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Expectations – CLIENTS:SERVICE Providers

In an interesting discussion on outsourcing of industrial cleaning held during the Clean India Technology Week 2017, Hyderabad, the panellists Srikanth Swami, Managing Director, OCS Group, Arvind Babu, Hospitality, Dr Reddy Hyderabad, and Vinay Deshmukh, CEO, Forbes Facility Services (moderator), looked at the expectations from both the clients and the service providers.

Industrial-cleaning-sectionThe customer expects the service provider (SP) to have the knowledge and experience of the industry. They are expected to bring in benchmarks and solutions to the peculiar problems faced by individual customers. The baseline of expectations remains on the statutory compliances and training to be imparted to the team. Of course, the nature of business being service, stability of the team and the attendance play an important role.

On the part of the SPs, they expect transparency in the process of selection along with a clear scope of work document. The SP should also avail of the training facilities and infrastructure from the customer for attaining a better level. The SPs would prefer the past record of the customer with the history of payments and the reasons for the change as well.

The customers are apprehensive of the process of change as for them, it is an additional work load and unsettling of the systems that are set over the years. The change also affects various functions and departments and it requires close coordination internally. If the decision for change is arrived at, they look for the geographical presence, segment experience, history of compliances, the possibility of key persons for retention from the existing team and the readiness of the SP for the same. Today, the Indian companies have progressed well and are among the best in terms of the quality and deliverance and hence, the demands from the SPs to keep abreast are also high.

A decade ago, the concept of housekeeping and cleaning in the manufacturing industries was unheard of. This concept was associated mainly with the hospitality and healthcare industries. Today, better technology, the need to follow best practices and to focus on customer satisfaction along with increased awareness have made most of the medium and big industrial units to choose the route of outsourced cleaning services.

Industrial cleaning has a history of its own. The process involved having a basic cleaning in the pre-production phase, no cleaning during the production and keeping it ready for the next days’ cycle in the post production phase, when the floor was clear.

“From this phase the cleaning perception has had a huge journey to include aspects like — having facilities that are audit ready (US FDA), understanding training needs and requirement for the industry, social accountability at all levels for the manpower employed,” said Arvind Babu.

The SPs have evolved over the years and there are a number of parties which are well experienced and some also have an international experience. They could bring in the learning from another and probably developed market. The emphasis should be on drawing up Service Level Agreements (SLA) and the payment, incentive or disincentive should be to the achievement based on these.

The fact was that industrial cleaning was not something that even facility management companies were specialised in, opined Srikanth Swamy. Cleaning meant the same thing for every facility. However, with time, the specialisations grew which gave way to more effective cleaning in all the departments. This has improved collaboration with industries and more avenues have opened up for Industrial Cleaning sector. Especially, recently FM companies have geared up to match the growing needs of the pharma industries. The need of the sector to have zero error in terms of having clean processes has created a niche for the facility management companies.

One segment which demands high quality maintenance is the pharma industry. It has been an easy target for finding gaps. This particular industry has exposure to many regulations that need to be adhered to. There are a number of standards: how is the facility being maintained and who are the people working to create the product.

Arvind Babu stated: There is very negligible scope for error as there are multiple levels of cleaning. These cleaning processes are documented in such a way that this is auditable by an external agency. The filling up such a data gives such detailed information that it is very easy for anyone to identify where and when the process was done. This level of information has put India on the global map on par with international standards.

Facility management companies have acquired over the years the expertise to provide the required specialised environment to the molecule producing pharmaceutical industry.

The idea behind facility management is to completely take over the other things related to the upkeep of the production area in an industry. It is a collaborative effort where the facility management companies give the manufacturing industry the place and bandwidth to work and do what they do best – the core job of production.

“FM understands the specialisations of the services better,” endorsed Srikanth.

“It is only in the last 10 years where cleaning is seen as a process where we used to pump the manpower to do a batch change and give the necessary cleaning materials to do the job. Now, I have seen cleaning becoming so very automated,” said Arvind Babu.

“Even though facility services have improved a lot over the years, pharma sector cannot fully depend on FM for maintenance of production area. The reason behind is – the practices of production is always evolving; this means that things are changing every day. Therefore, the focus is always on keeping up with the changing trends and need, while doing so the production company can only hope that the facility management company keeps up with that and not entrust it to them totally. There is a necessity for the process to mature in time and in time, say a decade maybe there would be a shift in trend. Both the ventures need to work in a two-way process to land in a win-win situation.”

As the moderator of the session Vinay Deshmukh posed the question: What are your specific expectations from the facility industry to come up to the level where the desired terms of processes, training, etc., are met?

A client company expects the service provider to not just take care of day-to-day maintenance but also take care of the complaints that arise. There should be a strategic role that the FM companies can play wherein the staff themselves do a fault identification and reporting – that would save the client’s time. For this, companies will be ready to pay the extra amount.

“A majority of the companies expect the FM service providers to supply manpower and they would direct them what to do. This is just manpower supplying and facility management services can do a lot more than just that. This incurs some sort of input from the companies to consider not measuring all the FM services with the same yardstick. One of the benchmarks that could be used is an SLA. There can be a certain level of parameters and rank them accordingly. And I am sure that not all, but a few FM services can provide the required service. In which case, we would get an opportunity to prove that we can offer a lot more than just man power, said Vinay Deshmukh.

The next vital question is how does a customer go about changing a service partner?

FM_serviceAnswering to this, Arvind Babu said that he would not want to change his service provider because having worked with someone for a while it gives a sort of comfort level. “But if it comes to that I would look for someone who can meet my current needs plus ten more points added to it. I would look for long term collaboration. I would look at the scalability and efficiency and compliance. I would surely look if he is going to bring a new level to my service and add value.

According to Srikanth, being in a collaborative business by being transparent with each other is important. “The value addition suggested comes with a price. Building trust on each other’s work is what will form a great partnership. The FM services therefore need to give utmost clarity on what they envisioned and what they would deliver and the companies should entrust more transparency in their processes that would give scope for a major partnership.”

The technological advances through the world are also making their impact on the FM industry. There are new ways of providing services as well as new apps being developed on the monitoring of services provided. The chemicals, consumables and machinery as well are undergoing a constant change for better. The apt match of these needs to be identified and applied by both the parties getting together.

There is tremendous potential in the industry of FM to grow and one is hopeful for utilising the services in future. But there should not be a time when this industry starts mushrooming to a level that dilutes the specificity of it and in course lacks credibility.

“There is a lot of unorganized sectors consolidating into organised ones. Since specialisation is getting more and more focussed, as long as we understand each other’s specialisation we can build trust on each other. People who want to be in it will build credibility,’ concluded Vinay Deshmukh.

The customer expects the service provider (SP) to have the knowledge and experience of the industry. They are expected to bring in benchmarks and solutions to the peculiar problems faced by individual customers. The baseline of expectations remains on the statutory compliances and training to be imparted…

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