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Challenging FM Challenges

Facility managers no doubt are the front runners in making workplaces safe. However, in doing so, there are challenges that are challenging. In a very interactive session, leaders of the FM industry joined together to challenge the challenges facing the industry in a virtual discussion presented by Clean India Journal in association with Werner & Mertz India.
The distinguished speakers included Arvind Kumar, Global Vice President Indirects, NTT Global Sourcing Inc., Christoph H Trinkl, Export Director, Werner & Mertz, Imran Khan, Associate Director, Real Estate Management Services, Colliers India, Subroto Mukherjee, Vice President & Head FM, Administration & Security – Cipla and Tarun Ramrakhiani, CEO, SMS Integrated Facility Services Pvt Ltd.

Here are some of the important takeaways from the discussions.

Subroto Mukherjee

“For future planning, one needs to read trends, study analytics and analyse risk taking appetite. If you get all right, you are a success. If you get one wrong, you will still be fine.”  

-Subroto Mukherjee

Mukherjee: The five steps of hazard control are elimination (vaccination), substitution (not possible with Covid), engineering control (isolate the hazard from individuals using HEPA filters, UVC lights, positive pressure), administrative controls (align behaviour of people to safe habits using lockdown and communications), and PPE.

The FM fraternity has had a gruelling time because of rapidly changing external factors and internal budgets and mandates. These changing goalposts cause issues in planning and budgeting. FM professionals need to align with in-house goals and constraints, while service providers have to deal with changing regulatory norms, competition, client demands, and the speed of encashing receivables.

Choosing the right chemical

Christoph H Trinkl

Trinkl: It doesn’t make sense to start disinfection without cleaning. The factors to keep in mind before choosing a chemical are:

  • Health and safety: It should not be harmful, and leave no residue or emit no toxic fumes. Should be safe to use around pregnant women and children.
  • Performance: Ability to remove different types of dirt efficiently.
  • Sustainability: One needs to know what its ingredients are and whether microplastic is used.
  • Cost: How much used in a month or a year, based on mechanical or manual dilution
  • Type of dirt: The correct pH of the chemical is then chosen.
  • Type of surface: It should not destroy surfaces.

Ramrakhiani: If cleaning standards are based on the number of times an action has been performed, it will not be correct. We need to measure the microbial count of dirt left behind. Currently, this is not sustainable.

The role of technology

Imran Khan

“One can implement a tech solution in one part of the facility as a pilot project to show proof of concept, and then convince the client to budget for it.”

-Imran Khan

Khan: More technology is available today than 5-10 years ago. Choosing one is a challenge, since each one is different. Initial investments needed are also different. We need to get certain licenses for software for soft services like digitisation and automation. Hardware costs are more, such as temperature sensors and energy meters for efficiency.

Integration of all technology is challenging. No single technology can provide solutions to all problems.

Implementing the entire range of ideas at one go is difficult. Instead, one can implement them in one part of the facility as a pilot project to show proof of concept, and then convince the client to budget for it.

The gestation period between when a choice is made and when the technology is fully integrated into the organisation is quite long. By the time it is complete, tech itself may have evolved. By then, even better technology may be available.

Arvind Kumar

Budgets are going haywire, because new issues crop up everyday. I look to FM providers for sanitisation and air quality solutions. 

-Arvind Kumar

Kumar: We have an employee-first policy. Employee wellness, health and safety come first. Norms in each country are different, but the basics are the same everywhere.

We are currently evaluating many types of technology that allow us to track employees coming in to work. We use it to monitor in real-time who came in to work and where they sat, so that the place can be sanitised.

We are doing all we can to protect and safeguard employees and dispel their fear of coming to work. Technology for enforcing social distancing is a promising idea, but sensors are an expensive proposition. This is something we are investing in ourselves.

In California, we already have tech to scan body temperature. If it is above normal, we have a protocol integrated with a healthcare provider in California, where the person is taken to the closest testing zone.

Budgets are going haywire, because new issues crop up everyday. I look to FM providers for sanitisation and air quality solutions.

Where will the money come from?

Tarun Ramrakhiani

“When it comes to budgeting, it will be a quarter-by-quarter approach. Annual budgeting makes no sense, since we don’t know what is coming next.”  

-Tarun Ramrakhiani

Ramrakhiani: Every organisation is asking service providers to do more with less. Efficiency needs to underpin everything. Since organisations are constrained, money for new investments won’t come from Capex or Opex, but from operational savings. Efficiency will pay for it, but it will need to be measured and verified.

We are working with a customer not only on how cleaning should be done, but also how to make consumers feel safe in coming back to facilities. The way they see it, even if 5% come back, revenue rises by 150 crores.

We have had SARS, H1N1, Ebola…five pandemics in the last 20 years. Going forward, companies will be looking at business continuity plans for situations like this. This strategy will outlast the pandemic.

How to plan a budget

Mukherjee: Decide how much money is available to you. Set aside a fixed amount for operational costs. To calculate manpower costs, use the average of the past three years. Other fixed costs are for repairs and maintenance, and training because of attrition.

For future planning, one needs to read trends, study analytics and analyse risk taking appetite. If you get all right, you are a success. If you get one wrong, you will still be fine.

Inside washrooms, go for low-cost solutions, since you may not need them later. For example, an indicator which shows the number of times the washroom door opens and closes, or a button which a washroom user presses when he enters; if the number of occupants rises beyond a threshold, a ‘Please Wait’ sign is activated outside.

Ramrakhiani: When it comes to budgeting, it will be a quarter-by-quarter approach. Annual budgeting makes no sense, since we don’t know what is coming next.

Kumar: We can continue with a per-head budget, but I feel that is outdated. We need to move to an outcome-driven approach that is based on service levels. Then leave it to the service provider to figure out tech, people etc.

Reskilling personnel

Khan: It is easier to reskill someone in soft services (e.g from a janitor to a steward) than to transform an electrician into a multifunctional worker. We need to develop training modules for this.

Hospitals tend not to want new tech, since it takes time to train people, which they do not have. One needs to identify the main decision makers. It may not be the CEO or the COO, but the head of nursing staff or janitorial services.

Ramrakhiani: Last year, every company had decided it was going to be a shutdown year. This year, companies are looking at how they can leverage the recovery that is going to happen. Early adopters of technology will come out faster than everyone else.

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