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Changing times

A keystone of the consultancy is the application of Lean Six Sigma principles as expounded by Kachela, who is a Black Belt practitioner. Lean is a widely adopted management approach that seeks to create more value with fewer resources through the identification and removal of waste from processes – essentially anything that consumes resources and produces little or no value. Six Sigma is a set of techniques and tools for process improvement first introduced at Motorola, among other organisations. Together they are a powerful combination that can boost an organisation’s profit, customer experience and productivity.

Says Kachela: “Most FM organisations are facing financial challenges, compliance challenges, increasing competition and demands from clients. Ultimately Lean Six Sigma provides an evidence-based, data-driven approach to tackling these issues and helping businesses advance.” Essentially, she explains, Lean Six Sigma enables organisations to correct and improve processes that hurt their valuable collateral. “Plain and simple, it enables organisations to create efficient processes, so its employees can deliver more services with more satisfied customers.

“We have undertaken a number of Lean Six Sigma reviews for clients over the years which have all resulted in demonstrable benefits,” she continues. “We’re currently working on an exciting project with one of our clients to streamline their planned maintenance regime, while ensuring compliance, by adopting a total production maintenance (TPM) model traditionally used in manufacturing. This will not only result in cost reductions and reduced disruption for customers, but it will also improve the overall maintenance and condition of assets in the long run.”

The adoption of new technologies, in particular data-driven digitisation within FM, is increasing. This data is used to inform decision-making and take a more proactive approach to facilities management service delivery, from tracking reactive maintenance trends to helping to streamline processes and services to improve performance.

Becky Kendall, Project and Programme Manager, has an IT background but is not an advocate of new technology for its own sake. She argues that with any digital project, it’s important to resist the temptation to leap straight towards a solution without paying enough attention to the problem. “We’ve seen a desire to use technology rather than people because it’s cheaper and quicker and more accurate – but it’s important not to ignore the change impact. How are you going to train staff up? How will managers deal with a change to their roles, and how will these changes cascade down the line?”

She continues: “Whatever the technology might be, whether it’s introducing a new CAFM, an upgraded back-office system or moving to a new agile solution, you have to do it in a well-thought-out way that is carefully managed. This is where HR expertise comes in, to determine if [people’s] roles have changed, how they can be upskilled and whether they might struggle with the new processes.”

Another consideration is how FMs can utilise all this new data and how it can be applied to garner further insights and help deliver continuous improvement. Says Kachela: “We’ve seen organisations that have redesigned their workspace using digital tech so they can make it more agile and collaborative – but from day one everyone has gone back to using the space in the same way they used it before.

“We’re increasingly being asked by FM organisations to provide change expertise to projects, so that right from the outset there is an understanding of a shared vision, not just that of senior executives but of all the staff – so when people move into a new workspace, they understand the intentions of how the space is meant to be used.”

Working within such a male-dominated sector has had its challenges for the mainly female team. Kachela explains: “For me as a young Asian-British female, there are often elements of preconceptions and unconscious bias, and this does mean I have to work extra hard to be recognised for the work I do, and what I’ve achieved. The key for us is to deliver what we say we will, do it effectively and demonstrate our value. We’re seeing more and more repeat business and referrals. This for us is the key way to overcome those barriers and earn respect.”

Business Unit Director Tess Pendle has found during her experiences of overseeing major projects that being a female consultant has led to some people being “pleasantly surprised”. She adds: “I bring in a different perspective, especially with my change management background, so I think people do find it refreshing when we go in.”

The other major challenge for the consultancy was in January 2018 when it fell victim to the collapse of Carillion, whose infamous poor payment terms led CIP to the brink of insolvency. According to Kachela it took a lot of courage and hard work to turn things around, and as a result, like many in the FM sector she is much more risk aware. “I would say FM organisations think differently since Carillion – they’re not just coming in with the lowest price when vying for contracts. The collapse sent shockwaves through the sector and imparted many lessons. For myself, I have learnt to manage risks better and to venture more boldly into new sectors.”

She predicts that FM is moving into a new age of integrated property and facilities management. This means integrating the advisory side along with a transactional service, and a workplace management agenda being pushed by the IWFM will help influence how organisations are run.

But she adds a word of warning. “There is still some way to go to get everybody in FM aligned with that vision. While I think there will be the increased personalisation of services with the use of smart tech, AI and apps, this will all need to be offered in tandem with robust processes. While it’s great that we’re embracing new innovation, we can’t forget those aspects as they are the foundation for it to work.”

Her more immediate plans for the future of CIP is to “continue enjoying the work we do and make a positive impact wherever we go. Over the past few years, the company has expanded to meet the growing demand from new and existing clients – a demand that has been generated by word of mouth, demonstrating the positive reputation that our team has built, and it’s something we aim to maintain.”

About Sarah OBeirne


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