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A co-operative approach to FM

This month the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors, together with its partner Workplace Law, launched a series of case studies about the FM industry, with the aim of demonstrating to people outside of the sector the contribution that strategic FM can make. In an exclusive extract, FMJ publishes the first of the case studies looking at ethical procurement at the Co-operative Group

Founded as the Rochdale Pioneers Society in 1844, the Co-operative Group is now the UK’s fifth biggest food retailer, a leading farmer, a major financial services provider, the UK’s number one funeral services provider, the third largest pharmacy chain and a growing legal services provider.

Its FM operations are no stranger to the media spotlight, having won Client of the Year at the 2011 BIFM Awards, adding to the Excellence in FM Team award from 2010, and, most recently, the RICS’ Project of the Year award for its new Support Centre, One Angel Square in Manchester.

It is this flagship building that has been the catalyst for a redefined approach towards FM in the corporate support centre estate, guided by the in-house team led by Kate Morris-Bates, and strategic FM expert, Steve Gladwin. Amalgamating the entire team into one building, the group not only promotes the services of its core products (its ‘restaurants’, not canteens, unsurprisingly sell Co-op food as part of its catering offer) but also encourages its team members to apply ethical, sustainable and corporate social responsibility values through every function of the business, from purchasing to recruitment to customer service.

FM is at the forefront of all these activities, and is proud of its close connection to the regional boards, where FM issues are spoken about in the context of how they impact the customer.

“When you work in FM it’s not hard to quantify the value of FM services, because intuitively we know what we do and the value we bring,” says Morris-Bates. “We know that we keep the lights on, metaphorically and literally. I think it’s more difficult for people who are outside of the FM environment or even property environment in general to put a real value on it – except when things go wrong. In the trading estate, when our refrigeration unit goes down, people are very keen to point out the amount of sales loss and stock loss they’ve incurred. But in terms of a pound note value on FM as a whole I don’t think people can actually pinpoint it.”

Martin Bolton, supplier strategy manager – assets, believes the FM team within the Co-op is an ‘enabler’, assisting the purchasing teams to buy the right equipment at the right time, so that less time and effort is needed during the maintenance stage to keep critical assets (such as the refrigerators) working.

Gladwin enforces this point: “I think the FM team in the Co-op is seen as an enabler, as opposed to just a cost centre, and I think that’s where organisations that are in best of class, demonstrating best practice, have got it right. Two years ago, that wouldn’t have happened. There’s this big debate about whether FM should be at the board table; at the end of the day it’s up to the facility management people to be putting our foot forward to say this is where we’re adding value, not waiting to be asked.”

To highlight where FM sits within the organisation, the head of FM is two steps away from the CEO. So it really does feed into the strategy.

About Sarah OBeirne

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