatest source of information. Too many FM companies treat their suppliers as ‘suppliers of products’… period. That’s where it starts and stops. But if they are paying suppliers for products, why shouldn’t they leverage supplier knowledge for the benefit of their engineers?
With the rapid pace of technology, it is becoming easier and easier for engineers deployed in the field to have access to the knowledge stored in the supply chain for their company real-time. This may happen in your company sporadically, or without too much structure. However, suppliers and FM company relationships that truly create value are offering far more than just their product.
Why doesn’t this happen more?
In my own observation, there are four things that stop this from happening.
Lack of trust
So many purchasing teams focus in on price, rightly, but seem to lose perspective on other things that matter, often ending up with a supplier that is the cheapest, but then have to be controlled with long SLA’s, monitored by in house admin staff, analysed with reports regularly and re-tendered often to ensure they remain competitive all adding to cost. I’m not against SLA’s and reporting. However, with LEAN thinking, anything that doesn’t add value to the client is waste and too much time and cost is wasted on maintaining a contract due to lack of trust when the same time could be saved by simply trusting the supplier to do what’s right, and then largely self-reporting and self-analysing. With this increase in trust, FM companies should then be able to use supplier knowledge for the benefit of their engineers knowing that the advice will be right without worrying that the supplier will advise wrongly for their own benefit.
Challenge #1: If you don’t trust your suppliers, why are you using them?
Lack of innovation
The world changes at an exponential rate. For an FM company, this means keeping up with advances across every discipline. Your suppliers will be doing the same. Why do two need to do it? If your supplier is keeping up with industry changes, they should then be adapting their products and service to suit and sharing this knowledge with the you to ensure your client receives cutting edge products and service. Not only this, with technology, there are also innovative methods of sharing this advice with your engineers real-time such as apps, online chats etc… Strip out the waste and start ensuring your supplier is innovating and sharing it with you.
Challenge #2: Is your supply chain full of innovative suppliers and are you benefiting from that innovation?
Bad supplier culture
Suppliers used to winning business by being cheap are often those who have hidden costs due to a bad culture such as high staff turnover, friction in relationships and service issues. It’s the suppliers that go the extra mile that add value to a supply chain, reducing costs for the FM company and helping them become an ‘expert at everything’. These suppliers have experts on their help desk, they’ll go the extra mile to help an engineer on site get the job done and they’ll expend all the energy they have to resolve issues so deadlines can be hit.
Challenge #3: Will your suppliers go to the ends of the earth to resolve a challenge your engineer might have?
Unwillingness to reciprocate
It goes without saying. If an FM company is to adopt this approach of leveraging supplier expertise, the supplier has got to be willing to give it. Too few suppliers see the value of giving more than just a product, seeing themselves as part of the team delivering to your end client. There’s some great stories out there of how suppliers of standard parts are pushing the boundaries in adding value to a supply chain rather than just pushing products to site. These people a developing apps bespoke for clients, providing a technical help desk and giving access to up to the minute guidance. Conversely, some are simply doing the minimum to be the minimum.
Challenge #4: Are your suppliers a resource library for your engineers or just a product provider?
The bottom line is this; how much time are you wasting not being able to complete jobs, having additional admin staff, taking too long on site (this list goes on), simply because the expertise readily available in your supply chain is not being captured and disseminated direct to the engineer on site?
It’s easy to do. And the results are exponential.